Throughout history, camels stand as a symbol of pride, joy, and honor for Arabs, so it might surprise one to know that their owners have beauty pageants that involve months of grooming to showcase their animals’ unique aesthetic traits.
The contest at the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, which has been one of the largest in the Middle East, has attracted thousands of visitors in the past weeks.
It started with the participation of thousands of camels competing for dozens of prizes worth over SR100 million ($26 million). It is a 45-day festival, which has become a cultural, tourist, sports, entertainment, and economic destination for citizens and residents of the Kingdom, and Gulf nationals in particular.
It is also a six-week event happening in Riyadh, featuring entertainment, cultural and heritage shows. However, several different breeds of camels will participate in around 75 competitions which will last till mid-January, and winners will be crowned in different categories based on their performances.
The festival has always been a favorite spot for seasonal commercial markets and booths and food trucks, where local families can sell their goods.
“The festival is of great importance as it shows Saudi culture and authentic heritage. It’s an invitation to get to know the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia closely,” said a journalist, Ayedh Al-Abdullah.
He also added that “The camels have cultural and historical value in the economy of the Arabian Peninsula, describing the festival as a unique opportunity to highlight this for younger generations.”
He continued that “Winning is a symbolic matter, just a recognition of your efforts and an indication that your camels are the best. The competition is a regional event full of events and opportunities to meet new people and reunite with old friends.”
Most of the camel owners have explained that it requires some effort for one to prepare an animal for such pageants, including proper transportation, fodder, and healthcare.
Bin Melham, whose eyes staring into the crown after attaining top positions in all the rounds last year has said that “It does not mean that this hard work is a bad thing… it is a pleasure for any camel lover who (has a) passion for competition and for winning.”
He is a well-known competitor, having participated in various contests with his animals including Mazayen Al-Ibil, which was recently held in Qatar.
Abdullah bin Qasim, the owner of Mangiyah Al-Abadiyat, is participating for the first time in the competitions at the festival. It is a sort of routine to him — waking up before dawn to care for his camels, which he emphasizes have big heads and well-structured bodies. He hopes to win big at the event.
Mijbil Al-Dhafiri is another participant who spends most of his day around camels, he pointed out that attractive camels, like his Thokor, have long necks, arched noses, large heads, good height, and are skilled in displaying elegant movement.
Al-Dhafiri said he is well-prepared for the competition, having started six months ago in Hafr Al-Batin.
In the previous year’s camel festival, more than 70 rounds of competition have been featured, over a period of 43 days, with prizes amounting to approximately SR250 million.