Miss Universe wasn't the only beauty pageant to take place last week. In the hinterlands of the UAE, Bedouin tribes from Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Emirates are currently gathering at Al Dhafra Festival—an annual meeting best known for its Camel Mazayna, or "beauty contest."
Men parade their finest dromedaries at auctions, races, and best-in-show events, and prizes are given for the fastest, "milkiest," and most beautiful creatures. Less fortunate camels are served for dinner at a nightly majlis.
The festival, which runs through December 30, is a celebration of the Empty Quarter's traditional heritage and way of life—a far cry from the contemporary turbo-Gulf culture seen nearby in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. That said, there's still big bucks to be made: Prizes totaling Dh55 million (around €13.6 million) are up for grabs.
Despite a last-minute hairspray of humps seen here and there, judges are on the lookout for natural beauties this year. "Camels that are found with drugs in the lips, shaved, dyed in any parts of the body, or with changes from natural form are not allowed [sic]," states the entrants' handbook.
For more on the Miss Camel Beauty Contest, watch our past documentary on the festival here.
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