Al-Dahna calling

Desert festival mixing modernity with tradition


Saudi Gazette report

SINCE the start of January, huge crowds of people proud of their national heritage have been flocking to the southern terrains of Al-Dahna, about 120 kilometers from Riyadh, for a large variety of events organized as part of the 2nd King Abdulaziz Camel Festival.

The leading camel festival once again included initiatives to raise awareness, promote national pride and celebrate core cultural and heritage practices in the Kingdom.

Steeped in tradition but forward-thinking in its approach, the event pushed the boundaries of technology and creativity to offer a fun-filled festival attracting fans from around the region.

The festival will celebrate the crucial role of the camel through an eclectic mix of traditional events, competitions and heritage-focused activities.

The Al-Dahna Desert has become a business and touristic destination with more than 26 events and initiatives being held at the Traditional Village, Al-Dahna Bazaar and the Terrains Street Bazaar.

At the heart of the festival, which kicked off on Jan. 1, is the much-celebrated camel, reflecting the uniting role the camel has played for the Arabs throughout history.

As many as 26,898 camels are competing for a slice of more than SR215 million in prize money. The competition is comprised of a beauty contest, racing and camel response contest.

Based on the color, the camels are divided into six categories. The most beautiful camels in each category will receive SR20 million along with the King Abdulaziz Award for Camel Beauty.

The camel race is in five categories, and each category has a public and private race. The winners of each of category will receive SR10 million.

Camels are quite significant in Arab culture and several other festivals are organized in the region to celebrate their importance.

Sultan Al-Bogomi, the festival's spokesman, said the visitors have a chance to witness many distinctive events that introduce the camel heritage and the animal's social significance.

Al-Bogomi asserts that the festival events are so varied that they will provide families, children and young people with opportunities for knowledge enrichment and cultural entertainment. These events are taking place in a context of authenticity to promote cultural and patriotic aspects and to yield economic and societal returns for the community.

The festival, according Al-Bogomi, is largely concerned with boosting trade opportunities and commercial mobility through Al-Dahna Bazaar with its indoor and outdoor markets. The bazaar includes the corners for productive families to display their products, traditional accessories, handicrafts, cattle, camel trade, and camel products and feeds. Al-Bogomi drew the attention of visitors to taste delicious Saudi traditional food offered in the restaurants dedicated for the purpose.

Al-Bogomi pointed out that the festival offered the Saudi traditional dance Ardhah as a heritage, giving visitors a chance to rehearse the performance after learning the basics.

The Howair Theater addresses children's issues and promotes their educational and moral values by tackling ideas, games, and concepts derived from the authentic folklore.

The Hump (Sanam) Exhibition presents a journey in which images and colors are interactively displayed to explain the camel-man relationship through various historical phases.

The Panoramic Dome, Al-Bogomi said, features documentaries on astronomy that showed how the Bedouins used the positions of stars and other terrestrial bodies to determine the routes of trade caravans. Visitors can watch the space galaxy and planets with a 360-degree telescope inside the Dome.

As for cultural communication, the festival presents the sand art tent in which the works of art pioneers are displayed. The event offers the public a chance to learn this art.

The Camel Decorative Art highlights the aesthetic dimensions of having a camel haircut and implementing forms and decorations inspired by Indian art.

Al-Bogomi said the events are open to visitors from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The festival will conclude on Feb. 1.