The King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia will begin later this month with organizers hoping to avoid the controversy that saw 12 camels disqualified in 2018 after their owners were found to have used Botox to plump up the lips, noses and jaws of their entries.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of spectators and more than 30,000 camels travel to the desert region of Al-Dahnaa for the festival, just outside Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Attendees are intent on venerating the contribution camels have made to Saudi culture through the centuries.
The festival, which lasts for 28 days, awards around $57 million in prizes for camels based on their overall beauty. There are also sub-categories touching on camel racing, obedience training, camel hair art, and camel photography.
Last year the beauty contest segment was thrown into confusion when the guilty camel owners were expelled for trying to give their dromedary entrants an unfair advantage. The offenders were shown the door before the contest even started.
This year organizers are focussing on the positive, Australia’s ABC News reports, and the King Abdualaziz Camels Festival website says it looks forward to accentuating “camel tradition in the Saudi, Arab, and Islamic culture.”
The contest is only open to purebred female camels from Saudi Arabia. No international camels are allowed and cheating is met with instant dismissal.
“They use Botox for the lips, the nose, the upper lips, the lower lips, and even the jaw,” Ali al-Mazrouei, the son of a camel breeder, told the National after last year’s controversy. “It makes the head more inflated so when the camel comes it’s like, ‘Oh, look at how big is that head is. It has big lips, a big nose.’”
The festival is named after King Abdulaziz, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, who formed the kingdom through military conquest, often on the back of camels.
As Breitbart News has reported, the event takes place in a so-called “heritage village,” which includes food stalls, souvenir shops, petting zoos, and even a camel museum, while organizers claim the festival will be expanded in coming years.
“The vision is for the (festival) to become a global, pioneering forum for all classes of people to come for entertainment, knowledge, and competition,” added Fahd al-Semmari, a member of the Camel Club, which was established by royal decree in July 2018.
However, camel competitions are just one aspect of the Mohammed Bin Salman’s wider modernization movement known as the “Vision 2030,” which was officially approved by Saudi leadership two years ago. As well as promoting economic growth, the program also intends to loosen some of the rules around women’s rights.
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