Even Camels Need Some Love & Appreciation & a Little Cash

Amidst the glamour of the most expansive gold and marble drenched hotel-the Emirates Palace, and the endless high-rises that kiss the sky and man-made islands in every direction, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed is hosting this month, the largest "Camel Beauty Contest," as part of the Mazayin Dhafra Camel Festival. Ten thousand camels from countries all over the Gulf- Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar are participating. Anyone who can prove the pedigree of their camel can enter.

This festival is part of a $80 billion campaign to revive local Bedouin culture in a part of the world that is transforming at lightening speed. According to festival organizer, Mohammed al-Mazrouei "preserving the rich heritage of the UAE and passing it on to future generations constitutes one of the most important missions which people of the UAE wish to undertake...." Organizers are hoping that this festival will remind Emiratis of their traditional Bedouin values. The camel, otherwise known as the "ship of the desert" has been an integral part of desert life and has long been appreciated as a measurement of wealth. (Yours truly was once offered 400 camels by a random stranger in exchange for her hand in marriage in Morocco. I kindly declined the offer).

A hundred cars and financial awards totaling close to ten million dollars will be given to the winners. The camels will be judged by a panel of experts for their form and beauty according to their age group. Some camels have been known apparently to fetch millions of dollars. "Camels are a part of our culture and this is a chance to celebrate their beauty and make some money at the same time," said Salem Ebrahim al-Mazrouei, a spokesman for the festival.
Incredible creatures, camels no doubt are worthy of much appreciation and awe. And their integral role in Bedouin culture is duly noted. However, I cannot help but wonder that in this age of globalization, materialism and inter-connected economies has even our most private and sacred cultures and traditions become commodified and commercialized? Can everything anywhere now be marketed, branded and sold for a profit?

* The first picture of the camel close-up was taken from the BBC news website.

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