HORSES and FALCONS and CAMELS, OH MY!

Peregrine Falcons are the fastest animal in the world. You thought it was the cheetah, didn’t you? Come on…you learned it in third grade like I did. True, cheetahs are the fastest land animal, but when it comes to speed falcons have them beat by a country mile. The Peregrine Falcon can fly an unbelievable 300 kilometers per hour. I’ll save you the math, it’s 186.41 miles per hour. I know. I was shocked too.

Emirates take these birds very seriously. The most valuable one, won at an auction in Oman, went for over a million dollars. And although Dubai hosts the world’s most exclusive horse race, The Dubai World Cup (NOT surprising) Emirates also race falcons. The purse for the latest falcon race was 17 million; that’s 7 more than the World Cup! To boot, falcons are invited to fly first or business class in this neck of the woods. They are not, however, even allowed in economy class. Yep, you can buy a ticket for your falcon so he can fly with you in style. I know. I was shocked too.

But that’s not even the coolest thing we learned today about sporting events and Dubai. You wanna know the national sport? It’s not anything I’ve already mentioned. Sharing the honor with soccer, it’s actually camel racing. I know. I thought it was a joke too! And that’s not even the coolest thing about camel racing. There are no jockeys. Instead a robot is connected to the camel and via a remote control, the camel owner sends a signal to the robotic arm that whips around and strikes the camel in the rear, similar to a horse jockey’s crop, motivating the camel to run fast (they can go up to 40mph) and win the race. Check out these camels we saw at the track today. Those guys riding along are their trainers. The camels also have names and wear numbers. They have fans. I know. I was shocked too.

We were on our way to try out this camel riding thing for ourselves on our desert safari and dinner booked with Emirati Activities. Turns out riding a camel ain’t so easy. Actually, it’s easier to stay on the camel than it is to get up on the camel. Once you climb aboard this guy has to lumber forward to get onto all fours, taking you on that little joy ride with him. Maybe that’s why they gave up on the jockey business.

Is there even such a thing as a two hump camel?  By golly there is!  But they don’t inhabit the Middle East like the ones we rode.  The dromedary, is the one-humped variety of the Middle East and the Horn of Africa while the bactrian, or two-humped camel, inhabits Central Asia.  And just in case you were wondering, a full-grown adult camel stands just over 6 feet tall at the shoulder and a whooping 7 feet tall at the hump.  Given my past experience with Filipino horses, “Let’s hope this guys like me,” is all I was thinking.

Although not the most comfortable thing, it sure was fun. We enjoyed everything about our experience.

One final, even if ironic note.  We got to try camel at our dinner tonight. Tastes pretty good.

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