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Ahmad Bin Kamtan Al Mansouri, the Emirati owner of a participant in the Mazayin Camel Beauty Competition’s Mahajim (dark-skinned) category, on Saturday. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Dubai: A well-appreciated camel is like a high-profile football player, they both bring pride to their countries while fostering awareness and interest of the cultures they represent, said an Emirati camel owner, who is participating in the Mazayin Camel Beauty Competition at the Al Dhafrah Festival.

"For those outside this world, it may seem strange that such events are held and that their participants are highly competitive but for those who know or raise camels, it's not such a strange thing…

"Camels are not only an important source of our heritage but they are also regarded as being beautiful in their own way and to win such a competition raises not only its prestige but its owner's as well," said Ahmad Bin Kamtan Al Mansouri, a 37-year-old Emirati based in the Western Region.

The yearly festival is organised by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach) under the patronage of General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Increased participation

This year, more than 800 camel owners have entered over 20,000 camels in the Mazayin Camel Beauty Competition, whose total prizes are valued at Dh35 million.

Camels are awarded points out of 100 based on a four part system, which includes the head, upper body, legs as well as the general fitness and health of the animal.

"I've participated in this competition since the festival was launched. This year, I've won four rounds so far, including the first prize on the opening day…" Al Mansouri said.

"It's not easy to participate in the Mazayin Beauty Competition…

"Out of the up to 400 camels that are entered for each round, only 10 are selected for the final round and of those only one can be crowned most beautiful in either the Asayal [light skinned] or Majahim [dark skinned] sections," he added.

Al Mansouri is participating with Majahim camels, which despite having a large population in the Western Region and other GCC countries that have vegetated areas, are not as well-known in the UAE as their light-skinned counterparts from Dubai and the northern emirates.

"My seven brothers and I grew up with camels… raising camels is a natural part of our culture and I have many fond memories of interacting with ours growing up… each has their own personality," he said.

Al Mansouri voiced concerns about people who visit the desert areas around the UAE and leave behind trash that are killing not only camels, but other indigenous animals as well.

"While the government has done a great job in raising awareness about not polluting the desert, there are still those who do not throw their rubbish in designated areas, which is a great concern for us…

Need to preserve

"I hope that more people will respect our environment and take care not to destroy it through such neglectful actions," he said.

He also said he would continue participating in the competition until the festival's final day and acknowledged that it was due to the great efforts of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan that Emirati culture and heritage are continuously being preserved.

At a glance: Event details

When: December 16 - December 25

Where: Madinat Zayed, also known as Zayed City, in Al Gharbia, the Western Region.

Entrance is free for all, with different activities through the day.

The camel beauty competition takes place from 7am - 6pm; the Traditional Market is open from 10am - 8pm with children's activities beginning from 4pm.

For more information visit www.adach.ae/en/news/llkjiuym.apx