Friday, May 2, 2014

Photo essay: Meydan Racecourse

Since tomorrow is the day of the Kentucky Derby I would like to share my photos of the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. Unfortunately, Sheikh Mohammed's horse that was going to be in the Derby tomorrow had to be pulled from the race due to ankle injuries. That makes two years in a row that the Sheikh has been unable to compete in the Kentucky Derby, inshallah his horses will fare better next year. I would like to see him be able to win the Kentucky Derby someday inshallah, the Saudi royal family has already won it so Sheikh Mohammed deserves to win too! Especially since he has so many horses and businesses in Kentucky now, it's only fair for him to get to win the Derby at least once. 

Meydan is also described here as somewhat of a fairytale, so I have been wanting to see it with my own eyes for years. Here in Kentucky Chruchill Downs is our biggest racecourse with it's iconic spires and the second most known is Keeneland. Keeneland feels like you are stepping into an alternate realm, the grounds are beautifully kept and the historic stone archways that have made their way into many Hollywood films give you a feeling that you are definitely somewhere special. 

I was so happy when earlier this year I was finally able to see Meydan in person. The weather was perfect and the sky was beautifully magnificent. I greatly enjoyed my time walking around there and watching the horses, although I was far away from the land I was born in the horses, sound of the bugle when the horses were at the gate, and some of the decor made me feel like I was right at home. 

Of course I got there early because I hate being late. I'm always afraid I'm going to miss something! haha 
I'm still not used to how laid back timings in Dubai are, I'm used to the time frame where I live where you gotta get up early and get everything done because things may close before you get there. Dubai is the total opposite, when it starts to get later in the evening around the time that I'm used to things closing that's when the town comes to life. 

Even though I had a bit of a late start because the first taxi driver I found didn't know where Meydan was. He had me switch cars to ride with another taxi driver, at least the new taxi driver had a good sense of humor and had a good laugh about his colleague not knowing where Meydan was. When I got there I took a walk around to scope the place out and went into the Meydan hotel because I heard they had a gallery of horse art. Other than some statues I didn't find the gallery but at least the hotel's balcony had some nice views of the track.




My first reaction when I saw the Meydan track was that it was very pretty but also that the inner stands and area were a lot smaller than I expected. I guess that's how it goes when things get so glamorized by the media before you see them for yourself!


When I ventured back out I checked out the tunnel where the horses and riders go from the saddling area into the racing area. I looked around for the stables but couldn't find it.

 The tracks at Meydan are the opposite of the tracks here in Kentucky. Here the dirt track is on the outside near of the track and the turf track is the inner part of the track. British tracks are set up like Meydan though, perhaps that's where they made their decision to have it that way from. Maybe it's because I'm used to seeing the dirt track on the outside is why I had such a problem with the track being set up this way. When the dirt track is in the inner part of the racetrack I feel like I can't see the horses as well. Especially since dirt tracks are usually used more than the turf tracks.

 My Dad was especially happy to know that even in Dubai they use John Deere tractors haha!

The sky was simply gorgeous. I didn't sit in one spot, I kept roaming around and getting different views of the track and observing how happy everyone there seemed to be. Even tiny children where climbing on the fences cheering their favorite horses on while they raced. I do not see that kind of enthusiasm about horse racing from children in Kentucky at all now. One thing I've always heard about is how there are seperate areas for the Emiratis and the visitors from other places. I did not see these separate areas at all, every place that I sat was an equal mixture of Emiratis and every other nationality you could think of. Perhaps these separate areas are the private areas where they serve alcohol?

Did I mention it was a stunningly beautiful evening? 

These little jockey statues made me feel so at home. Almost every farm here has one or more of them in their yard or at their entrance way. They are modeled after the horse handlers from the late 1800's / early 1900's when many of the horse handlers and jockeys were African American slaves.

 One of the great things about Meydan is how anyone can get close to this area where they walk the horses with their owners and jockeys to take photos. I definitely haven't been able to get that close to the horses and jockeys at the racetrack here.

I loved this outside area where you can watch the horses be saddled and walked. 

Overall it was a great evening and I'm glad that I was able to experience it. My biggest complaint about Meydan would be the food court. I ended up eating Dunkin' Donuts wheich didn not make me a happy camper. There was a place that sold karak but was out of karak, can you imagine how disappointed I was?!?! No one should put a karak sign in front of me if they don't really have it haha. The other offerings in the food court were assorted junk food stands. Hopefully in the future they will install some vendors with *real food* and healthier options inshallah. 

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