With heated stalls and hot milk, life couldn’t be more glamorous for some of Saudi Arabia’s finest camels when staying at a luxury resort near Riyadh.
For 400 riyals per night, the equivalent of £ 78, the camels are groomed, washed and pampered before entering beauty pageants, where millions of pounds are at stake.
Camels, many of which are hired, are closely checked for Botox and other illegal enhancements that could see them thrown out for cheating.
A man tending to a camel at the first camel hotel during the sixth edition of the King Abdulazziz Camel Festival in the Rumahi region 99 miles east of the Saudi capital of Riyadh
Camel owners pay the equivalent of £ 78 each night before their animals go to beauty pageants
Camels are placed in stalls in the luxury Saudi spa resort and checked for any imperfection
Everything is done in a secure environment against Covid to avoid any disruptive epidemic.
The Tatman, described as the first hotel for camels, is an open-air desert resort near the annual King Abdulaziz Festival, which has prizes totaling £ 48.9million.
It’s a logical step for the lucrative, well-heeled Gulf industry, where camels are seen as a symbol of traditional life.
Two workers groom and style a camel’s fur to make it even more desirable for a contest
Camels with pronounced lips are favored by judges, which has led to the use of Botox by cheaters
Animals are judged on attributes such as their lips, neck, bumps, and coloring, and wins are very prestigious for their owners.
Omair al-Qahtani, who is Saudi, registered 80 camels in the Tatman for 16 days, claiming it would cost him from £ 117,000 to £ 156,000.
The facility is “very comfortable, as the camels remain in their care and undergo regular medical examinations,” said the 51-year-old businessman.
It has 120 pens, including singles and doubles, each fitted with plastic containers for water and fodder. Departure is at 12:30 p.m.
During their stay, 50 workers take care of the animals and are kept under strict sanitary conditions to minimize the risk of Covid cases.
In years gone by, Qahtani and his assistants pitched tents near the festival, tending and feeding the camels themselves.
Camels are seen in a beauty pageant as part of King Abdulaziz’s annual Camel Festival in Rumah in this 2018 file photo
Not only is the treatment unfair to other herders, it risks leaving the camels with horrific wounds. Images (pictured) went viral earlier this year showing a camel with ruptured lips after being filled with Botox for another Saudi beauty pageant
Hundreds of thousands of Saudis attend the Royal Camel Festival (pictured 2018) which also includes races, sales and other festivities typically featuring thousands of camels
Cars and people surround camels for sale at an auction during the festival in January 2020
Many of the camels are contenders in the Mazayen al-Ibl competition, the world’s largest camel beauty pageant and a highlight of the King Abdulaziz festival.
Mohamed al-Harbi, media chief of the camel club which organizes the competition, said the group envisioned the hotel “to protect and preserve the camels and also to reduce the burden on the owner.”
He said the hotel is popular, generating revenues of over £ 1.2million.
Money is no problem for some who attend the festival, which features well-appointed buildings and tents in the middle of the desert, and stalls for luxury car makers Rolls-Royce and BMW.
Camels participating in the annual King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in January 2018
Saudi enthusiasts can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on camels entered in contests, where unscrupulous competitors sometimes seek an illegal advantage.
Forty-three dromedaries were kicked out of the festival when camel checkers spotted infractions such as Botox, silicone, and fillers injected into the lips, bumps and tails.
But Harbi said the hotel provides “control” so people “can find any tampering early,” reassuring them that their rented animals will not be sent in their luggage.
Qahtani said this is a big plus, as trafficked camels can lead to fines of up to £ 19,000.
The competitions “heighten the obsession with camels in Saudi Arabia,” Harbi said.