Khawla Al Balooshi and Hakima Ghaith successfully cross the finish line and receive special honours from Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center (HHC)

Dubai, 14 November 2021: The first preliminary race for the annual UAE National Day Camel Marathon organized by the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center (HHC) witnessed the first-ever participation of Emirati women camel riders over the weekend at Dubai Camel Racing Club’s Al Marmoom Race Track.

Khawla Al Balooshi, 28, participated in the 18- to 29-year old category while Hakima Ghaith, 38, took part in the Above-30 group – and both of them have successfully finished the 4km camel race that saw both male and female UAE nationals in the competition. 

In terms of race results, Issa Al-Ahbabi won first place in the 18-29 years old after finishing the 4km race with a time of 6 minutes and 35.11 seconds. He was closely followed by Seif Bam Awaida Al-Karbi with a time of 6 minutes and 39.14 seconds, while Issa Al-Ghafli came in third place at 6 minutes and 49.16 seconds.

In the Above-30 age category, Yahya bin Ali Al-Mallai came ahead of the pack in 4km race after finishing in 7 minutes and 5.19 seconds, followed by Saeed bin Ali Al Ketbi with a time of 7 minutes and 6.12 seconds, while Khaled bin Ali Al-Arabani settled for third place with a time of 7 minutes and 17.16 seconds.

The second preliminary race is scheduled to be held on December 3, coinciding with the country’s celebrations of the 50th National Day, while the main marathon will be held on January 14.The National Day Camel Marathon is held annually in conjunction with the Arabian Camel Festival under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.

Moving forward

HHC CEO Abdullah Hamdan Bin Dalmook expressed his appreciation of the efforts of the participants in the first preliminary race for the camel marathon, which continues to move forward with steady steps in establishing its position in the calendar of UAE heritage sporting events.

“We are very proud of our community traditions, and the participation of two Emirati women for the first time in an official camel race confirms our endeavors to make heritage sports available to all members of society and to all nationalities residing in the UAE,” Bin Dalmook underlined.

Wonderful experience

Khawla Al Balooshi is a government employee who shines in the camel tracks. She wore the No. 1 jersey during the race. She said: “I thank HHC for motivating and providing us this opportunity to participate in a race that I consider a very wonderful experience, and I am very happy to be one of the first Emirati women who participate in an official camel riding race in the UAE.”

Al Balooshi works as a senior analyst at Department of Economic Development in Dubai. She holds a master’s degree in the field of environment and international development. She will also take part in the upcoming 8th Camel Trek that will kick-off on December 9. The annual desert voyage which will see participation from 17 countries (including four Emirati camel trekkers) will run for 13 days, starting on December 9 from Liwa Empty Quarter in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi. The 30 camel trekkers will navigate 500 kms of UAE desert to enjoy a unique desert experience how to live the old ways of the Bedouins until they reach their final destination at Expo 2020 Dubai site.

Excellent Emirati women*

Hakima Ghaith, for her part, said her participation in the annual camel marathon proved that Emirati women can excel in all fields, including heritage sports. She has learned to ride a camel through the years and has become a confident camel racer. 

She said: “In my daily life, I work in the field of aviation as a ground employee, and this type of heritage sports gives me a lot of positive energy.”

Perennial winner

Meanwhile, Issa Al Ahbabi, who lives in Al Ain, is ecstatic for retaining his first place finish in the annual camel marathon. He said: “I am very happy to continue winning first place in the 18-29 age group.  I always strive to compete and achieve the best results. I train daily in Al Ain and prepare there, and the National Camel Day Marathon has become one of the most important races that I look forward to every year and I train specifically for it.”

Dubai resident Yahya bin Ali Al-Mallai, winner above- 30 category, said “achieving first place requires ideal conditions to reach it. There must be daily training for a distance of 8 km, in addition to experience and focus, but the most important thing is the readiness the camel on race day – because that determines a large part of the end result.”