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The contest giving camels the hump - By Rebecca Wicks

It's true that most women would kill for a camel's eyelashes, but other than that, they're hardly the most attractive creatures on the planet, are they? Still, we're all awaiting the results of next week's Abu Dhabi based camel beauty pagent with bated breath.

More than 10,000 camels from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia will strut their humpy stuff next Wednesday, before a panel of expert judges. One can only assume what it takes to become a camel expert - let alone an expert with an extra expertise in the area of beauty. Personally, I've sat upon a camel all but once and found the whole thing rather uninspiring. It pretty much involved us plodding round in a circle as my friends and I looked at each other in a confused fashion, wondering as to the point of this added "adventurous bonus" in our desert tour.

But still, the delights of camel riding aside, the event, apparently, is part of a camel festival, which aims to celebrate and preserve the region's cultural heritage. Fair enough.

Did we mention that the lucky owners, whose camels are deemed gorgeous enough, will be awarded a not-so-shoddy total of Dhs 35 million in prize money, as well as 100 cars?

Yes, that's right. Cars.

Perhaps it's just me, but there's something kind of "off" about the whole car part. Not only are these participating camels required to be of purebred origin and free from any contagious diseases, but their proud owners are competing to win an opposing mode of transport. It's kind of like cheering your kid on in a school sports race, and then taking his mate out to dinner. So much for the camel being the "ship of the desert". Perhaps that's only true these days if you still don't have a shiny, four-wheeled alternative?

"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, by connecting our culturally rich past with our aspired bright and prosperous future," festival organizer Mohammed al-Mazrouei said earlier this week.

It's all very noble and well-meaning, but surely adding to the region's ever expanding traffic jams by introducing 100 new motors, slightly contradicts his mission to re-connect us all with the past. Should he not just give away more camels instead? Maybe give EVERYONE a camel and make us give up cars together? Who needs them anyway - they just put us all in more of a rush to make the places we can't seem to reach as quickly as we used to. And why are we all in such a rush anyway?

This camel contest is making me think a little too much. Perhaps I'm being irrational. All I know, is that if I were the winning camel at the beauty pagent next Wednesday - no matter how lustrous my newly mascara-clad eyelashes looked in the light of a setting desert sun - I'd still be pretty miffed at watching my owner speed off in a car.

Posted: 03 April 2008

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