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CommunityFitnessMeet the first Emirati woman to compete in a camel race

Khawla Al Balooshi made history last year when she became the first Emirati woman to compete in an official camel race alongside men, only months after she started riding.  The 28-year-old is an avid surfer, diver, climber and hiker. She worked as a senior analyst in the Strategy Department in the Department of Economy and Tourism in Dubai and began training in camel racing in August 2021 through the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center. She...
Reeneh YousefAugust 31, 20228 min
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Khawla Al BalooshiKhawla Al Balooshi/Image courtesy of Hamdan bin Mohammed Heritage Center

Khawla Al Balooshi made history last year when she became the first Emirati woman to compete in an official camel race alongside men, only months after she started riding. 

The 28-year-old is an avid surfer, diver, climber and hiker. She worked as a senior analyst in the Strategy Department in the Department of Economy and Tourism in Dubai and began training in camel racing in August 2021 through the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center. She was also a runner-up at BeingShe Universe, a fashion and talent show run by the Dubai-based entrepreneurship and economic empowerment program, and is an ambassador for WWF-Emirates Nature, which advocates for sustainable practices and engages in environmental promotion activities.

Khawla advises girls to face challenges, set goals and work to achieve them away from any fears, and to let your fears motivate you to learn new skills.  She appeared on The Livehealthy Arabic Podcast to speak about her newfound passion for camel racing. 

How did you start your camel racing career?

I was with my best friend and she was searching on Google for a camel trip belonging to the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center, and she suggested ‘why we don’t participate’?

My purpose in participating was to learn more about our customs and traditions of camel riding in general and to participate in the camel journey that began on December 9, 2021, which takes 13 days to cross the desert, to end the trip in Expo 2020.

What is the difference between a camel trip and a camel race?

The camel trip has been taking place for eight years, and it is organized by the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center. 2020 in Dubai, last December, the number of participants in this trip was 32 people, including 24 girls.

As for the camel race, there are camels dedicated to this race, and it is intended for young people (men) only, and they must be of high fitness and pass arduous training for a distance of eight kilometres, during which the camel runs for 30-40 minutes.

In the beginning, the races were limited to young men only. My friend Hakima and I were the first two Emirati girls participating in an official camel riding competition in the Arab world last November, with the support and motivation of His Excellency Hamdan.

It was the first ever female participation in the official camel riding races.

What safety methods did you follow in the race?

As females, we wear the pants designated for cycling or horse riding, to ensure safety and protection, and we also put some creams and moisturizers such as Vaseline, Sudo-cream to protect against potential wounds. It happened during the race.

What are the basics of this race?

Camel training is carried out in four stages. The first three stages aim at taming camels and accustoming them to obey orders. The fourth stage aims to train the camel to run fast, and it is carried out by the mount, who is the person who trains the camel to speed.

The most important things for success?

Consolidating the relationship with the camel, to build your confidence to ride a camel or even a horse, we must gain the camel’s trust and love by offering it some food, kissing it, touching it and even talking to it. 

Did your family encourage you to participate in the camel race?

I told my mother that I would like to practice riding a camel, and she was happy with that, and I actually started training at the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center, and when I participated in the race, my mother and my brother were the first to support me, as it was the first time my mother saw me riding a camel and from the first girls in the race, she was very proud of me and encouraged and supported me, they are always the first fans for me in all the races I participate in.

  • This interview has been edited and condensed. To hear the full version, check out Khawla’s appearance on The Livehealthy Arabic Podcast. 

Reeneh Yousef

Reeneh Yousef has worked in media since 2007, spending at decade at Abu Dhabi Media before joining Livehealthy. She loves walking, reading and going to the gym.

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