Camel Race 2017 at Wadi Zalaga (South Sinai) between Muzeina and Tarrabin
If I had to describe the most important camel race in the South Sinai with two words it would be organized madness. That is not a normal race. What happens is that you are basically in the race. Well in a car but still in the middle of the race. This was the second time I was at Wadi Zalaga and I enjoyed it very much again. The difference this year was that I managed to be in the back of a pickup car. That’s better for taking pictures. On the pickup there was also the brother of one of the jockeys who came 4th – well done! I think I never swallowed so much dust in my life being in the back of that car. Only after a good cleaning session of the cameras I dared to open them and take the memory cards out.
Diesen Artikel gibt es hier auch auf Deutsch! (in case you find a mistake – English is not my native language)
The camel race is between the Bedouin tribes Muzeina and Tarrabin. It is the most important camel race in the Sinai and is held every year at the 10th of January. At the start you can feel how important this race is. There is a tense atmosphere and the jockeys get a few last tips. Well the jockeys are children in between 7 and 14 I guess. The rider has to be lightweight. The kids train their camels for several month just for this race.
We started 9 am
After a rich breakfast we started our trip one day before the camel race. You travel from Dahab to Wadi Zalaga about 3.5 hours. Basically you head towards St. Catherine’s monestary and turn right into the desert at some point.
Two thirds of the way are actually road. But after that prepare for a bumpy ride. The bums were hurting so we needed a break or two. But that’s fine as the desert spoils you with stunning views and I could spend hours there to take pictures. I climbed on top of a mountain to take this panorama.
Close to the start of the camel race you search for a wind protected area and make camp. We were roughly 40 people in our camp. A few pictures say more than many words.
Unfortunately I could not take any good pictures of the stars or do some star trails. We had a clear view at polaris but it was almost full moon. Long story short it was way too bright.
The following day: Camel Race
After we got up we were spoiled with a stunning sunrise.
The start of the camel race was to the right hand side just around the corner. But first we had to defrost the windscreens. It was sub zero during the night. Luckily we were well prepared for that.
At night the desert looked really empty. But the starting area was full with people. A few hundred I would guess. You could sense the adrenaline. For an outsider it all seemed very unorganised. Suddenly the race was started and a lot of people run to their cars and … basically somebody started the race an we were off as well … The little guy with the blue hood was the brother of one of the guys on our pickup.
As soon as the camels and cars are off you are basically covered in dust. It stays like this the next 27 kilometres. That is the length of the race and you read that right: 27 kilometres!
I need to take a picture from last year to show you how this looks from an elevated level. With the pickup we couldn’t go up there. With the 4x4s you can.
After 2 kilometre they’ve done it. The finishing line is near. I didn’t manage to get the winner but here are a few of the runner ups.
After the race you realise how exhausted and dusty camel and rider are. The camels are full on in racing mode. They have to be caught and calmed down after passing the finishing line.
The proud winner
The winner is from the Tarrabin tribe and I gues he was not much older than 7. He had to stand on a table that everybody could see him.
I was amazed by his look. That is how a winner looks like.
Of course he was very proud.
Somebody explained to us that he got a very precious book from St. Catherine’s. But to be honest I didn’t get the full story around this. Long story short: book -> valuable.
5th race for Biscuit
Biscuit is Claire’s dog and he is a camel race veteran. The little spaniel is very cute and enjoys Wadi Zalaga as well.
The kids in the next pictures are some of the jockey. Even after 27 bumpy kilometres on the back of a camel they are amazed by this funny dog.
A few more photos
Next year again – for sure
I will go again next year if possible. Special thanks to my friend Barracuda for the good organisation. Nice company at the camp as well!
Back home we were lucky to have a lovely evening without wind. A quick beer at the beach can’t hurt with a view like this – even the moon came out to play.
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