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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 January 2021

Al Dhafra Festival: the world's largest showcase of Bedouin life – in pictures

The annual festival sees some 25,000 camels descend on the Abu Dhabi desert

Drive deep into the dunes this December – about two-and-a-half hours from Abu Dhabi – to find Al Dhafra Festival, which is considered the world’s largest showcase of Bedouin life, and The National photographer Reem Mohammed has captured all the action.

Flick through the above photo gallery to see more.

Every year, about 25,000 camels descend on the edge of the Empty Quarter to compete in beauty competitions and be bartered over by canny dealers who drive in from across the Gulf to purchase the animals, sometimes for millions of dirhams.

Judges assess camels on the first day of the competition: they are marked out of 100, with points allocated to each body part. Legs should be long, ears pert, eyelashes curled, and the hump placed just right. You can spot the winners because their faces will be smeared in a red saffron paste.

It’s not all about pageantry though; another highlight is the 48,000-square-metre souq, where you’ll learn about traditional Emirati crafts and get to sample local delicacies. It’s also a chance to meet plenty of people from across the GCC; from Emirati schoolgirls to the region's most influential camel owners and young men on a vocational training programme that passes traditions on to the next generation.

Al Dhafra runs until January 1. Visit


Read more:

Everything you need to know about the Al Dhafra Festival

Special report: Inside the UAE's multimillion dollar camel beauty pageants

Camel beauty pageants are a family affair at Abu Dhabi festival


Updated: December 27, 2018 03:34 PM

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