Camel racing is a deep-rooted traditional sport that finds its origins in the desert culture of the Arabian peninsula, North Africa, and West Asia. The UAE has 15 race tracks across the country. Race distances can be 4-10 km and may include anywhere from 15-70 camels.
The inhabitants of the Persian Gulf states have enjoyed camel racing for many years as it is considered a traditional sport. At one point, elephant racing was also practiced, but later disbanded in favor of camel racing due to lack of elephant grazing lands. Formalizing camel racing was one way of maintaining its central role in UAE life. In the past, UAE had a reputation for exploiting South Asians as jockeys. However, robot jockeys are now used after strict government regulations were passed prohibiting underage jockeys from racing.
The UAE now has no fewer than 15 race tracks across the seven emirates. Nad Al Sheba Racecourse, 10 kilometers outside of Dubai, Al Wathba, 30 kilometers south-east of Abu Dhabi, and Al Ain track, which is 20 kilometers west of Al Ain, are all large, well-equipped camel tracks with high-tech facilities. Two smaller tracks are located in Sharjah, one in Ra’s al-Khaimah and one in Umm al-Qaiwain. Others are spread throughout the desert areas.