When one camel took off, all others followed. The camel riders turned back every few seconds, as if to smirk, to make sure that other competitors were eating the sand that their camels kicked up. Each man with a whip in hand, legs flailing sideways, airborne above his camel’s hump. Sure it was a false start, but, those who were already ahead didn’t care. Adrenaline took over. It was their time for glory.
The judges however did care. The race was nullified, the results unrecognised. If you wanted to win, you’d have to enter the race again, on a different day, at a different location.
On the day of the new race some cameleers didn’t show up. Their animals were too exhausted after traveling from far away villages and racing for nothing the first time. Nevertheless, at least two hundred camels were present at the start line.
I missed out on much of the action the first time. The camels took off unexpectedly and I was left behind. I was the one eating sand and later trying to catch up with the racers in my Landrover. This time I found my spot, ahead, along a dirt track, which was now a race track. I positioned the car and myself in front of a big tree. The racers would definitely notice a tree and I wouldn’t be trampled by hundreds of hooves.
The agonising wait before the race... Finally, a shot in the distance. No false start this time. Two hundred camels kicking up sand, forming a huge sand-cloud. The ground shook as they got closer. The men, again, airborne, legs flailing all over the place, whipping their camels, shouting out commands, looking backwards, as if to make sure that the opponent is eating the sand that their camels kicked up.
I managed a few images and even changed position a few times, perhaps somewhat recklessly, but, from up-close the camels seemed much more capable of navigating obstacles.
I wanted more. Into the Landrover. Foot on the accelerator. Racing the camels, not along the same track, but around it, on sand. The animal cannot outrun the machine. There I was again, in front of the running herd, this time even more reckless, hungry for a piece of the action.
I repeated the same again. My Landrover slipping and sliding on sand like a boat in the sea. By now the camels were tiring. The winners were becoming more clear. For everyone not near the front it was just about pride at this stage. Personal rivalries. Only the weak give up.
At last, to the winner’s circle. Hard to tell who was first, but a few men are celebrating. Arguments are still hot. You cheated, you tripped me, I was so close! Gradually the crowd disperses. The cloud of dust that the hooves kicked up settles. The desert is quiet again.