Women’s camel beauty contest makes debut in Saudi

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The top five in the field of about 40 participants in the women’s event went home with total prize money of one million riyals (about $260,000).

The camels’ beauty is judged on several criteria, but the shape and size of the lips, neck and hump are the main attributes.

In December, several participants were disqualified because their animals had undergone botox injections.

In a parade at the event on the red sand track of Rumah, women in black on horseback rode ahead of men in white robes on camels as male musicians, some with swords, danced to the beat of drums.

The oil-rich Gulf state adheres to a rigid interpretation of Islam, but since the rise to power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2017, some restrictions on women have been lifted as the country opens up with sweeping reforms.

Saudi Arabia is seeking to diversify its economy away from oil, investing heavily in the tourism, entertainment and sports sectors.

The shift has enabled women to get behind the wheel and take part in mixed-gender settings, even as a rigorous crackdown on dissent remains in place.

“Women have always been an integral part of Bedouin society. They owned and looked after camels,” said Mohammed al-Harbi, a manager of the festival.

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