And for the Bedouin of Arabia, nothing is more essential than the camel, used for centuries for food, transport, as a war machine and companion. So, the authorities have ramped up the country’s annual month-long camel festival, which was relocated last year from the remote desert to the outskirts of the capital. On a rocky desert plateau, the government has erected a permanent venue to host the headline events: races and show competitions.
Organisers say this ‘heritage village’ will expand in coming years as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – who is heir to the throne, defence minister and head of oil and economic policy – takes the reins through a newly-created official Camel Club established by royal decree last year. Halfway through this year’s festival, attendance is up about a third from last year, with about 300,000 people making the 1-1/2 hour trip from Riyadh so far, said Fahd al-Semmari, a Camel Club board member. ‘The vision is for the (festival) to become a global, pioneering forum for all classes of people to come for entertainment, knowledge and competition.’