Dh46m worth of prizes up for grabs at Al Dhafra fest

Dh46m worth of prizes up for grabs at Al Dhafra fest

Al Dhafra Festival is packed with competitions, from a camel beauty contest, camel milking, falcon hunting, dates packaging, photography, handicrafts and classic cars competitions, to Arabian horses and saluki races.



by

Silvia Radan

Published: Tue 17 Dec 2013, 11:59 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 9:22 AM

Through the gates of Al Dhafra Festival, just outside Madinat Zayed, endless trucks selling wood for camp fires, rows of makeshift shops offering camping equipment, and high-priced camel farming products greet visitors to the festival.

A function at Al Dhafra Festival. -KT photos by Silvia Radan

An Adnoc truck acting as a petrol station can also be seen at the annual Bedouin heritage festival entrance, but the trademark tents and thousands of camels roaming the desert grounds are noticebly missing this time around.

During the past six years, this was a site to behold: over 1,000 camel owners and 20,000 camels were stationed all around the area. This year only about 500 camels were registered on the first day of the competition, and the second day did not see many more on show.

A small roundabout takes visitors to the traditional Arab souq, which also serves as the site for a classic cars competition. By the second day of the festival, December 15, only a handful of Lamborghinis and 90s pick-up Toyotas had lined up for the best looking classic vehicle competition.

A long paved road cuts through the desert, leading to Million Street, where the camel auction will take place later on, and to the main arena, where the camel beauty competition unfolds daily.

Taking place over two weeks — from December 14 to 28 — Al Dhafra Festival is packed with competitions, from a camel beauty contest, camel milking, falcon hunting, dates packaging, photography, handicrafts and classic cars competitions, to Arabian horses and saluki races.

The total worth of the competition prizes is pegged at Dh46 million and includes 198 cars. Most of the awards are for the camel beauty competition, known as muzayna, which remains the focus of Al Dhafra Festival. The contest will feature no less than 70 rounds for Asayel (golden brown) and Majahim (black) camels.

“Every day we have five Asayel and four Majahim competitions. Each one starts with 100 camels; the judges select the best 50, and finally the top 10 are awarded,” explained director of the camel competitions at Al Dhafra Mohammed Al Muhairi.

Each of these 10 winners is awarded a brand new 2014 Nissan Patrol, worth around Dh300,000. The first runners-up will receive a new Chevrolet Tahoe each, while the third place winners receive a Nissan pickup. The following seven positions will be awarded cash ranging from Dh30,000 to Dh18,000, respectively.

Awards aside, winning camels instantly climb the value ladder. On the first day of the festival, one such camel was bought for a whopping Dh1.5 million by an Abu Dhabi Shaikh.

About half of these rounds are for Shaikhs’ camels, but the winners’ awards are given away to the resepective camel-farm’s manager.

Salayem Bakhir Al Menhali, in charge of Shaikh Zayed bin Khalifa bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s camels, was one such lucky winner.

“I’m so happy! We won the top award, the Nissan station. There was a long wait before the winner was announced, but it was worth it. Our camel won and it is not surprising. She is the best,” Al Menhali told Khaleej Times.

As has become the tradition, the moment the winning camel is announced, screams of joy erupt and ghutras (traditional Arab men’s head gear) are thrown into the air. As soon as the award ceremony is done, the owner, his friends and family, and the camel’s caretaker all gather around the camel and cover her up in expensive saffron — singing and dancing around her.

“We also have competitions for groups of six and 20 camels, and the biggest of them all, the Bayraq lap, for the best looking group of 50 camels, which awards Dh1 million to the top winner,” said Al Muhairi.

As usual, the best is kept for last, so the Bayraq will take place towards the end of the festival.

silvia@khaleejtimes.com


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