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Bedouin Life

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The essence of Bedouin life, from camel beauty contests to handicraft workshops in the heart of the Empty Quarter 
At the edge of the Empty Quarter, surrounded by an endless sea of towering, ochre-coloured sand dunes in Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra Region, the Al Dhafra Festival brings alive the animal husbandry, culture and community that has defined Bedouin life for generations.
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Beauty Contests

At the heart of the festival are the Mazayna (competition) camel beauty contests that involve tens of thousands of camels from across the Arabian Peninsula and focus on the purebred camels from the Asayel (pedigree) and Majaheem (dark-skinned) lineages. 
Accompanying the Mazayna, a celebration of this most beloved of Bedouin animals, are multi-million-dirham sales of camels that are executed in quiet private deals and open auctions held along the Shari’a al Malyoon (Avenue of the Millions).

Tapestry of Events

Hundreds of men and women from tribes located across the region come the festival to exhibit and compete in events that bring alive other aspects of Bedouin life as well, including camel and purebred Arabian horse racing, Arabian Saluki dog races, falconry and Emirati handicrafts such as khoos, the weaving of palm fronds, and talli, a form of delicate embroidery.
There also is a sheep beauty contest, camel milking competition, palm date competition and date packaging competition, as well as daily traditional Emirati performances.

 

Ancestral Home

The festival is held near Madinat Zayed, the largest town in the Liwa Oasis, which is deep in the Al Dhafra Region desert. This region is the ancestral home of the Bani Yas tribe, of which the ruling Al Nahyan family is a member. In fact, the city carries the name of the United Arab Emirates’ first president, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, reflecting the significance of the region to the country’s history.

Did You Know?

Winning camels in the Mazayna are marked on their heads with a paste made from expensive yellow saffron and other valuable spices.

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