Twelve camels were disqualified in a Saudi Arabian beauty contest after being caught receiving botox injections to make their pouts look more alluring. So why are people cheating in camel contests?
Officials said that some of the camels had been given botox injections to make their lips fuller. Others, perhaps cruelly, had weights attached to their lips in the run up to judging to make them droop – which counts as attractive in the world of camel beauty. Another trick that was caught out was having oil rubbed on the camel’s ears to make them supple.
The head judge, Fawzan al-Madi, told The Telegraph that “We have the top experts in the world, and they are very good at spotting the cheats,” he said. “We have found at least one and sometimes two a day.”
Those caught cheating were fined and banned from the competition for three years.
While the wider world’s media reported on this as something of an amusing “and finally…” story, it should be remembered that the rewards for winning camel beauty shows are so great that there is always going to be a genuine incentive to gain a competitive edge by cheating. Just as in any other sport of contest.
With a total of $57million in prize money on offer for camel pageants and races there are significant and potentially life-changing amounts of money on offer. And within each category of the camel beauty pageant there are 20m Saudi riyals ($5.3m) in prize money so people will always seek to gain an advantage by improving their own lot – or that of their camel – when such huge rewards are at stake.
“They use Botox for the lips, the nose, the upper lips, the lower lips and even the jaw,” Ali al-Mazrouei, the son of an Emirati camel breeder, told the National. “It makes the head more inflated so when the camel comes it’s like, ‘Oh, look at how big that head is. It has big lips, a big nose.’”
Just like doping in the Tour de France, the tricks to gain an advantage in camel beauty pageants are getting more common and varied. After the ban was issued al-Madi, told Reuters: “The camel is a symbol of Saudi Arabia. We used to preserve it out of necessity, now we preserve it as a pastime.”
And if nothing else, if just shows has seriously people take camel contests in this part of the world. The King Abdulaziz camel festival is a seriously big deal in Saudi Arabia and this year, the month-long festival was moved from its more rural location to the al-Rumahiya desert outside the capital Riyadh.
One Camel Club board member said that the number of attendees was up about a third on last year and there were a staggering 300,000 people who made the 90-minute trip from Riyadh to watch the contest. That’s about twice the size of Glastonbury music festival.
With tourist visas now being issued for people to visit Saudi Arabia, the organisers are hoping that more people will travel next year to see the event.