Former Nepali camel race trainer fondly recalls his days in Qatar

Former Nepali camel race trainer fondly recalls his days in Qatar

QLNews
By QLNews

Qatar has always had a close relationship with camels, which dates back to centuries. Never ones to forget their roots, many Qatari citizens own and maintain race camels, which are used in traditional races in Qatar.

Hundreds of people, predominantly from Asian countries, are employed in different private farms. They are in charge of caring for the camels and training them in the sport. However, not many people hear about their experiences.

Mohan Pandey, a camel trainer from Nepal, wrote an in-depth article about his experiences in training camels, as part of the Diaspora Series, in the Nepali Times weekly.

Pandey lived in the desert in Al Shahaniya for seven years, from 2009, training race camels. 

Beginning his day at 3am, his duties included ensuring the camels were well-fed, hydrated, and prepared for race day with exercises, including walks and runs at various speeds and lengths.

“During practice race days, I rode a non-race camel in between two race camels to guide and train them. Known as galaisha, these were well-trained, retired race camels that had never won in competitions during their glory days. When practicing for a race, my employer would drive in parallel outside the track, instructing me to slow down or go faster depending on the camel’s endurance,” he wrote.

“The robot jockey would be charged overnight, placed on the camel’s back and the employer spoke to it through the speakers in the jockey. He even used the automated whip if necessary when the camel wasn’t paying attention, or to urge him to go faster,” he added.

Though his employer owned 15 camels, Pandey was particularly attached to one of them — Riyaj — who won a prestigious race that made his trainer famous.

“Riyaj stood out because he was an underdog. Once, Riyaj won a 4km race in which 40 or 50 other camels took part. After winning, a wrap with the number one was placed on Riyaj’s back, and the judges put saffron all over him as part of the celebration. When Riyaj won, nothing else mattered to me momentarily. Not the struggles I’d gone through, not my status in a foreign country, not the uncertainty of what lay ahead,” he wrote.

“My bosses, his family members and friends, clapped my back and hugged me, and I was a hero among other workers from Rajasthan, Pakistan and Sudan with their own camels. Baba, my employer, gave me QAR5,000 as baksheesh. This was a lot of money for me. The win also changed my status in Qatar, as I won the trust and dare I say, respect, for my skills in training camels,” he added.

He recalled his first arrival in Qatar, which was done as a matter of survival.

“Life would’ve never brought me to Qatar had my father, a garment worker in UAE, not met with an accident and returned to Nepal for good. Till then, our family was faring fine. His return and inability to provide for us forced me to grow up,” he wrote. 

After moving to India, he worked in many capacities in different businesses, but had to eventually move to Qatar, where he was a stranger to race camels.

“I knew that for real progress, I’d to go to the Gulf. An acquaintance arranged a visa for Qatar and only later did I find it was to train race camels. I’d no idea how to take care of camels that were much taller and stronger than me. The heat in the desert was unbearable and I didn’t speak any Arabic. Everything was so unfamiliar that I considered quitting right away,” he wrote.

“But slowly, I started understanding these unfamiliar creatures and learnt the tricks of the trade. I started feeling more comfortable with the animals, and vice versa. I had to be careful about how much I fed the racing camels. It could neither be too much nor too little and had to be timed well so they were at peak performance on race day,” he recalled.

“I came to Qatar completely unfamiliar and unprepared but left knowing all there was to know about camels. My employer didn’t want me to leave, but I left assuring him that if I ever were to re-emigrate, it would be to take care of his camels,” said Pandey.

He returned to Nepal and tried his luck at different trades — in marketing, being a butcher, running a canteen, real estate ventures, and as a driver — but nothing took off. Finally, he started dabbling as a vegetable seller and that has taken root.

Though the journey has not been easy, he still has fond memories about Qatar which hosted him for several years and gave him some of his best memories in life.

---

Make sure to check out our social media to keep track of the latest content. 

Instagram - @qatarliving

Twitter - @qatarliving

Facebook - Qatar Living

YouTube qatarlivingofficial

Inline Photos: Nepali Times weekly

Log in or register to post comments

More from Qatar Living

Qatar’s top beaches for water sports thrills

Qatar’s top beaches for water sports thrills

Let's dive into the best beaches in Qatar, where you can have a blast with water activities, sports and all around good times.
Most Useful Apps In Qatar - Part Two

Most Useful Apps In Qatar - Part Two

This guide brings you the top apps that will simplify the use of government services in Qatar.
Most Useful Apps In Qatar - Part One

Most Useful Apps In Qatar - Part One

this guide presents the top must-have Qatar-based apps to help you navigate, dine, explore, access government services, and more in the country.
Winter is coming – Qatar’s seasonal adventures await!

Winter is coming – Qatar’s seasonal adventures await!

Qatar's winter months are brimming with unmissable experiences, from the AFC Asian Cup 2023 to the World Aquatics Championships Doha 2024 and a variety of outdoor adventures and cultural delights.
7 Days of Fun: One-Week Activity Plan for Kids

7 Days of Fun: One-Week Activity Plan for Kids

Stuck with a week-long holiday and bored kids? We've got a one week activity plan for fun, learning, and lasting memories.
Wallet-friendly Mango Sticky Rice restaurants that are delightful on a budget

Wallet-friendly Mango Sticky Rice restaurants that are delightful on a budget

Fasten your seatbelts and get ready for a sweet escape into the world of budget-friendly Mango Sticky Rice that's sure to satisfy both your cravings and your budget!
Places to enjoy Mango Sticky Rice in  high-end elegance

Places to enjoy Mango Sticky Rice in high-end elegance

Delve into a world of culinary luxury as we explore the upmarket hotels and fine dining restaurants serving exquisite Mango Sticky Rice.
Where to celebrate World Vegan Day in Qatar

Where to celebrate World Vegan Day in Qatar

Celebrate World Vegan Day with our list of vegan food outlets offering an array of delectable options, spanning from colorful salads to savory shawarma and indulgent desserts.