Thousands of camels paraded down a dusty racetrack on the outskirts of the Saudi capital as judges rated the size of their lips, cheeks, heads and knees.
This year’s “camel beauty contest” was tainted however, after a dozen beasts were disqualified because their handlers used Botox to make them more handsome.
Organizers of the month-long annual camel festival aim to reflect traditional aspects of Saudi cultural heritage.
And for the Bedouin of Arabia, nothing is more essential than the camel, used for centuries for food, transport, as a war machine and companion.
For the head of the judging panel, Fawzan al-Madi, camels used to be preserved out of necessity, now they represent a pastime.
Events at the festival include races and show competitions with combined purses of US$57 million.
The pavilion features an auction where top camels can fetch millions of riyals.
There are food stalls and souvenir shops, a petting zoo featuring the world’s tallest and shortest camels, a museum with life-size sand sculptures of camels, tents for tasting camel‘s milk and viewing camel-hair textiles, and a planetarium showing how Arabs rode camels through the desert guided by the stars.
The festival is named after King Abdulaziz, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia who united the kingdom through military conquest, often on the backs of camels.
© 2018 Reuters