Story In the 13th century the emperor Kubla Kahn, a grandson of the legendary Genghis Kahn, ruled a huge empire in Eastern Asia. He was a just leader, and his land grew in fame and wealth.
He started a contest. Once a year, the cleverest and best caravan leader in his empire was determined.
Caravan offers the players to reenact this dramatic event as the caravan leaders.
Mongolia. There even is a festival, which is dedicated to the camel, the ‘festival of the ten thousand camels’. The festival’s highlight is an 18 kilometers camel race. And the winner gets… right, a camel.
Kenia. CAMEL DERBY AND CYCLING ENTRIES
- A) AMATEUR / NOVICE RACE is a 10 kilometre race with camel handlers, run from Yare Club, through Maralal town and back to the finish line at Yare Club. Camel handlers are provided by camel owners.
- B) SEMI PROFESSIONAL CAMEL RACE/INTERMEDIATE CYCLING RACE is a 30 km race starting at Yare Club, and making two circuits through town, and over part of the professional course. The usual time for this race is 2 hours for camels and 40 minutes for cyclists.
- C) PROFESSIONAL CAMEL RACE, ELITE CYCLING RACE is a marathon of 42 kilometres run over a measured distance and passing through Maralal town on the circuit. This race is run without any handlers or other assistance at all, the winner being a combination of camel and rider alone. The start/finish line is on the main road at Yare Club. Winners in the cycling races will earn International ranking points.
Australia. Six years ago the sport received a huge boost, when the president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, decided to sponsor an annual camel race in Sydney, in the hope of strengthening ties between his country and Australia. The Sheikh Zayed Cup is now the biggest event in the Australian camel racing calendar, the culmination of 16 races held around the country, with on-line betting available in four states.
Kevin Handley, the president of the Australian Camel Racing Association, said: “Camels have been racing in Australia for close to 100 years, but only at little Outback picnics and small race meetings. “In the last three years the national circuit has gone from being worth maybe a six-pack of beer to about A$300,000 (?120,000). It’s developing pretty rapidly.”
There are up to 150,000 camels living in the wild in Australia’s arid interior, but not all of them are suitable for racing. They are descended from animals imported by the British from India in the 19th century, and were used as beasts of burden in the early years of Outback exploration. With the arrival of roads and railways they lost their usefulness and were released into the Outback.
Many Australian camels are too heavy and thick-set for racing, and even those that are lighter and swifter will need improvement through selective breeding. Plans are being launched by the association to improve the animals’ stock by importing thoroughbred camels from the UAE. Mr Handley, who rounds up wild camels and trains them, said: “We have an application with the Australian quarantine inspection service to import 30 racing camels. At the same time we are improving the animals that we already have by selection.”
Karl Kazal, the race organiser, said: “People can see horse Togel racing every day of the week. Camel racing is something a little bit different. I think people are scared of camels because they are so big, but they rarely misbehave.” Camel racing is less frenetic than horse-racing – the top speed for a camel is a leisurely 17mph, whereas a horse can easily run at 30mph.
Camel jockey Jodie Boyce, 25, from Picton, in New South Wales, said: “It’s more of a buzz than racing horses. It’s like a loping, rocking-horse motion, which means it can be hard to get into the camel’s rhythm. If you upset them they try to spit on you, but they’re usually pretty good.” Some of the camels were brought from as far as northern Queensland and South Australia, involving journeys of thousands of miles. Malcolm Whittey, who follows the camel racing circuit, said it is an expensive business, for little financial reward.
Mr Handley said: “It takes a lot of money to maintain these beasts. You need special equipment, and a vehicle in which to transport them. They’re very devoted, these owners and I often wonder if they need their heads read for pursuing the sport. But they love it. When you’re sitting up on the back of one of these animals, you’re about eight feet up in the air, and it’s a long, long way down. It’s exciting to ride, and exciting to watch.”