The camels paraded down a dusty racetrack on the outskirts of the Saudi capital as judges rated the size of their lips, cheeks, heads and knees.
Crowds of men watched from the stands, hooting when the beasts representing their own tribe paraded down the track.
A dozen beasts have been disqualified from this year’s Saudi “camel beauty contest” because their handlers used Botox to make them more handsome.
Organisers of the month-long annual camel festival aim to reflect traditional aspects of Saudi cultural heritage. And for the Bedouin of Arabia, nothing is more essential than the camel, used for centuries for food, transport, as a war machine and companion.
For head of judging panel Fawzan al-Madi, camels used to be preserved out of necessity, now they represent a pastime.
Events at the festival include races and show competitions with combined purses of 213 million riyals. ($57 million)
The pavilion features an auction where top camels can fetch millions of riyals.
There are food stalls and souvenir shops, a petting zoo featuring the world’s tallest and shortest camels, a museum with life-size sand sculptures of camels, tents for tasting camel’s milk and viewing camel-hair textiles, and a planetarium showing how Arabs rode camels through the desert guided by the stars.
The festival is named after King Abdulaziz, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia who united the kingdom through military conquest, often on the back of camels.