With the reins in one hand and a whip in the other, the purple-jerseyed rider prodded a camel around the track.



But this jockey wasn’t the usual underfed boy. The jockey was a robot.

Under the watchful eyes of his Swiss developer and Qatari owners, the robot — dubbed Kamel — rode a racing camel for 1.5 miles, reaching speeds of 25 miles per hour in a non-competitive trial run.



By 2007, rulers of this energy-rich emirate say all camel racers will be mechanical.



The developer, Alexandre Colot of the Swiss robotics firm K-Team, wasn’t as impressed as the rest of the crowd.



“I wasn’t surprised,” Colot said, as he walked toward the camel to unstrap Kamel and put him in a box for the night. “I’ve seen him do that before, so to me, it’s not something strange.”



Camel racing has deep roots in the traditions of Gulf Arabs and their survival in this barren and once poor and isolated land. Races are grueling contests of endurance and take place on oval courses as long as 10 kilometers. Betting is banned but lucrative purses are put forward by corporate or tribal sponsors.



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