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 monitor.
A dozen beasts have been disqualified from this yr’s Saudi “camel magnificence contest” as a result of their handlers used Botox to make them extra good-looking.
“The camel,” defined the chief decide 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 girls will probably be permitted to drive. The authorities finally hope to diversify the financial system away from the oil that has been its lifeblood for many years.
However as they search to remodel the conservative kingdom, the Saudi authorities are attempting to easy 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 conflict machine and companion.
So, the authorities have ramped up the nation’s annual month-long camel competition, which was relocated final yr 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).
The pavilion options an public sale the place prime camels can fetch thousands and thousands of riyals.
There are meals stalls and memento outlets, 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 exhibiting how Arabs rode camels by means of the desert guided by the celebs.
Organizers say this “heritage village” will develop 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 means of a newly-created official Camel Membership established by royal decree final yr.
Midway by means of this yr’s competition, attendance is up a few third from final yr, with about 300,000 individuals making the 1-1/2 hour journey from Riyadh to date, mentioned Fahd al-Semmari, a Camel Membership board member.
“The imaginative and prescient is for the (competition) to grow to be a world, pioneering discussion board for all courses of individuals to return for leisure, information and competitors.”