Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, which kicked off earlier this month in the desert northeast of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, invites the breeders of the most beautiful camels to compete for some £50m in prize money.
Jurors decide the winner based on the shape of the camels’ heads, necks, humps, dress and postures, but Botox injections, face lifts and other artificial touch-ups to make the camels more attractive are banned.
Judges at the month-long festival are escalating their clampdown on artificially enhanced camels, using “specialised and advanced” technology to detect tampering, the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday.
This year, authorities discovered dozens of breeders had stretched out the lips and noses of camels, used hormones to enhance muscles, injected heads and lips with Botox to make them bigger, inflated body parts with rubber bands and used fillers to relax their faces.
“The club is keen to halt all acts of tampering and deception in the beautification of camels,” the SPA report said, adding that organisers would “impose strict penalties on manipulators”.
The camel beauty contest is at the heart of the massive carnival, which also features camel races, sales and other festivities typically showcasing thousands of dromedaries.
The extravaganza seeks to preserve the camel’s role in the kingdom’s Bedouin tradition and heritage, even as the oil-rich country ploughs ahead with modernising mega-projects.
Camel breeding is a multimillion-dollar industry and similar events take place across the region.
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