Camels are considered an important part of Kuwaiti and Arab heritage. They were the most important mode of transportation in the Arab world for thousands of years due to their proven ability to endure the hard weather conditions in the desert. Camels are able to walk long distances without eating or drinking, and that is why they are called ‘ships of the desert’. The tradition of breeding camels and taking care of them continued in Kuwait and the entire region.
It is a hobby that is now bringing huge profits to owners. According to Sa’ad Al- Sibei, head of the judging committees of the Third Traditional Heritage Festival, the price of a camel may reach more than SAR 20 million (KD 1,500,000). “These expensive camels are participating in beauty contests held annually in Kuwait. The camel beauty contest will be on till Feb 15. This contest is open to participants from all Gulf countries. This year, the number of participants in this event has reached about 6,500. This contest was started in 2006, and since 2011, it has been sponsored by HH the Amir. Various activities besides the main contest are also going on.
People can come and ride the camels, buy a camel, or buy souvenirs and traditional items displayed here,” Al-Sibei told Kuwait Times. “MP Saad Al-Khanfour bought a camel yesterday for SAR 1,800,000 (KD 135,000). Currently, the majority of the breeders of expensive camels are young people. This tradition has become a hobby for young men and some also benefit from it as they sell the camel later for high prices. Also, they participate with these camels in the camel beauty contest and may win one of the valuable prizes. The first three winners receive vehicles including SUVs and pickups while those coming at fourth and fifth place will be rewarded with KD 4000. Even the one who comes in 16th will receive KD 1,000. Most of them participate not for the prize but to gain popularity and become known in the Gulf for owning a pretty camel,” noted Al-Sibei.
Besides the camel beauty contest, there are also camel races. “The camel racing season is from October to April every year. Basically there are six kinds of camels. The camels are usually bred in farms in Wafra and Abdali. It is an expensive hobby that may cost the breeder about KD 20,000 a year and the breeders know each other across the Gulf countries. Also, many Kuwaiti breeders keep their camels in farms in Saudi Arabia as the plots there are larger and camels have more space. Some of them also ride on the camel from Saudi Arabia to Kuwait as this beast can walk more than 100 km a day,” he pointed out.
Those interested in camels can buy them during the camel beauty contest. They can also buy these at certain places known for camel sales in the Gulf, such as Um Rgeiba in Saudi Arabia or Al-Thafr in the United Arab Emirates. “The white camels – ‘Wath’ha’ – are usually the winners as the most beautiful camels. The camels from UAE are usually only black, but we in Kuwait like more varieties of camels,” Al-Sibei explained. Traditions also mention medical treatment with camel urine and milk. “I know many patients suffering from cancer. One of them recently received chemotherapy in the United States and was not cured, but after drinking the camel’s urine and milk for a month, he was cured.
A man called Mohammed Al-Sibei on the 7th Ring Road made available this treatment and people know him very well,” said Al-Sibei. The camel beauty contest is being held in the desert area on Salmi Road (Road No 57) after the fuel station. Signs and boards indicating the event will guide anyone desirous of observing the preening beauties with a pout.
By Nawara Fattahova, Kuwait Times Staff