Camels running around town practicing for the “Derby”..........what?
A few weeks ago I was reading that comment in a newsletter from my missionary friends in Maralal, Kenya. I had to stop and ask myself is there really another Derby in the world? Once again before I even reach the mission field in Kenya, my world view has been challenged!
Growing up in the Louisville area means that the Kentucky Derby is The Derby. It is so much more than a 2 minute race. It has turned into a 2-week extravaganza with more events than you could even imagine. While I have never been to Churchill Downs on Derby day for the races, the festival has been a part of my life since I was a little kid. I remember going to the balloon races early in the morning, watching the steamboats race on the Ohio River downtown, marching in the Pegasus Parade with my high school band and battling the crowds at Thunder Over Louisville, the massive fireworks event that now opens the festival each year.
All of a sudden my idea of Derby changed. It went from graceful horses, ladies in large hats and hearing everyone join in singing "Weep no more my lady" to gangly camels (with lips and legs flailing), sand covered people with baseball hats and traditional tribal songs.
Kenya's Camel Derby actually is a relatively new Derby. It began 23 years ago, much more recent than Kentucky's, running for the 140th time next year. While both Derby’s help the local economies and are big tourist events, Kenya’s also helps promote peace and environmental conservation. The Camel Derby is a great way to promote aspects of Kenyan culture that are very different from those in the safari areas, beach areas and the modern city life of Nairobi.
I will be living and working in Lodwar, Turkana in the Northwest desert area of Kenya. The town of Maralal is not close to this area and in the pictures is much greener than Lodwar. However camels are very important to the people of all of Northern Kenya and this festival helps promote them and the way of life for the people there.
The festival includes many cultural elements like guessing the weight of a goat or sheep. Maybe I could win that one, but I must remember to answer in kilograms. There is also a race to climb a greased pole and ring a bell. I wonder how much sand gets stuck on that pole. Maybe you would like to try the Camel Triathlon, where you won’t have to swim, but instead ride a camel, then bike and run in the desert. The event that I have added to my Kenyan Bucket List is participating in the Amateur Race, where I can hire a camel and guide and race to victory, if I can stay on for 10 km.
These things made me laugh at first, but as I said earlier I know that I need to check my “American Worldview” at the door. The Derby I have known my whole life became the norm and there is a big world out there with other Derbies to learn about and experience also. I love spring time in this area and the anticipation of the Derby and all the associated events. I am going to miss this, but it is so exciting to have the chance to learn about something new and the hope that I will get to experience it in the future.
God is so good and I thank him for all he is teaching me and all the lessons I am learning right here each and every week.
The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.
Watch a video about the Camel Derby
Click here to learn more
Fun Facts to compare the 2 Derbies
(Can someone familiar with Blogger, please let me know how to insert a table, obviously I was unsuccessful!)
- Louisville, Kentucky
- 1st Saturday in May
- Began in 1875
- 2 weeks of festivities
- Race length 1 1/4 miles (2 km)
- Other events:
- Running races
- Chow wagon
- Balloon glow and race
- Steamboat race
- Bed races
- Basketball, volleyball and golf events
- Parties and concerts
Kenya's Camel Derby:
- Maralal, Kenya
- Sometime in August
- Began in 1990
- 3 days of festivities
- Race length 42 miles (21 km)
- Other events:
- Running events
- Camel polo
- Local food
- Arts and crafts for sale
- Climb a greasy pole
- Donkey rides
- Pin the tail on the camel
- Guess the weights of goats and sheep
- Cultural ceremonies and music