Guess.What.Day.It.Is?

Is it hump day yet? Even camels are working overtime, the AP reported, as Qatar welcomes more than a million fans for the month-long World Cup. Handlers are cashing in on the opportunity, forcing the animals to give 15 or 20—even 40 rides—without a break. Sometimes, when they’re tired, they simply refuse to stand up and get to work. We feel you, camels.

Mesaieed, Qatar (AP) — Shaheen stretched out on the sand and closed his eyes, but there was little time to rest for the camel. World Cup fans coming in droves to the desert outside Doha were ready for their perfect Instagram moment: riding a camel on the rolling dunes.

As Qatar welcomes more than a million fans for the monthlong World Cup, even its camels are working overtime. Visitors in numbers the tiny emirate has never before seen are rushing to finish a bucket list of Gulf tourist experiences between games: ride on a camel’s back, take pictures with falcons and wander through the alleyways of traditional markets.

On a recent Friday afternoon, hundreds of visitors in soccer uniforms or draped in flags waited for their turn to mount the humpbacked animals. Camels that did not rise were forced up by their handlers. When one camel let out a loud grunt, a woman from Australia shrieked, “it sounds like they’re being violated!” Nearby, a group of men from Mexico dressed in white Qatari thobes and headdresses took selfies.

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

Cashing in on the opportunity are the animals’ handlers who, thanks to the World Cup, are making several times more than they normally would.

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

Al Ali came to Qatar 15 years ago but has worked with camels since he was a child. On an average weekday before the World Cup, Al Ali said his company would offer around 20 rides per day and 50 on weekends. Since the World Cup started, Al Ali and the men he works with are providing 500 rides in the morning and another 500 in the evening. The company went from having 15 camels to 60, he said.

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

As crowds formed around them, many camels sat statue-like with cloth muzzles covering their mouths and bright saddles on their bodies. The smell of dung filled the air…

Al Ali said he knows when an animal is tired — usually if it refuses to get up or sits back down after rising to its feet. He can identify each camel by its facial features.

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

But the sudden rise in tourists means there’s less time to rest between rides, he said. A short ride lasts just 10 minutes while longer ones run 20 to 30 minutes long.

Normally, Al Ali said a camel can rest after five 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 said.

Since the World Cup started, the animals are taken for 15 to 20 — sometimes even 40 rides — without a break.

Al Ali’s day starts around 4:30 a.m., when he feeds the animals and gets them ready for customers. Some tourists have been arriving at dawn, he said, hoping to get the perfect sunrise shot, “so we have to work with them and take photos for them.”

From midday until 2 p.m, both handlers and camels rest, he said. “Then we start getting ready for the afternoon battle.”

But not every visitor has been taken by the experience.

Pablo Corigliano, a 47 year-old real estate agent from Buenos Aires, said he was hoping for something more authentic. The excursions start on a stretch of desert by the side of a highway, not far from the industrial city of Mesaieed and its vast oil refineries.

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

Soon after, Corigliano and a group of friends looked for a dune buggy to race into the desert.

—  Lujain Jo & Suman Naishadham, from World Cup Frenzy Puts Strains on Qatar’s Camels (Bloomberg November 28, 2022)


Notes:

  • Background on Caleb/Wednesday/Hump Day Posts and Geico’s original commercial: Let’s Hit it Again.

Comments

  1. The camels need a union! I really feel for them…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. this sounds incredibly abusive to the camels, I feel for them

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful picture belies some ugly realities..

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Missed you, Caleb! Union yes, but with Caleb leading! HHD, Dave! 🐫🔆

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is so sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    This ain’t right, Caleb!! … “As Qatar welcomes more than a million fans for the month-long World Cup. Handlers are cashing in on the opportunity, forcing the animals to give 15 or 20—even 40 rides—without a break. Sometimes, when they’re tired, they simply refuse to stand up and get to work. We feel you, camels.”

    Like

  7. This reminds me of trips to Mexico. It’s all very nice until you scratch the surface and see the reality of the place – poverty and abuse. These camels – at first I thought it was the Qatari soccer team lined up – are probably worked and worked and worked to get every last dollar out of them. Takes the fun right out of the idea of having a ride on Caleb. Sigh! Welcome to the real world.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. So much pressure and suffering … and all for brief pleasures. There’s too much of that in our human history. I hope everyone gets a break after the World Cup is over.
    The next World Cup will be in Philadelphia. I think I’ll head to Scotland rather than witnessing the bedlam and greed.

    Like

  9. Feel sad and dispirited reading and imagining that reality… Yet, “I am a Bedouin. I come from a family of Bedouins who care for camels. I grew up loving them,” Al Ali said. That is good to know!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. It seems to me pretty much how God did not envision a camel’s life (along with many other animals). Hopefully, the camels all make it through the month!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You mean like every Human Amazon employee in fulfillment and delivering here in a first world country?
    Or every retail employee?
    And why? Because customers want everything and they want it now!

    Or Uber eats drivers, again, humans in a first world country. Because people are too lazy to cook. Or think ordering out is fancy. And because if you don’t get it in time, it’s free.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I found this story so dispiriting. Those poor camels and their caretakers, too. 😔

    Liked by 2 people

  13. This is the World Cup that will be remembered most for the abuse of animals and guest workers. As much as I enjoy World Cup play, I haven’t been able to make myself watch this one.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. The whole Qatar experience exasperates and disgusts me. OK, I’m not a sports fan but ALL the going-ons leave a terrible taste in the mouth and a sickness in the guts. The poor camels are ‘just’ a part of it. There is everything wrong with this year’s Olympics. It makes me very sad.

    Liked by 2 people

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