For the last 30 years, the Maralal International Camel Derby has redefined the dusty desert town of Maralal which is Samburu’s heartbeat. It is just more than a camel derby and with it, comes an entertaining festival which, unfortunately, 2020 will miss out due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The small dusty desert town of Maralal in Samburu is home to the annual Maralal International Camel Derby. The derby attracts thousands of visitors from Kenya and beyond who either participate in the race or grace the occasion as spectators but one thing is for sure; it is also a prime destination for cultural exhibition and business indulgent too for the locals who seel assorted Maasai regalia.
Interestingly, the 3-day race which is held on August (24th – 26th) has shaped some people into professional camel racers. Nonetheless, the non-experienced derby lovers also immerse themselves into the race with one thing in mind; winning against all odds. As is the tradition, the race begins on one end of the town before the whistle goes off and hundreds of gawky camels give the best leap of their life.
The beginning of the race is characterized by commotion and confusion with some camels racing in the opposite direction while others rush off to the side which is common for the non-experienced camel racers. For the professional racers though, they control their camels to the finishing line.
Although camel racing is the main event here, the small desert town comes to life during the derby as visitors seek to understand and experience the towns way of life. Additionally, a 10km bike race runs concurrently with the camel racing. This too attracts a handful of professional bikers and the amateurs who let nothing, even the hard terrain stop them from getting to the finishing line.
Here are photos of how it all went down in 2019: