With the arrival of wealth and technology, camels aren't really needed for transportation anymore, but that doesn't mean that they aren't still important to Gulf Arabs. It is just that now they are used for racing. I personally find it hard to believe, but according to the Insight Guide to Oman and UAE, the fastest camels can run 37 mph (60 kph).
Camel racing is a very serious business in the Gulf area. Oman (the country to the east of the UAE) has a government department of camel affairs. A top racing camel can sell for over $150,000. Today's Gulf News has the story of a father who is accused of killing his 27 year old son over the proper care of the family camels. Like I said, camels are very serious business.
According to Ansar Burney in the Khaleej Times, there are an estimated 16,000 active racing camels and 17 tracks in the UAE, including one in Al Ain. However, the big money involved has caused a big problem: very young children have been used as jockeys in this dangerous sport:
[O]ver 40,000 children are employed in this form of labour and their ages range from one and a half-year-old to seven years and most of them are brought from Asian countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Yemen and Sudan.
In the UAE, the government has banned using jockeys under 16. They are even developing robot jockeys to replace these young riders. The Emirates Economist has two posts about these robot jockeys and what it might mean for jobs in the industry. Really interesting stuff.