For several days now, the Western Region highway has been busy with trucks arriving from all over the Arabian Gulf, bringing in some of the most beautiful and most valuable camels from the region to compete in this year’s Al Dhafra Camel Festival.
Taking place in Madinat Zayed from December 20 to January 1, the annual festival of Bedouin traditions is expected to be bigger and more eventful than ever.
Organised by the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee – Abu Dhabi (CPHFC), the festival will give away more than Dh55 million in prizes, which include 225 four-wheel drive vehicles for the 15 competitions that will take place daily.
“We don’t know yet how many participants are going to come, as camel owners are arriving everyday from the UAE and other parts of the Gulf, setting up camp in the desert and they will register for the competitions daily. We do expect, though, thousands of camels to be here for the next 10 days,” Abdullah Al Qubaisi, director of Projects Management at the CPHFC, told Khaleej Times.
Apart from 72 competitions for the camel beauty shows, the festival is organising this year 14 other contests related to Emirati traditions, including the best milking camel, saluki race, falconry, dates and dates packaging, photography, handicrafts and classic cars competition.
For the first time this year, there will be a horse race too and a competition for the best handmade cover for the winning camels.
Opened to Emirati artisans aged between 20 and 60 years, the heritage camel cover must be handmade and include traditional Emirati ornaments such as Al Tarabish (tassels) or Al Telli (weaved silver and golden threads).
The top 10 winners will receive a total of Dh100,000, with Dh30,000 awarded to the best looking cover.
“We would like to reactivate and stimulate the practice and dependence on handicrafts among Emiratis in general. The competition and the prizes were set to encourage our people to give their best in the field of traditional crafts, so as to meet the significance of the event and its key heritage and historical merit,” said Obaid Khalfan Al Mazrouei, director of Al Dhafra Festival’s Heritage Competitions.
Favourites from the past eight editions of the festival are back this year too, including the traditional souq, where about 100 Emirati women will sell their hand-crafted products (anything from oil perfumes to dresses and spices), and the camel auction, where racing camels may fetch hundreds of thousands of dirhams.