Taif camel festival returns at full gallop

The second phase of the Crown Prince Camel Festival kicked off on Saturday in Taif. (SPA)
Updated 25 August 2018

Taif camel festival returns at full gallop

  • Best in the region, the festival offers prize money worth $12 million
  • The festival promotes the camel heritage in Saudi Arabia, Arab and Islamic culture

JEDDAH: The second phase of the Crown Prince Camel Festival kicked off on Saturday in Taif after a weeklong suspension with the production runs for the “virgin female camels” and “pregnant female camels about to give birth” categories.

The festival promotes the camel heritage in Saudi Arabia, Arab and Islamic culture. Sport, cultural and entertainment activities are featured alongside educational workshops for camel owners and visitors.

Business leaders, politicians and camel enthusiasts from the Gulf states and other Arab countries took part in the Middle East’s largest display of the finest camels in Saudi Arabia and the world. Race categories classify camels according to their age, sex and the distance they can travel: Mafarid, Haqqa, Laqaya, Jatha’a, Thanaya, Heil, Zamoul and Soudaniyat.


Fierce contest

The 10 two-kilometer rounds brought fierce competition. In the first and fifth rounds, two virgin female camels, “Louka” and “Hafla,” took the fastest time with 3 min 1.8 sec. 

The results of all the rounds were as follows: “Louka” for its owner Dawas Saleh Al-Yami won the first round. In the second round, “Marmouk” for its owner Faysal Tahnoun Al-Hajjri achieved the fastest time, while “Wafiah” for its owner Saleh Dawas Al-Yami ranked first in the third round. 

“Thabet” for its owner Faysal Tahnoun Al-Hajjri won first place in the fourth round, while “Hafla” for its owner Saeed Modhfer Al-Ameri achieved the fastest time in the fifth round. 

In the sixth round, “Al-Tayer” for its owner Saeed Modhfer Al-Ameri was the fastest, while “Kouswa” for its owner Mohammed Btaichan Al-Yami ranked first in the seventh round. 

In the eighth round, “Al-Rabah” for its owner Abdullah Mouaid Salloum won first place. “Jamrah” for its owner Jouwai’ed Fouhayd Al-Ajami and “Shahine” for its owner Ali Rashid Al-Mari achieved the fastest time in the ninth and 10th rounds, respectively.

In Saudi Arabia, camels are celebrated for their beauty, grace and speed. Even as the country rapidly modernizes, the animals remain a central part of Saudi culture, and a lucrative one, with camel prices reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars and even breaking the $1 million mark.

The festival is the largest camel race in terms of the number of rounds, with a total of 781, including 308 first warm-up rounds, 20 production runs, two camel marathon rounds, 278-second warm-up rounds and 173 rounds in the final. This puts the festival firmly on top of the annual fixtures that celebrate Saudi culture, sport and the value of its age-old animal, the camel. The festival is considered the strongest of its kind in the region in terms of size and value of the prizes, with SR45 million ($12 million) on offer.

The festival includes a number of competitions, including one for photographers for a prize of SR90,000 ($23,998), and another for commentators for prizes amounting to SR125,000. The festival will continue until Sept. 2. 


Marathon rounds

Two marathon rounds will take place on Monday as part of the Crown Prince Camel Festival in Taif.

The two rounds will be 10 km long, one exclusively for Saudis and the other open to all participants.

Of the top 10 winners, the top two will each receive a car, while prizes worth more than SR684,000 ($182,371.5) will be distributed among the other eight. The festival’s media center urged participants to abide by the terms and conditions of participation.

The judges will closely monitor the competing camels using fixed-camera technology and a video system at the finish line to ensure the results’ accuracy, the center said.

Rural tourism recovers after months of forced isolation

Updated 2 min 1 sec ago

Rural tourism recovers after months of forced isolation

  • Saudis turn to domestic traveling and flock to their nation’s cooler cities and rural areas

TAIF: As Saudi citizens turn to domestic tourism in the country’s summer resorts, adapting to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, rural areas have become targeted by local tourists wishing to get away from the soaring temperatures in most of the Kingdom’s cities.

Visitors are now choosing cold Saudi cities instead of Europe, which they are accustomed to visiting, such as Taif, Al-Baha, and Abha.

COVID-19 has postponed all plans to travel abroad, and attention has now focused on domestic tourism amid strict health protocols in parks, gardens and recreational areas.

Walid Al-Hamidi, vice president of the Tourism Development Council, confirmed to Arab News that Asir, with its facilities and attractions, was ready to receive summer visitors from across the country.

He said that under the directives of Asir's governor, who supervises all activities and events directly and constantly, many committees had been formed to prepare a successful summer tourism season, to optimize the opportunity and allow people to enjoy the exceptional ambiance of Asir.

“A comprehensive tourism plan was set up two years ago, which resulted in a successful Al-Soudah Season with the support of Asir’s Investment Authority,” Al-Hamidi added.

He noted that Asir’s directives aimed this year to build an exceptional tourism model that meets optimal health standards in dealing with COVID-19.

The model is supported by the “Nashama Asir” team — consisting of 4,000 volunteers — who have been trained for months and have all the necessary skills to make the season successful. Their work will continue until the end of the pandemic and throughout the summer.

“Everyone is ready at public facilities, gardens and parks, to serve tourists,” he said, adding “tourists coming from all the over the Kingdom will be welcomed with smiles, enhanced services, and warm welcomes.”

Dr. Sami Al-Obaidi, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Taif, told Arab News that the tourism sector was the economic backbone of any country or city.

He said that Taif was considered one of the most important tourist cities, given its many attractions  that made it top of any list of places to visit in the Kingdom.

“Suspending travel abroad, and limiting tourism … due to the coronavirus pandemic, makes us, as officials and citizens in Taif, well placed for a beautiful and safe tourism season for Taif’s citizens and visitors,” said Al-Obaidi.

“Meetings are held around the clock, headed by Saad Al-Maimouni, the governor of Taif, with the participation of the relevant authorities.”

He expected all sectors, especially tourism, hospitality and a few other businesses in Taif, to recover to some extent during this season, especially now tourists have already started flocking to the region, with numbers set to increase over the coming weeks.