Saturday, 12 May 2012

Ed Ou: Yemeni Camel Jumping

Photo © Ed Ou/Reportage by Getty Images (Courtesy The New York Times)

I enjoyed Ed Ou's account in the LENS blog of The New York Times of how he had stumbled across the unusual practice of camel jumping in Yemen.  The photographer, known for having documented most of the events during the Arab Spring, was in the country and decided to revisit the remote region of Tehama, which had been the site of one of his most memorable photographic experiences in 2009.

Camel-jumping is an event that takes place during celebrations in that region, which counts as one of the poorest in the country. It seems that in the early evening, 4 or 5 camels are lined up, the contestants take running starts and leap over the animals.

It got me wondering if there was any connection between this form of contest and the jumping of the bulls ceremony practiced by the Hamar tribe (and others) in the Omo Valley in Southern Ethiopia. The jumping of the bulls is more of a marriage ritual and ceremony than a contest, since the men performing it are about to get married...and should they fail to jump over the bulls four times, they won't be allowed to wed.

After all, Yemen and Ethiopia are geographically close to each other, and have very strong historical, commercial, religious and cultural ties.

Here's also a short video by Ed Ou of the camel jumping contests.