In a ‘Camel beauty contest’, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, dozens were disqualified after their handlers had used ‘botox’ to make them more handsome.
“The camel,” explained the chief judge of the show, Fawzan al-Madi, “is a symbol of Saudi Arabia. We used to preserve it out of necessity, now we preserve it as a pastime.”
The Kingdom is heading toward change as it will soon see it’s first movie theaters, however of the Bedouin, nothing is more important than a camel. For the traditional Arab, a camel has been a source of food, transport, a war machine and a companion for centuries.
The month long festival is taking place on the outskirts of the capital, Riyadh. On a rocky desert plateau, the government has erected a permanent venue to host the headline events: races and show competitions with combined purses of 213 million riyals ($57 million). The pavilion features an auction where top camels can fetch millions of riyals.
Organisers say this “heritage village” will expand in coming years as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – who is heir to the throne, defence minister and head of oil and economic policy – takes the reins through a newly-created official Camel Club established by royal decree last year.
Halfway through this year’s festival, attendance is up about a third from last year, with about 300,000 people making the 1-1/2 hour trip from Riyadh so far, said Fahd al-Semmari, a Camel Club board member.
“The vision is for the (festival) to become a global, pioneering forum for all classes of people to come for entertainment, knowledge and competition.”