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With the Olympics coming to a close, Kenya’s competitive spirit has turned to next weekend’s annual camel derby.

The event promises to be a hump-jerking contest, bringing colour and action to the remote desert outpost of Maralal.

Kenya Camel derby maralal yare camel camp
© Yare Camel Camp

This year celebrates the 22nd derby, marking a sporting event that challenges locals and visitors to a 10 km camel race and a testing ‘tri-camel-thon’ of running, biking and camel riding. Maralal is the gateway town to Kenya’s wild and arid north – set in the Samburu district, it’s real camel country and home to the nomadic Samburu people for whom the single humped dromedary camel is a vital part of their lifestyle. The Samburu are a proud warrior-race of cattle-owning pastoralists, the name Samburu is derived from the word Samburr – a traditional leather bag used to carry meat and honey on their backs.

[slickr-flickr tag=”kenyacamel” captions=”on” descriptions=”on”]

The Samburu people play an important role in the camel derby, educating foreigners about their culture and showing off customary dances and traditional ceremonies. To win the derby is a great local honour, but that doesn’t mean visitors can’t saddle up and join the jockeys. Visitors are more than welcome to participate, and on entry you will be assigned a camel by one of the handlers – local boys who are good judges of a person’s weight versus a camel’s strength. After three days of break-necking through the festive streets of Maralal, make sure to head into Kenya’s northern frontier district – a mecca for adventurers, rugged travel and the site of the great Lake Turkana.

Travel info

When: Tuesday 21st to Sunday 26th August, 2012.

Where: Maralal, about 348 km north of Nairobi in Samburu – a district in the rift Valley province of Kenya.

Contact: Yare Camel Camp, web. www.yarecamelcamp.co.ke. Kenya Tourism, web. www.magicalkenya.com.

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I’m Holly - born and raised in the rural British Counties, my mother began life on a sugar farm in Zululand. After reading Anthropology at university in London, working for a political activist filmmaker in India, and doing a short stint under the bright lights of Bollywood – I decided it was time to return to the motherland. To earn a crust in the name of wanderlust, I finished up a post grad in media and hotfooted around South Africa as a freelance travel journalist.