Riyadh to host world’s biggest heritage festival

Event prizes will be awarded throughout the festival with camels assessed in five categories

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Over 30,000 camels are expected to participate in King Abdulaziz’s prestigious Mazayen Al-Ibl heritage festival and camel beauty contest in the capital from March 19 to April 15.

An ancient tradition, the festival will attract over 2 million attendees from across the globe including royalties, celebrities, designers and athletes. A festival organized and managed by King Abdulaziz Darat, the heritage event and competition is held in respect to the role of camels in Bedouin history, preserving the purebred Arabian camel strains, safeguarding and raising awareness for the inherited heritage, culture and way of life for the Kingdom and the inhabitants of the desert and the desert-dwelling nomads of Arabia.

While a car may have taken over as a form of transport, historically and still today families and tribes across the Arab peninsula have treasured their special and unique relationship with the camel. Camels were a main source of transport, a loyal friend in the desert, a sturdy worker, a cool and shady spot to lean, a reliable supply of milk and, eventually, a supply of food and leather. Still recognized today as essential to desert life and also a reflection of social standing and wealth, thousands of proud camel owners from throughout the GCC travel annually with hopes of their camel shining at the camel beauty pageant style Mazayen Al-Ibl festival.

Judged by a committee of selected Bedouin who are considered experts and fully immersed in the ways and culture of Bedouin life and traditions, with winning camels throughout previous years often fetching millions of dirhams in price.

Event prizes will be awarded throughout the festival with camels assessed in five categories, according to breed and color.

From the Al Wadah white camel to the Al Shual yellow camel, the Al Sefr golden camel, the Al Majahateer dark camel and the Al Homor reddish, brown camel, various features considered most beautiful to each breed are closely assessed to determine the deserving winners. These include; the size of the camel’s head, whether the lips cover its teeth, the length of its neck, to the roundness of its hump, the size of its eyes, how long the lashes are, how the nose droops, whether the ears stand back, how high the hump is and where the hump sits.

Registration for participation closed on Jan. 14. It has been the first year of e-registration making access for entry easier across the GCC and Arab regions. Not only has this resulted in the camel stock market booming, but has led to a growth in interest for the festival, with over 75% of the participants taking part for the first time.

As well as 80% of competitors entering the competition from Riyadh and eastern provinces, 20% from other Arab regions including UAE, Qatar and Kuwait have entered for 2017.

To participate in the event, camel owners will not only have to show camels with untouched natural beauty but will have to swear the age and ownership of the animal, declaring ownership themselves or within their direct family. As well as parades for the most beautiful camel, Mazayen Al-Ibl Festival will also include other cultural activities and entertainment such as poetry, folk songs (shalat), feasts and camel auctions throughout the month long festivities.

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