Children Race Camels in Egypt…for now.

Camel racing is big news in Egypt. Maybe not on the level of horse racing in Dubai, but it is plenty big. One of the major differences in the actual racing is the jockeys that ride the camels. Child jockeys are primarily used in camel racing in Egypt. Well, that is all about to change, as child-sized robots are soon going to replace the child jockeys in Egypt’s camel racing.

Remote-controlled robot jockeys are becoming the norm at a major camel racing festival in Egypt, as camel owners have come under pressure from campaigns to stop using child riders. Organizers fielded around twenty robots, basically child-sized devices with a whipping arm that can be triggered at a far distance alongside dozens of real children as part of a trial run.

Most of the robot jockeys took part in robot-only races at last week’s event. In the two races, when they challenged the young riders, the robots lost.

Child jockeys have already been banned in several Gulf countries due to the risk of injury and exploitation. sees the changes in the industry are coming fast, but that doesn’t mean that the camels themselves don’t need their vitamins and supplements to be efficient racers. Owners can get all of their needed supplements from the website.

Several Gulf countries have banned child jockeys from the traditional sport in recent years after rights groups said due to the risk of injuries and child exploitation. Many youngsters were often injured and some had been abducted or sold by their families.

However, young jockeys, many of them ages six to thirteen defended the tradition and their participation.

Sayed Mohamed, 11, a camel jockey said children were better than robots at steering. “The camel might lean sideways. We are better at riding leaning camels, so we can straighten its route.

Owners at last week’s Egyptian event said the childhood bans had prevented them from fielding teams in Gulf festivals and they hoped the move to robots would help them get in.

Esam el-Din Atiyah, president of the African Camel Racing Federation, which includes Egypt, acknowledged that child riders were sometimes injured. “Human rights organizations have said that this is child exploitation,” he said. He personally wanted Egypt to move to robot only events, but the transition was costly and would take time, he added.

Eid Hamdan Hassan, the head of the Egyptian Camel Federation, which organized the festival in the Srabioum desert of Ismailia, says that they are planning to stop the use of human jockeys within a year, “except for some adults for the sake of tradition”.

Victory raises a camel’s value. “When a camel wins, you sell it for a good price – from 150,000 to 200,000 Egyptian pounds($8,700-$11,600),” said camel owner Mohamed Mostafa. “The camel that doesn’t win is sold for only 10,000.”


When all is said and done, children will be phased out of the camel racing industry in the Middle East. Tradition or not, it does not seem like this will  last. backs that decision.