Mazayna Al Dhafra: Camel Supermodels Shine at Biggest Beauty Contest

Biggest camel beauty contest in Gulf region

MADINAT ZAYED (Abu Dhabi) – In Madinat Zayed in Al Gharbia (The Western Region), only one event can turn the lifeless desert dunes into a lively site where thousands of camels and hundreds of camel owners gather each year to take part in the biggest beauty contest in the Gulf region and the world.
The Mazayna Al Dhafra carries a number of noble messages and has a multitude of worthy objectives. In appearance, it is only a competition to select the most beautiful camels according to strict norms and standards. But beyond this, it is an invitation for visitors, tourists, and locals to appreciate and distinguish the beauty that lies around but is hardly ever perceived.
The Mazayna is an occasion to honour and pay tribute to ‘The Desert Ships’, as people like to call them in the Arab region. Camels are long companions and friends of Bedouins. They provide transport, milk, and a variety of products. They also share with their owners and herders journeys of thousands of miles across the arid desert.
Despite the advance of technology and the spread of four-wheel cars that can traverse deserts, Arabs remained devoted and grateful to camels. In this context, Al Dhafra Festival, and precisely the Mazayna, organised by the Cultural Programs and Heritage Festivals Committee – Abu Dhabi, has become the largest and most famous occasion to celebrate this devotion and gratefulness and highlight the unbreakable bond between the Bedouin society in the Gulf region and camels.
The Mazayna, which features valuable prizes, is also an event that aims at supporting and encouraging all efforts made to protect and preserve purebred camels as an indivisible part of the culture of the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf region as a whole.
“Of all animals mentioned in the holy Quran, Allah picked the camels and invited people to reflect upon: “Why do they not look at the camels and how they are created?” Camels are beautiful; they can be fast and strong; sometimes loyal and sometimes wild. They are intriguing and graceful,” said Ali Sayah Rassas Al Mansouri, a camel owner and a member of the Mazayna Al Dhafra Organising Committee. Strict Norms and Standards Mazayna Al Dhafra is open for the participation of two categories of camels, namely the Asayel (locals) and Majahim, which originate from the Arabian Peninsula.
The Asayel camels were referred to as Humr Al-Niaam in the tradition of the Prophet (Peace Be upon Him). They were also used to be called the Red Nouq. Their origin and places of presence are the UAE and Oman.
The origins of Majahim or dark-skinned camels are from Najed, in Saudi Arabia.
During the Mazayna, five Asayel and four Mjahim competitions are held on a daily basis. Each competition starts with 100 camels, from which the judges pick the most beautiful 50. In the end, the holders of the top 10 positions receive valuable prizes.
Each of the top 10 winners is awarded a brand new Nissan Station SA, worth around AED 300,000. The first runners-up receive a new Chevrolet Tahoe each, while the third place winners receive a Nissan pickup. The holders of the following seven positions are awarded cash ranging from AED 30,000 to AED 18,000.
The process for the selection of the camel supermodels is accurate and based on strict norms and standards that the Judging Committee relies on and takes into consideration.
“The judges are looking for camels with big heads, wide necks, firm ears, broad cheeks and big whiskers. The body should be long, the hump and the back should be big, and the colour and posture of the camel are important too," said Al Mansouri, noting that journalists are not allowed to speak with the members of the Judging Committee during the making of oaths, and before the announcement of results.
“We try to be as much careful as possible and avoid any outside influence during the judging process. Mazayna Al Dhafra has a good reputation for integrity and reliability that we are keen on preserving,” he added.
Al Mansouri explained that camels which are intended for Mazayna are carefully picked by their owners and enjoy a special care and attention.
“Camels that don’t have the essential fitness and potential to race and win in such challenging competitions are selected and prepared for Mazayna, only if they enjoy the required high beauty qualities. The owners, then, improve the diet of the selected camels and provide high hygiene standards. Any camel that suffers from skin diseases cannot be a winner,” he said.
“Most of the camels in Mazayna are female because females look better. The Majahim usually don’t participate in races on account of their slowness and heaviness. You only find them at Mazayna, but not in challenging competitions,” he explained.
Concerning the marks “Wassm” on camel backs, sides, and legs, Al Mansouri said that “these are made to determine the ownership and document the various veterinary interventions. Each tribe or family has its own mark. The aim is to put together all the information relating to each camel. In the past, they used to make those marks on the faces of camels, but this tradition was later dropped because if affects their beauty and can be painful.” Prestige and Status Mazayna Al Dhafra is not just about money or prizes. Participants come from all over the Gulf region, sometimes on foot, to attend the biggest event in the camel calendar. Owners and herders have inherited this tradition of camel breeding from their father’s and fathers’ fathers.
Families and tribes flock to Mazayna and set up camps across the desert as national and family pride is at stake. Al Dhafra has actually turned into an unquestionable reference and a prestigious recognition that herders and owners look for and take pride in.

Recognition of camel beauty

Thanks to the recognition of the camels’ beauty and pureblood at Mazayna Al Dhafra, their value instantly rises and some of them can be sold for thousands or millions of Dirhams.
“Camels were used in the past to determine the wealth and power of a tribe. The family or tribe who used to own the highest number of camels and the most beautiful of them was considered as the richest and most powerful,” Al Mansouri said.
The traditional festivities that accompany the announcement of the top positions, and the marches that follow the award ceremony are a further evidence of the pride and prestige that Mazayna Al Dhafra bestows upon the winning participants.
Festivities begin at the site of the Mazayna with members of the winning family or tribe releasing screams of joy, singing traditional songs and dancing around the winning camel or camels that they cover up in saffron. The festivities continue all the way back to the camp, and later in the evening, when the winners receive guests who come to offer their congratulations.
“Everyone comes here to win. Nobody wants to lose. At Mazayna Al Dhafra, you can collect the prizes, enjoy the media coverage, and celebrate honour and pride,” Al Mansouri said.