ASH-SHHANIYA, Qatar (AP) — Like all good contestants, Nazaa’a exhibited not only dazzling beauty, but poise and grace.
She batted her eyelashes and flashed a toothy smile for the TV cameras at the Mzayen World Cup, a competition held in the Qatari desert about 25 kilometers from Doha and the FIFA World Cup.
Nazaa’a, be careful, is a camel.
Think Westminster Dog Show crossed with Miss America Pageant, except, well, camels.
Nazaa’a is a majestic light-haired creature who overcame several preliminary rounds and hundreds of other camels to win the contest at Qatar Camel Mzayen Club on Friday.
The event, which was designed to raise cultural awareness among World Cup visitors, was sponsored by the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, in conjunction with the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the Committee local organization of the World Cup.
Nazaa’a was one of 15 camels who competed for the crown, parading in front of fans while wearing bejeweled collars draped in jeweled chains.
“I thought our camel was better than Ronaldo and Messi,” joked Nazaa’a owner family member Jassim al Kuwari.
These events take place regularly throughout the Middle East, where people have had contact with camels for generations.
“It’s our culture. It is from a long time ago, from our fathers and grandfathers,” Al Kuwari said. “Today is a competition, a beauty contest. We love these camels. We give them names. It’s like a family.”
Visitors were greeted with a “Welcome to the Camel Contest” camel jingle and served Karak, a spiced milk tea. The owners and their families sat in a luxury air-conditioned tent with red velvet chairs and a wall of glass to watch the competition.
The main attraction was the purebred camels. Competitors make several passes past a stand of cheering fans. There is also a milking contest, with the prize being awarded to the camel that produces the most milk.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a serious contest: a doctor is on staff to make sure the animals don’t use fillers or Botox to make them look better. Last December, dozens of camels were disqualified from the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia for cosmetic upgrades.
Then there is the money: the winner, second and third place camels all receive trophies. Nazaa’s owners won 200,000 Qatari riyals ($55,000). The camel that produces the most milk wins 15,000 riyals.
“I have been with camels and their competitions since I was a child,” said camel owner Hamad al Greissi. “The camels were there before planes and cars. They were called the ships of the desert. after modern vehicles, camels became less popular, but they still hold a big place in our culture.
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