Groups are welcome to ride camels for a game of polo. // © 2016 Megan Leader
Playing camel polo for the first time brought me back to middle school. Something about the camels’ long, skinny legs and knobby knees, combined with my severe lack of coordination, made for a delightfully embarrassing experience that I can only laugh about in retrospect.
Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club sees some seriously talented equestrians and polo players, but it also welcomes beginners for lessons. If you’re traveling with a large group (eight to 60 people), the club also offers a Middle Eastern twist on the game: camel polo.
The logistics of camel polo baffled me at first. How was I supposed to hit a tiny ball with a 4-foot-long mallet while maneuvering a giant desert creature? My fears were allayed when I learned that an experienced rider would guide the camel, and my only job was to hit the ball toward the goal with the mallet.
Still, it’s easier said than done.
The game plays out a little something like this: The two teams face off against each other, mano a mano (or, rather, “camel to camel”), and the referee tosses the ball onto the field. What ensues is magnificent and entertaining, especially when tourists are wielding the mallets. The camels converge on the ball, mallets collide in a frenzy, and a half-dozen people have the split-second opportunity to swing — and miss. Finally, someone hits the ball a few feet, and the process repeats itself until someone breaks away and hits the ball toward the goal.
Near the end of the game, I got control of the ball for one glorious moment and, by a stroke of sheer luck, barely eked out a goal. The highlight of my camel polo career had come and gone in an instant, but you can bet I’m adding “camel polo champion” to my resume.