Special Feature: Behind the Scenes at a Traditional Camel Beauty Contest in Oman

T-Mag Wednesday 30/November/2016 20:11 PM
By: Times News Service
Special Feature: Behind the Scenes at a Traditional Camel Beauty Contest in Oman

These aren’t your average supermodels. Super tall, super blonde, and super elegant, with an attitude to match, these beauties command rates of over a million dollar for strutting their stuff.

For thousands of years, camels were prized in Bedouin culture as they carried heavy loads on their backs, fed hunger with their flesh, and quenched thirst with their milk. The beloved desert dwellers are also considered quite beautiful, and during pageant competitions, the perfect specimens are crowned. Yes, camel beauty pageants. Around the world, these pageants take many forms, from accessories and hump embellishments to elaborate designs shaved into the fur, but here in Oman, it is all about natural beauty. But what qualities make one camel more lovely than the another? The only time I’d use the words ‘beautiful’ and ‘camel’ together in a sentence was in reference to the colour of a snappy gentleman’s overcoat. So I travelled to Barka to meet Abdullah Said Al Malki, a camel owner and breeder who’s specialised in raising pretty camels, to find out about the world of camel divas. [email protected]

The Rules
The rules are simple and straightforward: No hybrid breeds. No fur-dyeing, colouring, or tattooing (the camels’ appearance must be natural). To participate the camel must be within the age range put in place by the contest organisers. The age will be verified by checking the teeth.

The Criteria
Unlike beauty competitions in Pakistan and other parts of the world, here in the Gulf, it’s all about raw beauty, and for these doe-eyed mammals, the criteria is simple yet interestingly precise.

Beautiful camels must come from a pure bloodline to be eligible for the contest. For your camel to be crowned as the king or the queen of camels (both males and females can compete), it must be from an genuine Arabian and Omani progeny, and not a hybrid breed. Owners must swear under oath on the authenticity of their camel’s origins before the contest.

Once the breed has been established, the physical characteristics are examined. A beautiful camel should have a well-proportioned body and face; long gharib (the area between the hump and the neck); clear and huge hump; long body; firm ears; pouty lips; broad cheeks; big whiskers; a long, straight neck; long, straight legs, and fur shimmer.

Another crucial aspect is the colour of the camel. This pretty-faced beast comes in numerous shades, from white (also called blonde camel), to the typical, fashion-inspiring ‘camel’ colour, to dark khaki, to black. The brighter the fur, the more beautiful the camel.

On top of all this, the camel should have good posture, body strength, and, most important of all, a large overall size — the bigger the camel, the better the chances of winning the title.

The Preparations
Just like human stars, pretty camels are treated extravagantly, requiring extra attention, special care, and a dose of positive vibes in a comfy atmosphere.

At the camel farm, each beauty queen is kept in individual enclosed circular spaces (the equivalent to a suite in a hotel, I’d say), and fed routinely with fresh honey, dates, pure ghee, milk, wheat, dry leaves, and green leaves from the ghaf tree (a tree typically found in deserts or empty lands), to add extra fat and curves to the camel. This feeding regimen will also contribute to its size (size vitally matters, remember?). The beasts undergo routine health checkups, too.

Abdullah put emphasis on treating the pageant contestants carefully and making them happy. He compares his prize camel to a delicate woman, for which one must take care to ensure all needs and desires are met.

Caring for the divas may include putting up nets to eliminate wind or placing a cool cloth on their humps to minimise sun exposure. Treating them in this manner will ensure that they stay healthy, strong, and ready to hit the stage for a chance at being be crowned most beautiful of all.

The Contests
Camel beauty contests are traditional bedouin festivals known as ‘Muzayana’ or ‘Muzayanat Il Ibl’.Historically, bedouin would pit their prettiest camels against one another to compete for the title of ‘most beautiful camel’ in front of a judging panel of camel experts.

To preserve, strengthen, and glorify ancient Arabian culture in a perpetually modernising world, the festivals continue today with hefty incentive prizes that include money, cars, and items such as Khanjars, swords, and silverware.

The festivals are celebrated in many Gulf countries, with popular contests held in Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qatar, and of course, here in the Sultanate.

Al Tail: Abdullah’s Champion
Abdullah introduced me to Al Tail, his prize camel who has won numerous awards in camel beauty festivals in Oman, and around the Gulf. Al Tail is a towering blond beast, and is worth a small fortune, as he meets all the criteria for camel perfection and is one of the most sought-after breeds in the world of camels. According to Abdullah, Al Tail’s beauty is thanks to his bloodline, as his father is part of the Royal Camel Corp.

For information about attending a camel beauty pageant, get in touch with Abdullah Al Malki +968 9943 8454