Madinat Zayed, Abu Dhabi: The Al Dhafrah Camel Festival started on Thursday and is expected to draw thousands of visitors — and more than 20,000 camels vying for the Dh35 million prize for the most beautiful camel in the Mazayin Camel Beauty Competition.
The yearly festival is organised by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach) and will run until December 25.
"This year's edition is expected to be just as great as the previous festivals. The atmosphere at the festival is wonderful, with participants and visitors contributing to the overall positivity of the event," Mubarak Musallam Al Mansouri, a member of the Mazayin Judging Committee, said.
"Last year, we received an overwhelming number of camels. Several competitions were staged ahead of the festival, but that has not reduced the level of excitement that is always associated with the festival," he added.
Stretching over 12,000 square metres with over 180 stands created from mud, wood and palm fronds, the Al Dhafrah Festival's Traditional Market will once again highlight Emirati culture and tradition through various activities and competitions.
For the first time, various safari companies have taken stands in the market, which will give visitors an opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the Western Region.
Additionally, the Children's Corner of the Traditional Market is back, providing young ones with a chance to participate in various competitions and activities.
Adach has also organised several theatrical plays, magician shows and performances that are sure to delight visitors of all ages.
"Ever since it was launched, the festival gets better every year….it's fantastic for this region because it not only provides various sources of income, but also brings excitement and also an opportunity for old friends to be re-united," Lillian "Layla" Donders, a Dutch resident, said.
Donders has been based in various countries in the region for over 30 years but is currently living in Oman with her own camels.
"I arrived earlier this year so was able to see how everything was set up and share in everyone's feelings and excitement to be back here…but unfortunately, I won't be here next year, as I will be travelling with my camels through the Empty Quarter.
"Several Emiratis had expressed their interest in joining me for this five month journey, which I'm planning to start from October," she added.
Meanwhile, the festival's highly anticipated cultural competitions, including the Date Packaging competition and the Al Dhafrah through the eyes of Photographers competition.
Participation for the Date Competition is open to all date companies and UAE citizens only. Registration for the competition will be open from today until Wednesday at the festival site. Winners will be announced on the closing day of the festival. Each participant may present three to five packages of not more than two kilograms.
The photography competition is open to all but must reflect the mood of the festival.
The deadline to submit entries is next January 15.
Date: Until Saturday, December 25
Where: Madinat Zayed
Camel beauty competition: 7am - 6pm
Traditional Market: 10am - 8pm with children's activities beginning from 4pm
Contact: 050 944 3388 for guided tours