RIYADH – Around 20,000 camels participated in a beauty contest concluded this week at Umm Ruqaiba, some 350 km from Riyadh. Apart from Saudi Arabia, the competition drew contestants from as far away as Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Kuwait.
The contestants were judged according to strict criteria that included long eyelashes and neck, curvature of the ears, the size of the nose relative to the face and fullness of the hump.
Camels of different colors and sizes were paraded in front of the judges during the 26-day competition. Out of 20,000 only 125 camels were short-listed to participate in the final.
Saudi Arabia’s camel beauty pageant is considered to be one of the Gulf’s most lucrative with a total of SR50 million awarded in prize money to the winners. The winners were also awarded 25 cars as prizes.
Umm Ruquaiba, a small suburb of Riyadh known for its extreme summer heat and scorching sun, came into the limelight when the site was chosen for the annual King Abdul Aziz Camel Beauty Contest a few years ago. The idea to hold such an event came from Prince Mishaal Bin Abdul Aziz, chief of the Allegiance Commission.
Prince Mishaal, an ardent admirer of camel beauty himself, distributed the prizes among the winners on Friday, the final day of the contest.
The owners of the contesting camels were divided into three different categories based on the number of camels each one owned such as 100, 50 and 30 animals, respectively.
The basic eligibility criteria to participate in the contest was to own at least 30 camels.
Five pedigrees of camels contested for the coveted prizes. Based on color, they included the most valued Al-Wadah (white), the dependable and heat-enduring Al- Majaheem (black), the tough Ahmar (red), the Sha’al (light brown) and the Safar (dark brown).
Special enclosures were made for these valuable animals at the contest site. Each one of them was accommodated in a separate enclosure, with special veterinary teams and emergency service units available to them.
According to Professor Saeed Ba-Ismael of Animal Production and Nutrition in the College of Food and Agriculture, King Saud University, the Riyadh camel has the inherent ability to adjust to the arid climate, and can survive without water for long periods of time.
Besides, it has a remarkable capacity of adjusting its body temperature. Tests have shown that the desert herbivore can lower its body temperature to six degrees and raise it to 41 degrees Celsius adjusting itself to changing weather conditions, he said.
“There have been instances when the camel has endured thirst for two months during extreme summer conditions and six months in winter,” he said.
A camel’s life span is between 25 and 30 years. A she-camel usually yields from 7 to 15 liters of milk every day. However, those imported from Pakistan are known to give a yield of up to around 20 liters a day, he said.
He said the camel festival offered an opportunity for researchers in Saudi Arabia to conduct studies on different breeds in the Peninsula. The study would also focus on what health disorders these animals are prone to.
Prof. Ba-Ismael, who has conducted many research studies and is the author of a book on camels, said that “the Umm Ruquaiba Camel Festival was a novel and commendable effort in preserving the varieties and purity of these animals.” – SG