Women lead the way at the first camel riding school in Dubai

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) – On a piece of sand sculpted by wind outside Dubai, is the first officially licensed camel riding school in the UAE.

For a country with a strong cultural connection to these creatures, it may seem surprising that there are no more such schools.

Although camel riding is a traditionally male-dominated practice, one of the founders of the “Arabian Desert Camel Riding Center”, or “ADCRC” – a woman – is the 30-year-old German expat Linda Krukenberger.

The German Linda Krukenberger was co-founder of the first officially licensed camel riding school in the UAE. , plain textCredit: Linda Krockenberger / ADCRC

The school was established in January 2021 and is located about 20 kilometers from Dubai, on the crest of the Marble Desert in an agricultural settlement called Al Lisaili.

The school was established in January 2021, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Dubai, on the edge of the Marble Desert in an agricultural settlement called Al Lisaili. In this socially conservative area, Krukenberger says it is not uncommon to see women walking the streets. Before the school opened, the women here had never ridden camels.

The school now has 30 regular passengers, the majority of whom are women.

Women lead the way at Dubai's first camel riding school
Krukenberger wanted to learn how to ride a camel when she moved to the UAE. , plain textCredit: Linda Krockenberger / ADCRC

“Initially, we did not specifically target women,” Krukenberger explained. She added: “Being a woman, and part of the school, people thought it was unique, which attracted a lot of interest.”

Camel rides for everyone

Women lead the way at Dubai's first camel riding school
Camel riding is still an important cultural practice in the UAE. , plain textCredit: Linda Krockenberger / ADCRC

Thousands of years ago, the Arabian Peninsula was home to the tame Arabian camel. The camel, a single-humped species also known as the Arabian camel, has historically been used for transportation and as a source of milk, meat, wool and leather.

Camel festivals are popular in the UAE these days, camel racing is a big business, and prize money for the biggest races can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Women lead the way at Dubai's first camel riding school
Camels play a vital role in the entertainment and sports sector in the UAE. , plain textCredit: KARIM SAHIB / AFP / AFP via Getty Images

Krukenberger moved to the UAE in 2015 to work in the hospitality industry, and fell in love with the desert environment.

Krukenberger wanted to ride camels after trying to ride a horse in Germany.

The German had been looking for years for someone in Dubai who could give her space to ride a camel, but being a woman was an obstacle for her.

“The only reaction I got was: You can ride a camel, but only if we do it at night, in the dark,” or “It would be better if you could wear men’s clothes,” Krukenberger said. .

Women lead the way at Dubai's first camel riding school
In November of 2021, Krukenberger established the first official female camel racing team in the UAE, plain_textCredit: Linda Krockenberger / ADCRC

“I could not do it. I do not want to do something that is considered inappropriate,” Krukenberger said, adding that it was a big struggle for her.

“I wanted to make sure that we could dress modestly, that it was culturally appropriate, but that we could be women,” the German continued.

Krukenberger eventually found a teacher who was willing to teach them, the Emirati Obaid Al Falasi, who had worked with camels all his life.

Under the guidance of 52-year-old Al Falasi, Krukenberger learned to ride a camel, and the two decided to open the school together and make it accessible to anyone who wants to learn.

Women lead the way at Dubai's first camel riding school
Emirati women are increasingly interested in camel riding. , plain textCredit: Linda Krockenberger / ADCRC

With Al Falasi’s help, Krukenberger said they had obtained the first license ever for a camel riding center in the UAE.

Krukenberger explained that licensing the center was the only way for women to ride camels, “otherwise it would be culturally unacceptable.”

Initially, Krukenberger noted that the women who ride camels feel they need to show the community that they can ride safely on camels, noting that “on the first few trips, we got nervous together.”

“We felt this was the only chance to prove that women could also ride camels. So we did not want to spoil our chance,” the German said.

After making their point, the women took camel riding to the next level, and Krukenberger founded the country’s first all-female camel racing team.

The center hosted the first official camel race for women in the UAE in November 2021 and was watched by more than 200 spectators. There are plans for more races.

Rediscover heritage

Lessons cost about $ 40, with discounts for members.

“Initially, we did not take in many Emirati women just because they had not heard of it before,” Krukenberger said, emphasizing: “But at the moment, there is a very strong concept for Emirati women to grow their heritage. , remember it, rediscover it and ride camels as a way for them to do it. ”

The center welcomed more than 40 Emirati women, seven of whom were regular participants.

Aisha Khoury, a 35-year-old housewife, joined the center this month and found the practice helped her feel connected to Emirati culture.

“Camel riding reminds me of how people did not travel so long ago,” Khoury said, explaining that she finds camels to be calm, easy to handle, and emphasizes, “The experience gives you a boost of positive energy.”

Krukenberger mentioned that the women riding the camels described this practice as a form of meditation, pointing out that the experience is available to all.

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