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Botox Cheating in Camel Beauty Contests?

January 23rd, 2018 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Journalism, The National, UAE

So says the camel expert at The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, where we worked and lived for more than six years.

Anna Zacharias, a journalist from Canada who has made the Arabian Peninsula her home, has her ear to the ground concerning the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, near Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. It is one of several camel festivals in this part of the world, a sort of “winter camel tour” that crosses borders.

Zacharias writes that a dozen camels have been disqualified from the festival because they were dosed with Botox by a veterinarian to produce particularly droopy lower lips — which are prized among the camel beauty set.

I remember grappling with the concept of camel beauty pageants when I first heard of it, several years ago, while working in the UAE, a neighbor of Saudi Arabia.

“Camels” and “beauty” are two words that should not be in the same sentence. In a previous post I suggested that the camel was the ugliest land animal aside, perhaps, from the hyena.

I would never tell that to the camel-breeders out in the desert, of course. They take this seriously — to the tune of $57 million in prizes awarded to the sleekest camels. at the King Abdulaziz event.

Zacharias quoted an expert on what Botox does for a camel’s looks. (Well, pretty much what humans use the poisonous substance for — to smooth out lined skin and plump up parts of the face.)

“They use Botox for the lips, the nose, the upper lips, the lower lips and even the jaw,” said Ali Al Mazrouei, 31, a regular attendee at Gulf festivals and son of a top Emirati breeder. “It makes the head more inflated so when the camel comes it’s, like, ‘Oh look at how big that head is. It has big lips, a big nose’.”

Also prized is a large hump, and the further back on the camel’s back, the better. In addition, judges demand that camels also demonstrate a pleasing personality. As one said: “You cannot give a prize to an angry camel.”

Zacharias knows her camel. When my daughter was visiting us in Abu Dhabi, Zacharias offered to find a farm where my daughter could ride a camel.

We drove deeper and deeper into the Empty Quarter, as the desert in that part of the world is known, and then Anna pointed out a sort of ranch with walls and a few barns.

She used her Arabic to talk a couple of the hands into saddling a camel, and my daughter got her ride on a Ship of the Desert while the camel-drivers looked on with what seemed to be amusement.

Camels have always been big, in the deserts of the Middle East. For travel, for milk, for carrying.

Most stops on the Camel Tour have awards for “best herd of 50” and “best herd of 100”. The top operators also are known for erecting big and posh tents for visitors to take their ease and get something to eat.

The beauty contest winners certainly will not be carrying any loads, going forward.



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