Camel races at the Saif Al Ittihad festival in Oman
The ancient sport of camel racing can be traced back to the 7th century CE on the Arabian Peninsula and its popularity continues to this day. The four-day Saif Al Ittihad Festival is a celebration of the sport at its finest and is an integral part of Oman's rich culture and heritage. Locals and tourists alike come to watch the racing camels, the so-called 'ships of the desert' , with as many as 1,600 animals taking part in the festival in a variety of races and categories. Controlled not by jockeys but by remote-controlled robotic whips, the camels are as fast as any racehorse and can reach speeds of up to 65 kilometres per hour. Camel racing has evolved into an official and professional sport in Oman that includes racetracks, specialised farms for raising camels, intensive training programmes, as well as the use of new technologies. Awards for the winning owners include cars and cash prizes.