The dromedaries paraded down a dusty racetrack as judges rated the size of their lips, cheeks, heads and knees. Crowds of men watched from the bleachers, hooting when the beasts representing their own tribe loped down the track.
A dozen beasts have been disqualified from this year’s Saudi “camel beauty contest” because their handlers used Botox to make them more handsome.
“The camel,” explained the chief judge of the show, Fawzan al-Madi, “is a symbol of Saudi Arabia. We used to preserve it out of necessity, now we preserve it as a pastime.”
Much is changing in Saudi Arabia: the country is getting its first movie theaters. Soon women will be permitted to drive. The authorities eventually hope to diversify the economy away from the oil that has been its lifeblood for decades.