UK & World News

  • 28 December 2013, 9:24

Camel Beauty Contest In United Arab Emirates

It is one of the world's most unique beauty pageants.

Every year people travel thousands of miles, from across the Gulf, to the Western Region of the United Arab Emirates to attend the prestigious event.

But you won't find any designer dresses, tiaras or make-up artists here because they've come to seek out the region's next top camel.

The Al Dhafra festival is in its seventh year and seeks to celebrate and promote Bedouin culture.

The highlight is the camel beauty pageant which sees thousands of contestants strut their stuff in two competitions: one for the light-coloured Asayel breed and another for the dark-skinned Majahim.

They're judged on a range of criteria from the size of the head, length of its neck and the shape of the hump. And big is most definitely considered beautiful.

But looks aren't everything and points are also awarded for model behaviour with the very best camels sold for up to 2m.

Khamees Mohammad al Sharee, a camel owner who regularly attends the festival, explains how the winners are picked.

"There is a special committee, appointed by the authorities, which judges the competition. They place all the camels together in one pen and decide."

For many people in this part of the Middle East the protection of pure-bred camels is integral to the preservation of their history and traditions.

These "desert ships", as some refer to them, historically provided Bedouins with a source of milk and transportation. They're also seen, more recently, as a potentially profitable business investment.

And it's not just millions of pounds worth of cash prizes and cars that entice people to come. It's a matter of national pride with camel-owning families from the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and other Gulf states all competing.

It's also attracting interest from further afield. For South African, Danielle Tennant, it was her first experience of a camel beauty pageant.

"As we arrived we were ushered in and we were given a personal guide. We tried some amazing Arabian coffee and we've been taken around to the stalls.

"It's been quite fascinating to think it's another whole interest, a passion people have."

As well as the beauty pageant the Al Dhafra festival, which runs for two weeks, also hosts camel races, saluki races, falconry competitions and a traditional Emirati market.

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