The pageant’s runway covers 12 miles of desert in Rimah, a governorate in Riyadh province, and its competitors are not supermodels, but rather camels — one-humped beauties of all colors and breeds.
More than 50,000 camels are participating in the King Abdulaziz camel festival this month, often referred to as the “Miss Camel” competition. The pageant, which runs through April 15, is an annual festival that began in 1999, when a group of local Bedouins decided they wanted to stage a contest for the most beautiful camel.
The competition went on to receive support from the Saudi royal family, and has now emerged as a major cultural event, with 1,390 owners of camels flocking from various Gulf countries, Talal bin Khalid al-Torify, spokesman of the festival, told Arab News. The organizers announced the issuance of 10,000 visas to people from around the world wishing to observe the camels, according to al-Arabiya. The “ships of the desert” have traditionally provided Bedouins with food, clothing and transportation.
The camels range from the al-Wadah white camel and the al-Majahateer dark camel to the al-Homor reddish, brown camel. The most beautiful among the thousands of competitors are judged on various features, including the size of the camel’s head, whether the lips cover its teeth, the length of the neck, the roundness, height and placement of the hump, the size of its eyes, how long the lashes are, how the nose droops and whether the ears stand back.
Visitors can buy, sell and showcase their camels, while also seeking out professional advice on camel care and riding techniques. Camel auctions and trading take place in a luxurious VIP tent.
Following strict regulations, only purebred camels are allowed to compete, and although owners outside of Saudi Arabia are able to enter the contest, the camel must be kept within Saudi Arabia, according to a news release. Teams of vets are enlisted to monitor the health of the camels — they insert a microchip into each to keep track of the camel throughout the competition and to collect valuable data, surveys, and research on camels across the region.
Findings showed the most popular camel to enter the 2017 pageant included the al-Majahateer breed — a dark yellowish to black camel typical to the Arab regions.
Camel owners must not only show each camel with “untouched natural beauty” but also swear that the age and ownership of the camel is accurate.