to the victor go the…camels?

May 25th, 2010


Last week New York Times’ T magazine took note of the annual Mazayin Competetion, AKA Camel Beauty Contest, which takes place in the desert two hours outside of Abu Dhabi.

Part of the Al Dhafra Festival, this seemingly oxymoronic tradition (Camels? Beautiful?) is actually highly competitive. There are, of course, millions of dollars in prize money to be had, but it is the old family rivalries that really get the blood flowing. There are last minute camel swaps and deals being brokered as camel owners from all over the UAE  strategize to win the ’50,’ or the title of having the most exceptional group of 50 camels.  The panel of judges will critique each camel individually, then score the contestants based on criteria from the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage.

Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the Al Dhafra is all about celebrating Bedouin culture and is an ideal time to visit the region.  The desert is full of festivities: a traditional souk is set up where visitors can shop for handmade crafts and sample native dishes, there is a date-wrapping competition, a poetry contest and even camel races!

The festival takes place annually in late January into early February. We’ll be checking back once the drama begins to unfold.

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