Camels take to catwalk in desert fashion show

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Camels take to catwalk in desert fashion show
By Marten Youssef, Staff Reporter GULF NEWS Published: April 03, 2008, 00:05

Abu Dhabi: More than 10,000 pure-bred camels “took to the catwalk” in Zayed City on Wednesday as a part of the 2008 Mazayin Dhafra Camel Festival.

At the event in the Western region, the desert became a fashion show for camel owners to showcase their animals.

With more than Dh35 million and 100 cars as prizes, the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, the organisers of the event, are promising this will be the biggest and most comprehensive camel festival the Arab world has ever seen.

The nine-day festival will end on April 10 and is being held under the patronage of General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Competitors who come from across the Gulf are restricted to a set of rules and guidelines in entering the competition.

competitions with different categories that depend on age, gender and type. There are two different types of pure-bred camels: the Asayel and the Majahim. The Asayel are the lighter skin-coloured camels and the Majahim are the darker camels, which are very common in the Gulf region.

Part of our lives

Rashed Gaber Al Manhali is the president of the judging panel and arguably one of the finest camel experts in the UAE. Raised as a Bedouin, Al Manhali developed a passion for camels at the age of 10 and owns more than 80 camels himself.

Sitting cross-legged under a Bedouin style tent to shade him from the blistering 39 degree heat of the desert, Al Manhali shared his criteria for judging camels.

“There are five judges for today’s session and we are looking for specific things in a camel. The beauty of the face, the length of the neck, the size of the chest, the hump, the purity of colour, the silkiness of the hair and the size of the muscles,” the 55-year old Abu Dhabi native said.

“Camels are the most magnificent animals. For centuries, our people have used them to make pilgrimages to Makkah and to travel long distances. So this event is not just about showing off our camels but to pay homage as playing a significant part in our life and in our ancestors’ lives,” he adds.

The first winner of the festival was announced early yesterday afternoon. Police officer Mohammad Ali Al Docery, from Qatar walked away on the first day having won first and sixth place for his two camels.

“I won two cars with both of my camels,” says the 40 year-old police officer who entered more than 10 of his camels in the competition.

The event is truly a festival that is about much more than camels.

The economic impact of the festival is being felt throughout the region. For Umm Nasser, who came all the way from Qatar to sell camel accessories and beautification items, this is a great moment.

“I am a Bedouin,” she proudly says lifting up her head to show her pride.

Celebration

“This is a celebration of my people…My husband is here to compete with his camels so I came along,” she said sitting under tent number 29 and inviting all passers-by to experience Bedouin hospitality.

Umm Nasser is hopeful she will make a lot of money over the next nine days. The festival is also expected to increase the price of camels.

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