Al Shahaniya Camel Racetrack
Camel races and husbandry at the Al Shahaniya Camel Racetrack outside of Doha, Qatar
In 2014, I had the opportunity to live and work in Qatar for a year and a half. One of the more fascinating places to visit was the Al Shahaniya Camel Racetrack. A 45-minute drive from the capital of Doha, this massive complex is a world away.
Camel racing in the Arab world is a centuries-old tradition. Professional camel racing in Qatar started in 1972. Each year 22,000 camels are raced at the Al Shahaniya complex. It is a multi-million dollar venture, which includes a hospital for breeding.
On any given day, one can witness droves of camels and their trainers marching in a slow and elegant cadence from stalls to racetrack, and back again. I was entranced by the endless rhythm of this movement; it was dizzying at times. One had to be very careful as they stopped for no one. While I do not condone the racing of any animal, I was deeply struck by these awkwardly gorgeous creatures, and the men tasked with their training. As with most blue-collar jobs in Qatar, the trainers are brought in from elsewhere.