RIYADH: The world’s biggest camel festival, held under the patronage of King Salman, begun on Sunday in Rumah, 120 kilometers northeast of Riyadh.
The 28-day King Abdulaziz Camel Festival will feature a camel beauty contest, with prizes amounting to a staggering SR114 million ($30 million).
The competition, having been founded in 1999 by a group of local Bedouin people, went on to receive support from the Saudi royal family. Due to its rising popularity it turned into a heritage festival, attracting people from across the GCC to travel to showcase their finest camels.
Celebrating the culture and way of life of Saudi Arabia and Bedouin traditions, today the festival attracts about 300,000 camels and their owners.
“The festival will offer a lot to the Saudis and foreigners in terms of history, heritage and entertainment,” said Dr. Talal bin Khalid Al-Tarify, spokesman of the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, here Sunday. A major award ceremony will be organized during the course of the festival.
Al-Tarify said that an exhibition has been staged on the sidelines of the festival. The “Sanam Exhibition” will shed light on the history of the camel’s role as “the ship of the desert.”
A “Camel Carnival” has also been organized in which festival visitors can learn how to ride a camel.
“Not only will the festival include initiatives to raise awareness and celebrate core regional cultural and heritage practices, but will also utilize the latest in technologies and creative concepts to offer a one-of-a-kind memorable, and fun filled festival,” Al-Tarify said.
Reflecting the uniting role the camel has played for the Kingdom throughout history, Al-Tarify said that “economically, politically, socially and within culture, camels are not only referred to throughout ancient religious texts and poetry but are a source of food, drink, transport, a trading pillar, as well as source of pride and loyal friend to man.”
Al-Tarify pointed out that camel auctioning will take place daily using pioneering equipment set within a luxurious area especially set aside for trading.
The festival will also host a mix of competitions and partnerships relating to and building awareness for the arts including a poetry competition.
“A collaboration with National Geographic will be hosting a competition for the best festival image captured,” Al-Tarify noted.