What was once a local custom for desert-based camel breeders, has transformed into a money-driven competition for city-based business owners, turning beautiful camels into goldmines, and the businessmen into celebrities.
Saudi Arabia will crown its most beautiful camel on Thursday. With 180 human participants, the King Abdel Aziz Festival is the most important meeting of its kind in the Arab world. Launched ten years ago, the prizes have spiralled year on year. This time around, the contest will give away the value of 70 million Saudi riyals (14 million euros) – essentially in cars – to the winners of categories 1, 30, 50 and 100 camels.
Hoisting the poor camels with a crane:
“The firstborn of a previous winner was sold for 2.5 million euros.”
The festival lasted almost a month this year. The jury is very strict. You base a camel’s beauty on the size of its head; whether its lips cover its teeth, the length of its neck and the roundness of its hump.
Participants come from all over the Gulf (except for Oman), and all over the country. Increasing numbers of wealthy businessmen are taking part in the festival. Having had worked with real estate they’ve now turned their attention to the camel contest in looking for fame. If you win, people will recognise you all over the Gulf.
To get hold of the best camels, these investors have no qualms with outbidding their rivals. The firstborn of a previous winner was sold for 12 million riyals (2.5 million euros) last week. That’s a massive jump from last year, when the maximum amount spent on a camel was four million (784,000 euros), and ten years ago, the biggest prize at the festival was just 10,000 riyals (2,000 euros). One businessman from Bahrain has been boasting that he spent 100 million riyals (19.5 million euros) on his camels. His only desire – to win the contest and become a celebrity in the region.
The hype has attracted several TV channels, who pay 10,000 riyals for a few minutes of images of camels and owners.” OBSERVERS.france24
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