By Danish Ahmad Khan
An unprecedented decision was taken at the recently-concluded 2nd annual King Abdulaziz Camel Festival held at Dahna desert, 128-km from Riyadh, from January 1 to February 1. The judges disqualified 12 camels for being administered Botox injections during the competition. It was found that the owners of camels had injected the long-necked mammals with Botox injections for enhancing their appearance in the hope of winning the prize money. The injections are used for upper lips, lower lips, nose and jaw. The use of Botox injections is banned for competitions, and is treated as a case of cheating whenever detected. It may be noted that Botox injections are usually used in human cosmetic surgeries for removing wrinkles.
Strict rules are in place for the contest, which mandates that camels taking part in the competition should compulsorily exhibit “untouched natural beauty”. The camels are judged keeping various aspects of their personal appearance in mind, such as whether the ear stands back, how the nose droops, how long the lashes are, the size of eyes, the shape and placement of the hump, neck length, whether the lips cover its teeth, and the size of head.
More than 50,000 camels participate in the month-long beauty contest. The total prize money amounts to USD$57 million. The competing camels are all Saudi Arabian purebreds. According to a Saudi online News Portal, this largest event of its kind in the Middle East countries attracts a large number of contestants and tourists. Several events take place during the 30-day festival. Apart from beauty contest, the events include best photographs of camels, obedience training, camel hair art and competitions for camel racing.
According to the reports, various cheating ploys have been adopted in the past by camel owners. In one such case a veterinarian was caught while trying to reduce the size of ears by performing plastic surgery on the camels. The festival organizers are aware of these cheating ploys and trying to take safety measures in order to make the competition more secure. Methods such as microchipping the camels have been adopted to prevent cheating. The camels are required to be kept in special pens prior to competition so that their respective owners are stopped from tampering with the microchips.
Another novel way has also been adopted to prevent cheating. Saudi Arabia being predominantly a Muslim nation and all the camel owners being Muslim themselves are asked to swear on the Holy Quran affirming the truth about the ownership and appearance of camels. The judges have also expressed satisfaction and happiness and said that this is proving to be a best tactic for preventing cheating.
[Danish Ahmad Khan, currently based at New Delhi, is Founder-Editor of IndianMuslimObserver.com – India’s First Online Muslim Newspaper. He can be contacted at email@example.com]