Published: August 2009

Camel Contest

camel contest

Isn't She Lovely?

From across the vast and parched Arabian Peninsula, camels converge on Abu Dhabi for an annual beauty contest. Here the traditional beast of burden becomes a pampered show animal.

By Matthew Teague
Photograph by Randy Olson

On this night—the final night—a fog swirled across the desert, as thick and impenetrable as a sandstorm. It made mysteries of the stars, and spies moved across the dunes in darkness. They searched from camp to camp in the strange air, looking for something special.

The quest hadn't started this way, with espionage in the dark. For a month before this January night, Bedouin caravans had trekked great distances across the Arabian Peninsula, from Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and elsewhere. They had come to a remote spot in the Abu Dhabi emirate to take part in the show: a beauty pageant for camels.

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