Saudi chemistry duo add to KSA medal haul

Saudi chemistry duo add to KSA medal haul
Saudi chemistry duo add to KSA medal haul

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - ALULA: “Our dream, as athletes, is to be able to represent our country; and for me to live my dream for my country — in my country — is the ultimate triumph,” Rima Al-Harbi told Arab News after making history this week as the first Saudi woman to win at the AlUla Camel Cup.

At last year’s inaugural competition, Al-Harbi was the only woman to compete in a field full of male riders. This year, the event included a women’s category. Al-Harbi returned. And this time she won.

“Most of the women I competed against this year have way more experience than me; it was truly a difficult race, in general,” Al-Harbi said. “But somehow, thanks to Allah, I didn’t feel like anyone challenged me. From the moment we started to when we reached the finish line, I was in first place.”

The 22-year-old, who was raised in nearby Madinah, where she still resides, grew up around camels. Both her father and grandfather competed in camel racing and she has a fierce love for the animal and for the sport. She credits her grandfather for encouraging her to learn how to ride when she was just seven years old. Now, she trains with her camel, Auf, for about two hours every day. She is continuing the family tradition and breaking records along the way.

Al-Harbi said that three of her sisters also ride camels, but “as a hobby.” She is the only one of her siblings to compete professionally.

Al-Harbi has opened a small training club for local women who want to try their hand at camel racing. Her aim is to strengthen the community and to find fellow Saudi women to join her journey.

“Since I have a deep love for the sport and have the opportunity and capability, why wouldn’t I want to help other women also get into the sport? These women want to try it as a hobby and we all have to start somewhere. I don’t take any funds for this; it is done out of pure passion. It is just about introducing the sport to women who are interested. I offer them guidance and advice, and we walk through the sport,” she said.

The four-day AlUla Camel Cup ends on Saturday. Al-Harbi did return the day after her victory to soak up the atmosphere and cheer on other riders, but don’t count on her being back for the final day.

“I will stay home to rest,” she told us with a laugh.

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