Miss Camel 2013

A dusty track in the remote western region of the United Arab Emirates, on the verge of what is known as “The Empty Quarter” of the country is one of the last places you'd expect to find a beauty competition.
But the leggy, doe-eyed lovelies on parade here are of the four-legged variety.
The Al Dhafra Camel Festival held every year is a celebration of the ancient bond between humans and the "ships of the desert," which have traditionally provided Bedouins with food, clothing and transportation.
The highlight of the event, which draws more than 1,500 camel owners and 25,000 camels from all over the Arabian Peninsula to Al Dhafra, about 150km west of Abu Dhabi, is the Camel Beauty Contest.
The judges in this high-stakes contest rate the animals - the females of which are considered better looking - on criteria including firmness of ear, straightness of leg and the size of their toe cleft.
“The big size of the bones, the big foot, the height of the camel, the neck," explains one of the judges, listing the most desirable attributes.
"The smoother the neck the better, the longer the neck the better."
It's a job he takes seriously, as the spoils of victory can be significant.
The festival is an important auction market for purebred camels, and as well as commanding high prices, award-winning specimens can confer immense prestige on their owners it’s a competition between tribes as well. Everybody wants the prettiest camel to be owned by their tribe – preferably by themselves.
According to the rules laid down in the festival program, owners are required to swear religious oaths that the stated age and lineage of their animals is correct.
As well as the beauty contest and auctions, the festival also has contests in traditional pursuits such as camel racing, camel milking, falconry and date packaging. There is also racing of purebred Arabian salukis, the slender sight-hound that is one of the world's most ancient breeds of domesticated dog, as well as handicrafts displays.
While the SUV has replaced the camel as a means of transportation in the modern Emirates, it's clear the animal retains an important place in the nation's heart.
In a country about which it is often said that it went from riding camels to driving Cadillacs in 25 years, the younger generation seems aware of the importance of preserving the culture of their forefathers where camels were equal to wealth and status.

May the most beautiful camel win.

No comments: