Shadow play on the dunes

A drone's eye view of camels casting majestic shadows on the ground at the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Rumah, some 160km east of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

The relatively new festival is an annual six-week spectacle involving a camel race and a camel beauty pageant worth millions in prize money.

What was once a desert expanse now hosts a few hundred thousand spectators and more than 30,000 camels.

The current fourth instalment of the festival (above) ends on Jan 18.

Launched under royal patronage, it shines a spotlight on Saudi heritage and the special place that camels have occupied in Arab life.

The camel remains an enduring symbol of the nomadic desert lifestyle of Bedouin Arabs and a link to tradition in a country rapidly modernised by oil wealth.

The festival is named after the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz, who formed the kingdom through military conquest, often on the back of camels.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2020, with the headline 'Shadow play on the dunes'. Print Edition | Subscribe