Gloriously, this event is officially billed as the Thousand Camel Festival and it certainly lives up to its name! The Bactrian, known as the “ship of the Gobi”, is the undoubted star of the show here in the heart of the desert. The camel herders, with their woolly-coated, double-humped steeds, gather to compete in races and polo competitions. Visitors are encouraged to join the colourful opening parade – yup, on a camel – and it is a unique opportunity to interact with the herders and see their nomadic way of life, up close and personal.
Kath, from the UK office, was lucky enough to attend the Thousand Camel Festival in 2008. Here’s what she had to say about this flamboyant celebration:
“Winter in the Gobi brings snow to the desert and the camels all have their fluffy winter coats on. I remember that the latrines were frozen! Everyone was on camels – everyone, from the elderly to the tiniest tots, and many of the spectators too. There were loads of colourful flags and so much noise, people shouting and camels braying. We followed the races, driving along behind in our vehicles to see the action as it happened, people were standing on their camels at the finish line to see into the distance.
There were competitions with teams – who could load and unload a ger from a camel in the fastest time – and we watched a young camel being broken in. There was a bookie taking bets, but it was easy to tell which camel would win his race as they all still wore their awards from previous years. I just bet on the camel with the most medals! There was also a competition for the best-looking male and female camel. Two white camels won – they are quite rare and prized by the Mongolians. It was -10°C, but having just come from the Ice Festival, it felt positively balmy. I had my first gallop on a camel … they have a strange wobbly gait and I did feel a little seasick. One of our guests, Diana, was asked to open proceedings by cutting the ribbon; what an honour! It was an amazing experience…”