x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Saluki contest seen as link with heritage

A beauty contest for Salukis will be held at an upcoming exhibition of traditional Arab hunting and culture.

Salukis will be competing in Abu Dhabi next month.
Salukis will be competing in Abu Dhabi next month.

ABU DHABI // A beauty contest for Salukis, which are highly prized by Bedouins for their stealth and loyalty, will be held at an upcoming exhibition of traditional Arab hunting and culture. The Arabian desert hounds, which have traditionally been bred to help their owners chase and catch prey, will be judged on everything from their temperament to their coats at the third annual Arabian Saluki Beauty Contest, which is being held during the International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition Oct 8-11 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

There are separate categories for smooth Salukis and feathered Salukis, which have long hairs on their ears and tail. The contest, unlike European dog shows, measures not only standards of the breed, but animals' individual characteristics, such as bravery and dominance, said Hamad al Ghanem, the registrar general and director of the Arabian Saluki Center in Abu Dhabi. "Unlike the falcons who will go off and hunt on their own if you don't feed them, [Salukis] hunt only for their masters," he said.

Mr Ghanem, who is a fifth generation breeder of the hounds, will enter six of his more than 300 Salukis in the competition. Last year 132 Salukis participated in the contest, and Mr Ghanem expects a similar number this year. "The show gives us the opportunity to highlight not only the incredible characteristics of the breed itself, but to further create public awareness in our proud cultural heritage, especially for the younger generations," he said.

"Throughout the times and the changing generations, the traditional values and ethics of the Arabian Bedouin are being forgotten, and it is our duty to preserve and celebrate them for future generations." The exhibition is expected to attract tens of thousands of visitors to watch the Saluki contest and other events including falcon, horse and camel auctions. A falcon beauty competition is also planned.

The fourth pedigree camel auction will also be held during the exhibition, where 80 camels donated by Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Deputy Prime Minister, and Sheikh Hazza' bin Zayed, National Security Advisor, will be auctioned. The money generated through the sale of these animals will go towards camel research, organisers say. Other events during the exhibition include an equestrian show, an Arabic coffee-brewing competition and handicraft and poetry competitions, with categories such as the best poems describing a bird, a hunting trip and losing a bird.

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae zconstantine@thenational.ae