Un “hotel” at 100 euros per night for a very special clientele: in the middle of the Saudi desert, a temporary center offers overnight stays and services with great care to competition camels, an animal revered in the oil-rich kingdom of the Gulf. In Rumah, a little more than a hundred kilometers northeast of the capital Riyadh, Omair al-Qahtani’s camel had the right, for two weeks, to cleaning, shearing, heating or even hot milk, in the heart of an endless expanse of red sand.
The center opened as part of the highly prestigious King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud camel festival from December to January, where prizes worth up to a total of around 60 million euros are given out in beauty contests. “It’s very comfortable. My camel benefits from regular medical care and monitoring,” Omair al-Qahtani, a 51-year-old businessman from Riyadh, told Agence France-Presse. According to him, this stay will cost him a total of between 140,000 and 190,000 euros.
A longtime camel enthusiast, Omair al-Qahtani recalls a time when festival attendees had to set up tents and tend to their camelids themselves. In the hotel of some 120 outdoor enclosures, single or double, about fifty workers bend over backwards to pamper and feed all the camels. According to Mohammed al-Harbi, the festival’s media manager, the hotel was set up “to protect and care for the camels, but also to ease the burden on their owners”. The establishment was also a godsend for the organizers, the stays and the care provided having brought in more than 1.4 million euros in one month of the festival.
Disqualifications due to botox
Called the “boats of the desert”, the “Arabian camels”, in reality single-humped dromedaries, have long been used to move through the large desert expanses of the Arabian Peninsula, becoming a traditional symbol of the Gulf. Camel herding is also a multi-million dollar industry in the region, with similar events, from beauty pageants to camel races, being held throughout the year.
In Saudi Arabia, wealthy enthusiasts can spend hundreds of thousands of euros to acquire and care for the most beautiful camels. The beauty pageants of the King Abdulaziz Festival are based on demanding criteria: the shape and size of the lips, neck and bump are the main ones. To win, some participants go even further than nights in a luxury hotel. In December, several candidates had been disqualified, their camelids having undergone botox injections. This prohibited practice can lead to hefty fines: more than 23,000 euros.