A festival for camel fans in Al Dhafra

Nearly 25,000 of the Gulf’s prettiest camels have gathered in Abu Dhabi for an annual beauty contest that honours the country’s heritage.

Prizes worth more than Dhs46 million are up for grabs in the various contests.

“The festival aims to preserve the cultural heritage of the UAE,” said Mohammad Khalaf Al Mazroui, chairman of the higher organising committee of the festival and Cultural Adviser at the Crown Prince’s Court. He said the event began with beauty contests for the camels up to the age of one, and that more beauty contests are being held during the course of the festival in various categories, with about 25,000 camels, belonging to 1,500 farmers, taking part.

“This year the total value of prizes for the competitions has been raised to more than Dhs46 million, including 198 cars and cash prizes,” added Al Mazroui.

Ahmed Mohammed, one of the six judges at Madinat Zayed, said that a camel’s beauty is God given. “A beautiful camel is the same in every country,” he said, adding that among the features of a fine animal is a skinny neck, a long nose, droopy lips, thick legs, big feet and a hump perfectly placed on the camel’s lower back.

An intrinsic part of the festival is the traditional market, featuring 180 shops run by Emirati women selling their handicrafts, as well as other Emirati heritage products such as dates and perfume. A number of other heritage events and competitions, including camel racing, camel auctions and a camel milking competition, are also highlights of the event.

Organisers say that the Al Dhafra Festival has helped promote Arab culture and traditions among the country’s younger generation, as well as tourists and expats in the UAE, over the past six years.

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