Alternative ‘World Cup’ pits camels against each other in Qatar beauty pageant

ASH-SHHANIYA, Qatar (AP) — Like all good beauty pageant contestants, Nazaa’a displayed not only stunning beauty, but also poise and grace.

She blinked and flashed a big smile for the TV cameras at the Mzayen World Cup, a tournament that takes place in the Qatari desert about 25 kilometers (15 miles) away from Doha, and the soccer World Cup.

Nazaa’a, yes, it is a camel.

Think Westminster Dog Show crossed with Miss America Pageant, except for, well, the 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 bring cultural awareness to World Cup visitors, was sponsored by the Ministry of Sports and Youth, in conjunction with the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the local organizing committee for the World Cup. of the world.

Nazaa’a was one of 15 camels that competed for the crown, parading through fans wearing jeweled necklaces covered with strands of precious stones.

“I thought our dealer was better than Ronaldo and Messi,” joked Jassim al Kuwari, part of the family that owns Nazaa’a.

These events are held regularly throughout the Middle East, where people have been connected to camels for generations.

“This is our culture. This is from a long time ago, from our parents and grandparents,” Al Kuwari said. “Today is a competition, a beauty competition. We like these camels. We give them names. It’s like a family.”

Visitors were greeted by a camel jingle “Welcome to the camel competition” 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 glass wall to watch the competition.

The main attraction was the purebred camels. The competitors perform several passes in front of a crowd of fans who cheer on their favourite. There is also a milking contest, in which the prize goes to the camel that produces the most milk.

Make no mistake, this is a serious contest: a doctor is on staff to make sure the animals don’t use fillers or Botox to make them more beautiful. Last December, dozens of camels were disqualified from the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia for cosmetic enhancements.

Then there’s the money: winning, runner-up and third-placed camels receive trophies. Nazaa’s owners earned 200,000 Qatari riyals ($55,000). The camel that produces the most milk wins 15,000 rials.

“I have been with the camels and their contests since I was a child,” said the camel’s owner, Hamad al Greissi. “The camels were there before the planes and cars. They were called the ships of the desert. After modern vehicles, camels became less popular, but they still hold an important place in our culture.”

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