<p>From across the vast and parched Arabian Peninsula, camels converge on Abu Dhabi for an annual beauty contest. Here the traditional beast of burden becomes a pampered show animal.</p>

Camels

From across the vast and parched Arabian Peninsula, camels converge on Abu Dhabi for an annual beauty contest. Here the traditional beast of burden becomes a pampered show animal.

Isn't She Lovely

From across the vast and parched Arabian Peninsula, camels converge on Abu Dhabi for an annual beauty contest. Here the traditional beast of burden becomes a pampered show animal.

On this night—the final night—a fog swirled across the desert, as thick and impenetrable as a sandstorm. It made mysteries of the stars, and spies moved across the dunes in darkness. They searched from camp to camp in the strange air, looking for something special.

The quest hadn't started this way, with espionage in the dark. For a month before this January night, Bedouin caravans had trekked great distances across the Arabian Peninsula, from Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and elsewhere. They had come to a remote spot in the Abu Dhabi emirate to take part in the show: a beauty pageant for camels.

For nine days the animals paraded before a grandstand—camels of all sorts, the most prestigious being groupings of 35 females—and imperious judges waved away the homelier groups with their dejected owners. As the days passed, the judges rewarded certain standards with dispatch, winnowing a field of some 24,000 contestants.

Read This Next

Storyteller begins trek through China’s heartland
Planet circling a burned-out star offers a glimpse at the solar system's fate
This 50-year project is tracking the Cascades' melting glaciers

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet