This young Emirati boy spontaneously bonds with a participant at the Al Dhafra festival. Image Credit: Sankha Kar/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The 9th edition of Al Dhafra Festival, which includes a camel beauty contest with prize money of Dh50 million, will open on December 10, it was announced on Wednesday.

The festival, running until December 30, is located in Madinat Zayed in Al Gharbia (Western Region) in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

While the camel-related events start from December 10, other heritage activities will commence from December 19. The event will be the largest since its inauguration in 2008 and will feature heritage activities, competitions and more than 100 laps at its camel beauty contest with total prizes worth over Dh50 million. The uniqueness of the event is largely down to the camel beauty contest which has developed into the largest and most comprehensive competition of its kind.

The organisers have set up a wide range of activities for people of all backgrounds and ages to enjoy. Visitors can benefit from workshops which introduce them to different handicrafts by Emirati artisans, namely, weaving of palm fronds and Talli.

Special emphasis has been placed on children’s activities with an entire area dedicated for them called the Children’s Village which aims to be fun while teaching them about Emirati heritage.

The activities and competitions at the festival include a traditional market, art workshops for adults and children, heritage workshops and competitions, sheep beauty contest, camel racing, camel beauty and milking competitions, purebred Arabian horse race, falcon competitions, Arab heritage Saluki race, photography competition, best date competition, best date packaging competition and daily traditional Emirati celebrations.

Following the immense success of the event last year the programme has been expanded to attract more participants and visitors.

Obaid Khalfan Al Mazroui, director of heritage competitions at the committee, said the festival had become a regional and international success, with the camel competitions attracting camel owners from GCC countries and the photography competition drew people from beyond the GCC states.

Speaking to Gulf News, Al Mazroui said; “We have set many targets to achieve in organising this event. We want to encourage the camel owners to produce a good bloodline of camels. There is a lot of heritage that we need to pass down to the young generation so they can keep it going and they can also learn how the older generation used to live before computers and phones.”

Al Mazroui also stressed how important this event is for the economic growth of Al Gharbia, noting that the hotels, restaurants and markets will all be overbooked. “There may be Dh50 million or more given as prizes to people but the return will be Dh2 billion or more.”

Over 25,000 camels and 1,500 camel owners took part in last year’s event, a number which is expected to rise significantly this year. The official confirmed that the camel trade alone was over Dh300 million the previous year.

There will be two separate camel beauty contests, the Baynounah Camel Mazayna, which is only open to Emirati camel owners, and the Al Dhafra Camel Mazayna, which is open to participants from the GCC states.


What: Al Dhafra Festival

Where: Madinat Zayed, in Al Gharbia, Abu Dhabi emirate

When: December 10 to December 30

Details: December 10 Camel racing and competitions begin,

After December 19 all workshops and activities begin

Activity highlights: Arabian Gulf cuisine workshops, Arabic calligraphy workshop, camel beauty contests, tastes of tradition, photography competition, traditional handicrafts workshops and competitions, children’s activities,