Giddy Up, You Slow Coach Camels!

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It was meant to be a diverting event between the horse racing at Nairobi’s Ngong Racecourse. Officers from Kenya’s Police Anti-Stock Theft Unit were demonstrating their mounted expertise by racing their camels. The camel units usually operate far away in the arid zones of the Northern District, patrolling the border with Somalia, so perhaps the genteel and leafy ambiance of the Jockey Club enclave did not enthuse the camels.They certainly took much urging to leave the starting line and then, having started, there was little inclination to finish. An underwhelming contest then, though it added to the many and varied goings on of a Nairobi racing weekend.

The Ngong races are a hangover (pun retrospectively intended) from British colonial settler days when, for a week around Christmas, farmers left their lonely farms and ranches and gathered in town to let their hair down. For many it was a drunken spree, at least if you are to believe Evelyn Waugh’s 1931 account in Remote People. I’ve quoted from it before but it’s worth a second go:

I found myself involved in a luncheon party. We went on together to the Races. Someone gave me a cardboard disc to wear in my button-hole; someone else, called Raymond, introduced me to a bookie and told me which horses to back. None of them won…

Someone took me to a marquee where we drank champagne. When I wanted to pay for a round the barman gave me a little piece of paper to sign and a cigar.

We went back to Muthaiga and drank champagne out of a silver cup which someone had won.

Someone said, ‘You mustn’t think Kenya is always like this.

*

I see from the internet there has been plenty of racing at the Ngong Racecourse during January. These days it is a well ordered multi-cultural affair. I’ve also just had a quick trawl through the Kenya Jockey Club’s Facebook photos but found no sign of camels. Obviously lacking in appropriate competitive attitude.

 

Square Up #30

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25 thoughts on “Giddy Up, You Slow Coach Camels!

  1. Love this, Tish. It really made me smile. I really enjoy watching horse racing (watching, not betting) but I’ve not seen camel racing. I have seen Indian horse racing which is quite wild. No saddles, no bridles just halters, unbroken or partial broken horses, mounting without stirrups (obviously since no saddles.) It was the most amazing and amusing thing!

    Oh, ostrich racing in “Swiss Family Robinson.” 🙂

    janet

  2. Your camel race reminded me of one I saw at the Pushkar Camel Fair in India – the complete opposite – about a dozen camels all raring to go – in whatever direction. Total mayhem ensued. It was pretty hilarious.
    Alison

    1. Well it’s good to know they can put some speed on. But what a hoot – camels everywhere. We did see camel ‘farms’ in Dubai’s desert where they rear racing camels on alfalfa to give them extra oomph. We did not witness the proof of this 🙂

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