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Camels are gathered to take part in a contest during the first Qatar Camel Festival on March 8, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

Al Shahania, Qatar: The lips pouted to perfection, the neck was long and poised, and the judges were sure that no Botox was involved as they awarded Qatar’s largest cash prize for a camel beauty contest in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

Hundreds of spectators, who poured into the isolated desert venue in Land Cruisers and Jeeps, threw up their scarves in celebration as the animal, named Mangiah Ghufran, was declared winner of the one million riyal ($275,000) top prize at the first Qatar Camel Festival late Tuesday.

The animal paced nervously in the paddock as his owner Fahed Farj Algufrani collected the cheque and told how it had taken “years” to prepare the prize-winning beast.

Previous festivals were more local but now Qatar has allowed in camels from across the region, drawing breeders from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE with millions of dollars in prizes at stake.

Organisers were on alert after a recent festival in Saudi Arabia, where 43 camels were disqualified after it was found they were given drug enhancements to make their lips droopier and their humps more shapely, according to official media.

“Work was done to combat tampering, which is the use of Botox and fillers and other things,” said Hamad Jaber Al Athba, the chief festival organiser.

“We had a professional veterinary staff and advanced equipment and we worked to combat tampering and limit the spread of cosmetic materials,” he told AFP. The camels are put through X-rays and other monitoring.

“Corruption was fought seriously at the Qatar Camel Festival.”

To pick the winners, the judges look at “the size and beauty” of the head, the length of the neck and the position of the camel’s hump. “These are the most important points,” said Al Athba.

For black camels the size of its head can be a deal-breaker, but for white camels, the consistency of the colour counts.

Authorities in Qatar and its neighbours are seeking to give traditional practices a higher profile as they compete with mega events such as football’s World Cup and Formula One grands prix.

Al Athba said the festival had been a success, drawing Qatar’s growing urban population as well as its desert-dwelling Bedouin.