The Ancient Sport of Camel Jumping in the Deserts of Yemen

The men of the Zaraniq tribe, on the west coast of Yemen, have a truly unique tradition – they jump over a row of camels just like modern daredevils jump over cars.

Famous throughout Yemen for their speed, strength and courage, the members of the Zaraniq tribe are the world’s only professional camel jumpers. Taking running starts, jumpers try to sail over as many camels as possible, before tumbling to the ground. During camel jumping events, the one who leaps over the highest number of camels is considered the winner. “This is what we do,” says Bhayder Mohammed Yusef Qubaisi, one of the champions of the the Tihama-al-Yemen, a desert plain, on the coast of the Red Sea.

Photo: Adam reynolds

The origins of camel jumping can be traced back to ancient times, but the tradition was almost completely forgotten, until recently, when Zaraniq members began practicing it once again. Camel-jumping events take place during local celebrations like weddings, and at the al-Khamis, an annual festival that marks the end of the palm season, and are always accompanied by singing and dancing. The traditional blue clothes, which identify them throughout Yemen, are rolled up around the waist before a jump.

The tradition of camel jumping has been recently documented by photographers Adam Reynolds, from Bloomington, Indiana, and Canadian Ed Ou. Unfortunately, both reported Yemen remains a very poor country, a place frozen in time in the midst of the amazing change going on in the Arab world. The Tehama region, where the Zaraniq people live, is one of the poorest regions in the poorest country of the Arab world…


And before anyone starts making remarks about these camel jumpers using a small mound before leaping over the humped animals, I’d like to see you make it across.

Sources: Smithsonian Mag, NY Times