World Cup Frenzy Puts Strain On Qatar’s Camels

MESAIEED, Qatar (AP) — Shaheen stretched out on the sand and closed his eyes, however there was little time to relaxation for the camel. World Cup followers coming in droves to the desert exterior Doha had been prepared for his or her good Instagram second: driving a camel on the rolling dunes.

As Qatar welcomes greater than one million followers for the monthlong World Cup, even its camels are working extra time. Guests in numbers the tiny emirate has by no means earlier than seen are dashing to complete a bucket record of Gulf vacationer experiences between video games: experience on a camel’s again, take photos with falcons and wander via the alleyways of conventional markets.

A person takes a selfie whereas driving camels in Mesaieed, Qatar, on Nov. 26, 2022.

On a current Friday afternoon, tons of of holiday makers in soccer uniforms or draped in flags waited for his or her flip to mount the humpbacked animals. Camels that didn’t rise had been pressured up by their handlers. When one camel set free a loud grunt, a lady from Australia shrieked, “it sounds like they’re being violated!” Close by, a bunch of males from Mexico wearing white Qatari thobes and headdresses took selfies.

“It’s really an amazing feeling because you feel so tall,” 28-year-old Juan Gaul mentioned after his experience. The Argentine fan was visiting Qatar for per week from Australia.

A camel pulls back as a tour guide tries to prepare it for a tour in Mesaieed, Qatar, Nov. 26, 2022. Throngs of World Cup fans in Qatar looking for something to do between games are leaving Doha for a classic Gulf tourist experience: riding a camel in the desert. But the sudden rise in tourists is putting pressure on the animals, who have almost no time to rest between each ride.
A camel pulls again as a tour information tries to organize it for a tour in Mesaieed, Qatar, Nov. 26, 2022. Throngs of World Cup followers in Qatar in search of one thing to do between video games are leaving Doha for a basic Gulf vacationer expertise: driving a camel within the desert. However the sudden rise in vacationers is placing strain on the animals, who’ve nearly no time to relaxation between every experience.

Cashing in on the chance are the animals’ handlers who, because of the World Cup, are making a number of instances greater than they usually would.

“There’s a lot of money coming in,” mentioned Ali Jaber al Ali, a 49 year-old Bedouin camel herder from Sudan. “Thank god, but it’s a lot of pressure.”

Al Ali got here to Qatar 15 years in the past however has labored with camels since he was a toddler. On a mean weekday earlier than the World Cup, Al Ali mentioned his firm would supply round 20 rides per day and 50 on weekends. Because the World Cup began, Al Ali and the boys he works with are offering 500 rides within the morning and one other 500 within the night. The corporate went from having 15 camels to 60, he mentioned.

“Tour guides want to move things fast,” Al Ali mentioned, “so they add pressure on us.”

As crowds fashioned round them, many camels sat statue-like with fabric muzzles overlaying their mouths and vibrant saddles on their our bodies. The odor of dung crammed the air.

A woman looks at her photo while riding a camel in Mesaieed, Qatar, on Nov. 26, 2022.
A girl seems at her picture whereas driving a camel in Mesaieed, Qatar, on Nov. 26, 2022.

Like different Gulf cultures, camels as soon as supplied Qataris a significant type of transport and helped within the exploration and improvement of commerce routes. Immediately, the ungulates determine into cultural pastimes: camel racing is a well-liked sport that takes place on old-school tracks exterior the town.

Al Ali mentioned he is aware of when an animal is drained — normally if it refuses to rise up or sits again down after rising to its toes. He can establish every camel by its facial options.

“I am a Bedouin. I come from a family of Bedouins who care for camels. I grew up loving them,” Al Ali mentioned.

However the sudden rise in vacationers means there’s much less time to relaxation between rides, he mentioned. A brief experience lasts simply 10 minutes whereas longer ones run 20 to half-hour lengthy.

Usually, Al Ali mentioned a camel can relaxation after 5 rides. “Now, people are saying we can’t wait … because they have other plans they need to go to in the middle of the desert,” he mentioned.

A camel waits for the next group of riders in Mesaieed, Qatar, Nov. 26, 2022.
A camel waits for the subsequent group of riders in Mesaieed, Qatar, Nov. 26, 2022.

Because the World Cup began, the animals are taken for 15 to twenty — generally even 40 rides — and not using a break.

Al Ali’s day begins round 4:30 a.m., when he feeds the animals and will get them prepared for patrons. Some vacationers have been arriving at daybreak, he mentioned, hoping to get the right dawn shot, “so we have to work with them and take photos for them.”

From noon till 2 p.m, each handlers and camels relaxation, he mentioned. “Then we start getting ready for the afternoon battle.”

However not each customer has been taken by the expertise.

Pablo Corigliano, a 47 year-old actual property agent from Buenos Aires, mentioned he hoped for one thing extra genuine. The excursions begin on a stretch of desert by the aspect of a freeway, not removed from the commercial metropolis of Mesaieed and its huge oil refineries.

“I was expecting something more wild,” mentioned Corigliano. “I thought I would be crossing the desert, but when I arrived, I saw a typical tourist point.”

Quickly after, Corigliano and a bunch of buddies seemed for a dune buggy to race into the desert.

Comply with Lujain Jo and Suman Naishadham on Twitter: @lujainjo and @SumanNaishadham

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