Today I was lucky enough to attend a major camel race here in South Sinai. Two Bedouin tribes compete by placing young boys on their finest camels and racing them through Wadi Zalaga for around 45 minutes.
Meanwhile the 1,000 or so spectators, who are made up of the Muzeina and Taraben tribes, tourists and ex-pats living in Sinai follow at high speed alongside and behind them in their various modes of transport. You can barely see the camels for dust, sand and vehicles ranging from vintage jeeps to top of the range Land Cruisers and Hummers.
Prize money is donated by the spectators, who give as much or as little as they can afford, and the young jockeys are also given gifts and cash at the end of the race when they gather for their photo call. This year's winning tribe were the Muzeina, who are mainly based in Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab and Nuweiba.
Most people camp in the wadi the night before in freezing conditions, and the general background noise throughout the event is the firing of assault rifles into the sky. This isn't frightening by any means - it's just a way the Bedouin celebrate their important events and weddings, and believe me it has to be seen and heard to be believed.
I took this shot when I was just about to leave, and even stopped my car to ask permission to take it. To me, this man represents everything I respect about the Bedouin. Grace, dignity, beauty and pride in a world that is changing so rapidly around them.
Throughout the day I was mesmerised by the sight of these amazing tribes, in traditional dress, crouched on car roofs, leaning precariously out of windows or sitting casually in the passenger and driver seats looking out at the desert environment they know, love and embrace as often as they can when time allows. They may be taking photographs with their iPads and transporting themselves in Toyota Hilux trucks more than on camels these days, but I sincerely hope the most important elements of their lives will never change.
Tourism in Sinai is suffering thanks to the news you read every day about Egypt and both the Bedouin and Egyptians in South Sinai rely heavily on us for their income. So please do try and visit this incredible area if you can, and make it soon. Contact me if you would like any advise or assistance with your trip - I'd be happy to help!
I've now uploaded my pictures to Facebook. Feel free to have a look and I hope you get a feel for what the race is all about. A crazy and totally brilliant experience that I highly recommend you attend at least once in your life.