from Kat’s adventures in Abu Dhabi for the Al Maktoum Cup
January 6, 2015 - It was quiet at the barn this morning. We put our last ride before the race on the horses with bending and stretching exercises and turned them out for the day with fly sheets and masks without having getting the sweated up. The barn inside was quiet with horses getting last minute, feel good treatments and there was even a saddle being cleaned. This would be the last quiet moments because when the crews got there, the pandemonium would start.
In those moments, before the distraction would start I had to approach Jess with a subject that is sensitive between us. She rolls her eyes when I dare to use the "c" word. Camel market.
The camel market and the village is the center of the camel racing culture. As we come into the village there are miles of race tracks and not unusual to see a trainer with half a dozen or so camels of all ages as they exercise along the track. The all have racing silks of sorts, matching blankets on them and some have the colourful crocheted muzzles.
I had made no secret to Jess I wanted a muzzle. Besides, it was time to pick up fresh alfalfa. And given that our vet Dr. GlenN, who is known far and wide for his advocacy of date syrup, would love to have some of the local produce, Jess agreed that it would be okay if we went "just this once".
I love the camel market. I love the little stores filled with all kinds of things- rainbow stacks of feed tubs and buckets, carpets, robot jockeys, hay, etc. Just to be clear, this is not a tourist place. There is dust on everything, the store owners don't speak English, and why would anyone want a robot jockey anyway?
Camel racing is one of the UAE's traditional sports and an important part of the region's heritage. However, there was vigorous international criticism of the use of young children to ride camels during long and hazardous races. Many of they children are said to be have been kidnapped and trafficked from South Asia.
Robotic jockeys were invented to take the place of small children in order to lower the level of child labor as well as the risk attached with the lives of those young children.
I didn't want a robot jockey, I wanted a camel muzzle.
"Why do you want a camel muzzle?" Asked Jess.
"Because not everyone has one." Was my reply.
There is no arguing with that kind of logic.
So off we went the first thing we did is pick up our fresh alfalfa or "grass" as our driver, Madhu, has learned to call it. He, as usual does the dealing and wouldn't you know it our bundles are getting cheaper all the time!
Then off to find the camel muzzles. Our first store owner was uncooperative. After we (Yep, she got into the spirit) had gotten all excited about picking out our colours and tying our fastening strings in, Madhu said, "leave it".
We carried on and in a few steps we came across our date vendor. That's all he had to sell, dates and date syrup in 2 litre pails and little containers that look like they hold about a litre. Great, the horses and we will have our power boost.
Next store we had better luck with the camel muzzles and got a really them at a good price.
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