Thousands of men leer on, playboys skid around outside in expensive cars, and top models command fees reaching into the millions as part of the biggest beauty contest this side of Dubai. But, unlike most pageants, it is not women on display but camels – a situation which suits the exclusively male attendees just fine.
UK Daily Mail Visitors to this sprawling event held annually in Liwa, United Arab Emirates, happily admit that they consider the winning camels – which change hands for almost £2million each – more beautiful than their wives, and indeed any other woman.
The prize beasts are adorned with luxuriant ornaments, and even receive expensive beauty treatments like lip fillers and fake eyelashes to give them an edge.
The contest, the subject of a new documentary by Vice, is overseen by camel moguls who spend tens of millions on their exorbitant herds of animals.
Traders trek for months through the desert to reach the site of the contest, which began in the early 2000s, while VIP attendees catch helicopters to the lavish event.
Speaking to Vice presenter Charlet Duboc, camel mogul Ben Souaed boasted of his 50-strong collection, which has brought him victory for years.
He said: ‘I have beautiful camels. I have over 50, others only have 20-30. I have spent $23million (£13.7million) on buying good camels.’ His most expensive purchase had cost £1.8million.
Boasting of one called Wahaida, his favourite, he said: ‘Her colour is nice, her measurements are good and she always wins number one spot.’
As well as beauty rounds, the animals are pitted against each other in races, while their owners compete in milking contest. Boys of less than 10 who bring their baby camels into a junior round are rewarded with a Nissan pick-up truck they will not be able to drive for years.
One camel enthusiast featured on the video explain the obsession felt by many attendees. He said: ‘I personally see camels as more beautiful than women, horses and all other animals. None of them are equal to a string of camel hair.’
Another simply gestured to his favourite and said: ‘Sexy, yeah?’