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Helen Betts | profile | all galleries >> Saudi Arabia: Life in the Desert >> A Camel Beauty Pageant tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

A Camel Beauty Pageant

After my adventure at the camel souk last weekend, I really wanted to go to a camel beauty pageant, which I had heard a lot about but only in Jeddah, an eight-hour drive from Riyadh. However, quite by chance, I was told about such a contest in the Umm Ruqaiba Desert, 350 kilometers northeast of Riyadh, with a local tour group. I managed to pull it all together in less than a day, and we were on the tour bus at 6:30 a.m. for the four-hour drive to our destination in the middle of the desert.

The beauty pageant was only in its early stages (the event lasts 40 days and will finish up in early January) and consisted of large groups of camels parading before the judges, which then exited the area and were replaced by another herd. Apparently the judges all went behind the stands to inspect the camels after the parade. I imagine it becomes quite exciting when it gets to individual (and I’m sure expensive – I have heard some of these animals are worth far more $1 million) and prize camels, but there really wasn’t too much to see in the way of a beauty contest the day we went, so I’m posting the pictures of that part of the adventure all pretty much all at once.

However, the best part of the day was yet to come. It turned out that we weren’t just a tour group (almost unheard of in this country), we were guests of honor of the media people at the festival. They were the most gracious hosts and made sure that we had a great time. We were taken to the camel pens where the public isn’t allowed to go, and each handler had something special to show us. There were lots of photo ops here! Then, we were treated to cardamom coffee, the most delicious dates and savories, after which there was a huge and delicious spread for lunch (something the tour operator hadn’t bargained on, but we all enjoyed it). After that we went to media headquarters and were given some history of the camel festival, one of the region’s largest camel contests. Then we were driven to the souk to look at some of the handcrafts made for decorating camels; unfortunately, we couldn’t go to their camel souk (they seemed to be concerned about security – of which there was a lot – we were accompanied by around 10 security vehicles everywhere we went, I imagine to avoid any untoward incidents since we were all foreigners and not usually seen at events like this). At the end of the day our hosts presented us all with big boxes of sweets.

So while I’m afraid there are yet more pictures of camels (I appreciate people saying they’re not “cameled out,” but still, another camel gallery!), I tried to capture the people as well and hope I can portray the excitement of the day in this gallery. What I’ll remember most about this event is not the camels, but the graciousness of our hosts and how they tried – successfully – to make it a memorable experience for all of us in Saudi Arabia.

An informative article from last year’s event is here http://www.arabnews.com/art-culture/um-ruqaiba-camel-pageant-winners-awarded-prizes IMPORTANT NOTE: Most interesting is that it explains how camel beauty is judged: size of the head, whether its lips cover its teeth, length of its neck, and roundness of its hump.
Festival entrance
Festival entrance
The beauty parade
The beauty parade
Enthusiasm
Enthusiasm
Everybody gets a chance to show off
Everybody gets a chance to show off
Judges' coffee break
Judges' coffee break
Starting out normally
Starting out normally
Something goes amiss
Something goes amiss
Changed gears
Changed gears
Victory celebration
Victory celebration
Gotcha!
Gotcha!
Photographer at work
Photographer at work
A different kind of parade
A different kind of parade
The baby camel story (1/8): On show
The baby camel story (1/8): On show
The baby camel story (2/8): Reassurance
The baby camel story (2/8): Reassurance
The baby camel story (3/8): Cute
The baby camel story (3/8): Cute
The baby camel story (4/8): Grabbed
The baby camel story (4/8): Grabbed
The baby camel story (5/8): Reunited
The baby camel story (5/8): Reunited
The baby camel story (6/8): Disheveled
The baby camel story (6/8): Disheveled
The baby camel story (7/8): Dispute
The baby camel story (7/8): Dispute
The baby camel story (8/8): Smiles
The baby camel story (8/8): Smiles
Our visit made the news!
Our visit made the news!
The report
The report
Performing
Performing
Exuberant
Exuberant
Everybody got involved
Everybody got involved
All dressed up and ready to pose
All dressed up and ready to pose
Attracting a crowd
Attracting a crowd
Feeding frenzy
Feeding frenzy
Inquisitive
Inquisitive
Singing trio
Singing trio
Heads and humps
Heads and humps
A bond
A bond
Three musketeers (SAUDI ARABIA)
Three musketeers (SAUDI ARABIA)
More! (and why they shave camels)
More! (and why they shave camels)
That look
That look
Sweet face
Sweet face
Hungry camels
Hungry camels
Meeting of the minds
Meeting of the minds
It's a stretch
It's a stretch
Towering
Towering
Teasing
Teasing
Trying to steal the show
Trying to steal the show
Answer to how old is he?
Answer to how old is he?
Camel and handler
Camel and handler
Cuddly
Cuddly
Coffee shop, desert style
Coffee shop, desert style
Inside a Bedouin tent
Inside a Bedouin tent
The banquet
The banquet
Awaiting takers
Awaiting takers
The lone rider
The lone rider
Thumbs up
Thumbs up
Out for a walk, and a camel conversation
Out for a walk, and a camel conversation
Camel gear at the souk (1/8)
Camel gear at the souk (1/8)
Camel gear at the souk (2/8)
Camel gear at the souk (2/8)
Camel gear at the souk (3/8)
Camel gear at the souk (3/8)
Camel gear at the souk (4/8)
Camel gear at the souk (4/8)
Camel gear at the souk (5/8)
Camel gear at the souk (5/8)
Camel gear at the souk (6/8)
Camel gear at the souk (6/8)
Camel gear at the souk (7/8)
Camel gear at the souk (7/8)
Camel gear at the souk (8/8)
Camel gear at the souk (8/8)
Busy souk
Busy souk
Chicken chefs
Chicken chefs
Mass transit
Mass transit
Camel crane
Camel crane
Bedouin tent on wheels
Bedouin tent on wheels
Out for a walk
Out for a walk
Umm Ruqaiba Desert
Umm Ruqaiba Desert
Umm Ruqaiba Desert
Umm Ruqaiba Desert