x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Spoiled for choice at beautiful herd contest

Groups of 25 camels vie for a new kind of mazayina, or camel beauty competition title at Al Dhafra Festival: the most beautiful herd.

Ali Al Derri calms one of his camels while at his camp located on the grounds of the Mazayina Dhafra Camel Festival 2009 in Madinat Zayed.
Ali Al Derri calms one of his camels while at his camp located on the grounds of the Mazayina Dhafra Camel Festival 2009 in Madinat Zayed.

Spotting a winner in a beauty contest is never easy but when so many contestants line up at once even the most experienced judges might struggle. Yesterday the Al Dhafra Festival hosted a new kind of mazayina, or camel beauty competition, in which 25-strong groups competed for the title of most beautiful herd. In all, 1,250 camels took part.

"The more camels in a herd, the tougher it is to be in the competition because not a lot of people have 25 camels," said Salem al Amiri, the judging committee's director general. Taking into account such attributes as shape of nose, head size, ear firmness, neck length, leg size and overall posture and fitness, each camel was given an individual score. These were then added together to provide each herd's total score.

There was one important rule: all 25 camels had to have been born and raised in the owner's stable. A camel that had been purchased could not compete. "The owner must swear to God in front of everyone that he owns all the camels and that they bred in his stable," said Salem al Mazrouei, director of operations and logistics at Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach), which is organising the festival.

About 30 herds of the dark-coloured Majahim breed competed against each other, while more than 20 herds of the lighter Asayel breed were in a separate competition. A camel auction was held at the same time. Around a hundred camels have been sold over the past two days, fetching more than Dh25 million (US$6.8m) in total. Mr al Mazrouei said he was pleased with the sales, which "show the rise in the price of camels". He stressed their cultural importance to the country and the region.

Winning camels rarely go up for sale. "The number one camel will never go on auction. The owner wants to keep it for people to come see it in his stable," Mr al Mazrouei said. Today's beauty contest will also include competing herds, but in this competition, the camels do not have to be born and raised at the owner's stable. "If someone buys 25 camels today and competes, that is OK," said Mr al Amiri.

The festival, which has attracted large crowds, also includes a date-packaging competition. About 650 competitors have entered and the results will be announced today. zakhalish@thenational.ae