Saudi Arabia: Home of the Camel
In 2021, Saudi Arabia was estimated to be home to upwards of around 1.4 million camels. They are the Kingdom’s national animal and are valued for their place in the country’s cultural past, as well as being a race animal, and a reliable source of milk, food and leather. Saudi is the largest camel milk market, with over 33L of camel milk consumed per capita, each year. It may not surprise you to find out that the largest camel market in the world is in Buraydah, Al-Quassim, Saudi Arabia.
The King Abdul-Aziz Festival for Camels is an annual cultural, economic and entertainment festival backed and sponsored by the King and Crown Prince. Last year, the festival started on December 1st and lasted for 40 days. Participants compete in 19 categories for prizes worth up to $66 million USD. Over 8,000 camels race for millions of dollars in prizes over the course of the month, taking place on a 8km track in the middle of the desert (longer than any F1 circuit!), and are jockeyed by robots – not humans – in the saddle!
The camel beauty contest draws over 30,000 groomed camels. In January 2022, the historic festival opened its doors to women for the first time, where a “Women’s Camel Beauty Contest” made a debut; 40 women participated in the event with their camels, and the top 5 winners took home a total of 1 million Saudi Riyals (approx. $260,000 USD) in prize money. At just seven years old, Malath Bint Enad was the youngest female contestant, and her camel took home 3rd prize. Her proud father, Enad bin Sultan, a 35 year old camel dealer who said he owned more than 200 camels, was very pleased with the entrance of women. “This will increase enthusiasm for the festival and increase the value of the camels.”
You may be wondering to yourself, what makes a camel beautiful? The camel’s beauty is judged on several criteria, including the shape and size of their lips, neck and hump – as the main attributes. And the contest is certainly a competitive one with several participants being disqualified in December 2021 because some animals had undergone botox injections.