Al Dhafra Festival

In December of every year, caravans of camels and their owners descend onto the edge of the Empty Quarter desert and its mesmerising sand dunes. 

Weeks before the festival, Bedouin families and Sheikhs alike, begin their journey towards Al Dhafra from the many parts of the arabian peninsula. With an estimated 20,000 competing camels, Al Dhafra is the biggest camel beauty competition in the Emirates and a win at Al Dhafra can translate into sales worth millions.

“Good luck for one who buys

Where this camel stands

She overshadows and is tall

Her face is attractive and her cheeks are beautiful

She has a long neck

All the people admire her

Gentlemen, buy this camel

Buy it with wealth, it is good luck for the right hand.”

With  Dh38 million in prizes, competition is fierce and looks alone are not enough to stand out.

Camel jewellery is now widely used to enhances the camel’s beauty. Most pieces are necklaces or hatat, decorative belts that circle the camel's hump, body and back.

Before oil and wealth, survival in these unforgiving lands was largely successful due to the relationship between bedouins and their animals. 

As well as the beloved camel, also know as the ‘ship of the sea’, salukis and falcons played an integral role in survival of the desert. 

In a region where the social environment is changing rapidly, the Al Dhafra Festival is of great importance. 

It creates a space for the different generations to celebrate Emirati culture and heritage. 

From purebred Arabian horse races, falcon competitions and saluki races to sour milk, dates packaging, sheep beauty contest and camel competitions. 

"Al Dhafra Festival has managed to promote authentic Emirati heritage and reinforce the valuable efforts made to ensure its safeguard and protection," stated Faris Khalaf Al Mazrouei, chairman of The Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee. 

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