So far, 1,300 camel owners have registered their 20,000 camels for the beauty competition alone in the Al Dhafra Festival, and even more are expected to come along before the start of the festival on December 17.
Organised by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) till December 28, Al Dhafra will have quite a few new competitions, while other activities from the past, such as the cooking competitions for professional chefs, have been dropped.
“We have once again seen a growth in the number of participants for the festival, which reflects the continued interest in preserving and highlighting camels as an integral part of the heritage of not only the UAE, but the region as well,” said Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, Advisor for culture and heritage at the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court, Director-General of the ADACH and Chairman of the High Permanent Committee of the festival.
Apart from the camel beauty show, there will also be camel auctions, saluki and falcon competitions, a photography competition, and the very popular souq.
“All in all, we will have about 3,000 participants in the festival this year,” said Salem Al Mazrouei, the festival’s manager.
“As for visitors, we expect them in thousands,” he added.
As always, the camel competitions include various categories for both Asayel (the golden-brown camel, which originated in Oman) and Majahim, (the black camel that comes from Saudi Arabia). Most of these categories have separate laps for shaikhs’ camels and for those owned by tribes.
“We will have 24 contests for bred camels, which are the ones born in the owners’ farm, not bought. This is actually helping to increase (the number of) camel breeders and owners,” explained Salem.Prizes for the winning camels, which are either in cash or a four-wheel vehicle, exceed Dh35 million. Participants come from as far as Jordan, but the vast majority are from the Gulf countries. To set up camp on the festival’s grounds, all they need is to reserve an area and pay Dh5,000 refundable guarantee for cleaning their camp area when leaving.
“We expect the camel auction, which is separate from the beauty competition, to grow by 30 to 40 per cent this year,” added Salem.
Overall, the Al Dhafra Festival is quite a big economic boom for Al Gharbia’s Madinat Zayed region, with plenty of sales not just in the traditional handicrafts souq, but also in the nearby grocery and other types of shops. Water and wood for camping are supplied for free to participants on the festival’s grounds.
Visitors too are allowed to camp in the festival’s area, but they do have to register with the organisers.