AL-RUMAHIYA, Saudi Arabia — The dromedaries paraded down a dusty racetrack as judges rated the scale of their lips, cheeks, heads and knees. Crowds of males watched from the bleachers, hooting when the beasts representing their very own tribe loped down the observe.
A dozen beasts have been disqualified from this 12 months’s Saudi “camel magnificence contest” as a result of their handlers used Botox to make them extra good-looking.
“The camel,” defined the chief choose of the present, Fawzan al-Madi, “is a logo of Saudi Arabia. We used to protect it out of necessity, now we protect it as a pastime.”
A lot is altering in Saudi Arabia: the nation is getting its first film theaters. Quickly ladies can be permitted to drive. The authorities ultimately hope to diversify the economic system away from the oil that has been its lifeblood for many years.
However as they search to rework the conservative kingdom, the Saudi authorities try to clean the trail for reform by emphasizing conventional features of their tradition. And for the Bedouin of Arabia, nothing is extra important than the camel, used for hundreds of years for meals, transport, as a warfare machine and companion.
So, the authorities have ramped up the nation’s annual month-long camel competition, which was relocated final 12 months from the distant desert to the outskirts of the capital. On a rocky desert plateau, the federal government has erected a everlasting venue to host the headline occasions: races and present competitions with mixed purses of 213 million riyals ($57 million).
Saudi males stand subsequent to camels as they take part in King Abdulaziz Camel Pageant in Rimah Governorate, northeast of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, final week. (FAISAL AL NASSER/REUTERS)
The pavilion options an public sale the place prime camels can fetch tens of millions of riyals.
There are meals stalls and memento retailers, a petting zoo that includes 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 displaying how Arabs rode camels by way of the desert guided by the celebrities.
Organizers say this “heritage village” will increase in coming years as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — who’s inheritor to the throne, protection minister and head of oil and financial coverage — takes the reins by way of a newly-created official Camel Membership established by royal decree final 12 months.
Midway by way of this 12 months’s competition, attendance is up a few third from final 12 months, with about 300,000 folks making the 1-1/2 hour journey from Riyadh to this point, mentioned Fahd al-Semmari, a Camel Membership board member.
“The imaginative and prescient is for the (competition) to turn into a world, pioneering discussion board for all lessons of individuals to come back for leisure, information and competitors.”