As Muslims around the world celebrate “Eid al-Fitr” -the end of Ramadan, Bedouin tradition is to be lauded for a one-of-a-kind beauty contest in the Middle East. Last April, international visitors, camel owners, breeders, royalty, celebrities and sheikhs flocked to Saudi Arabia for a month-long festival featuring camels.
The highly-esteemed one-humper is referred to as “the ship of the desert”: “a main source of transport, a loyal friend, a sturdy worker, shady spot to lean, a reliable supply of milk, and even a supply of food and leather.”
“Thanks to support from the Saudi royal family, the festival has expanded into a broader heritage exhibition covering 30 square km of Al Dahna Desert," said Dr Talal Al Torifi, historian and specialist in Bedouin practices.
"For 2017, we are proud to showcase interactive additions that reflect all that is important to us in the region. With more activities and an eclectic mix of traditional happenings combined with fresh concepts, the festival is sure to intrigue and educate all attendees from children, to families and tourists. The festival is spreading knowledge and understanding of our culture and heritage."
The King Abdulaziz Camel Festival also known as ‘Miss Camel’ is held annually in Rimah, one of the governorates of Riyadh Province, Saudi Arabia. Over 30,000 camels hailing from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates took part in the beauty contest with prize awards above $31 million dollars.
So what makes the most beautiful camel ?
- The size of the camel’s head is considered the most important, it should be big
- Lips should cover teeth
- Neck should be long and thin
- The size and shape of the eyes
- Lashes should be long
- Nose should be tall and wide
- Ears should stand back and be pert
- Hump should be high and should sit on the lower back
- Legs should be sturdy, long and stand on strong feet
- Hair should be curly, not straight
- Extra points can be gained for temperament (beauty comes from within after all)
The regional camel riding tradition wasn’t the only thing celebrated during the festival, the history of camels and their role in folklore, art, and songs were also highlighted . Participants could ride camels, learn how to look after and saddle them. The National Geographic participated in the fun along with the Saudi Art Association and Literature Awards holding their own competitions with cash prizes, while others attended a VIP camel auction where 20,000 animals were available for purchase.
“In the middle of the desert, we’ve faced many challenges and overcame them with creativity - that was my favorite part of the festival” said Haitham Ben Derham, Creative Director.
“It was amazing to mix modern art with the tradition of camels in Saudi Arabia.”
All pictures courtesy of King Abdulaziz Camel Festival