Throughout the Arabian Gulf, camel racing is traditionally known as the sport of the sheiks.
In Qatar specifically, the pastime became a professional sport in 1972, and camel racing fans enjoy the fiercely competitive games each month, at the Al Shahaniya Racetrack.
Located about an hour north of Doha, the racetrack is one of the most popular camel racing tracks in the middle east, and races typically take place on Fridays, from November to February.
Camel racing is a costly endeavour that few can afford, and represents the opulence of Qatari culture.
Certain camel breeds can cost more than the most lavish vehicles, with prices as high as one million Qatari riyals (or more), and camel racing enthusiasts typically discuss their past time within the comforts of a multi-million dollar majlis — the Qatari equivalent of a pool house or rec room.
Several camel races are held in Qatar and other Gulf countries every year, and attract numerous tourists and dignitaries. Contestants fight for expensive prizes, the most precious of which is the Golden Swor, awarded at the end of the year at the Al-Shahaniya.
During my trip to the middle east, this past November, I spent some time with some humble and friendly Qatari camel trainers, on my way to a hike in the Zekreet desert.
The vast majority of trainers were of African, east Indian, and Nepali descent, they rode their employers’ camels ceaselessly in the hot Qatari sun, and I empathized with the discomfort of their labour, and the economic marginalization that they undoubtedly experienced.
Despite their hardships, the trainers that I photographs constantly smiled, were in great spirits, and I could tell that they possessed a sense of pride in their work.
More of my images of some of the Qatari Camel trainers between Doha and Zekreet can be viewed below.
a j a n i photography: digital image solutions