x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

A flutter of eyelashes for Dh46m in UAE camel beauty pageant

The Al Dhafra Festival is set to open this weekend and 25,000 camels from across the Arabian Peninsula will be here to fight for the grand prize.

Competitors with their camels at last year's Al Dhafra festival south of Madinat Zayed.
Competitors with their camels at last year's Al Dhafra festival south of Madinat Zayed.

ABU DHABI // About 25,000 camels will flutter their eyelashes and strut their humps for a record Dh46 million in prizes at this year’s Al Dhafra Festival camel beauty pageant.

Many of the expected 1,500 competitors will arrive on foot with their beauty queens and set up camp in the sands outside Madinat Zayed.

The festival starts on Saturday and runs until December 29.

The festival will have a record 70 rounds, allowing more animals the chance to compete. Camels are categorised by year group and divided by breed: the pure-bred Assayel and dark Majahim.

In the first days of the festival, judges will select 30 camels to compete in each elimination round. Only 10 camels out of hundreds will be selected for the finals in each category.

This will culminate in the “open lap” in which camels of all ages and pedigrees compete for the best in show.

“This is a challenge lap,” said Mohammed Al Khalaf, head of the organising committee. “If you participate in it this proves that your camel is strong enough.”

Competition is not just for camels, however. This year’s saluki race features an all-star line-up of returning champions. Sarookh (Rocket), the black saluki who won at Al Dhafra 2010, Taufan (Cyclon), a white feathered male who won at Sweihan in 2010, and the sandy female Injaz (Achievement), another 2010 Sweihan champion are back for their first major race after two years.

Big entries are expected from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. “Qatar, they don’t mention names because they want to make a surprise,” said Hamad Al Ghanem, the festival’s saluki consultant and the general registrar of Saluki of Arabia Club.

Falconry competitions begin on Sunday, and include 400-metre speed races and a race in which the birds chase a remote-controlled plane around a set course.

Other activities include a classic car show, a date competition and a heritage market with 180 handicraft stalls.

azacharias@thenational.ae