Dubai is globally famous for its many festivals, especially its annual shopping festival. However, in April a much more unique festival kicks off in the Emirate: the Al-Marmoom Heritage Festival, which celebrates the traditional sport of camel racing.
The festival is held at the Al-Marmoom Camel Racetrack. It begins on Friday 4th April and runs until Wednesday 16th April. Camel racing usually takes place during the winter months in the United Arab Emirates, and this event marks the end of the racing season.
Dubai has a long history of racing camels. Traditionally, the sport was encouraged by ruling sheikhs and was often a feature of weddings and other major celebrations. However, as the region experienced an oil boom in the mid-to-late 20th century and overseas investment flowed in, people became afraid that camel racing would die out.
To combat this, camel racing began to involve significant sums of prize money and today it's a popular way for both locals and tourists to experience an important aspect of traditional Emirati culture.
One of the festival's most unique features is that its jockeys are robots. For a time, child jockeys were the norm as lighter riders meant faster camels, but this practice was banned in 2002. Now, remote-controlled robot jockeys steer the camels.
The heat in Dubai is often intense, so camel races usually take place at 7am and 2pm. Races can be very crowded so many spectators take along a set of binoculars. However, large television screens are also dotted around the racetrack so you won't miss any action.
The Al-Marmoum Camel Racetrack is located on Dubai Al Ain Road. It's a 30-45 minute drive from the city centre on the outskirts of Dubai, past The Sevens Stadium.
To combine your Big Bus tour with a visit to the Al-Marmoum Heritage Festival, hop off at WAFI (stop 3 red route, stop 12 blue route) or Creek Park (stop 4 red route). The racetrack is a 30-45 minute taxi ride from here.