MADINAT ZAYED, United Arab Emirates – Dubai's crown prince bought a camel for an unprecedented high price of US$2.7 million during a desert festival in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Sheik Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the son of Dubai's ruler Sheik Mohammed and his heir apparent, bought 16 camels for US$4.5 million during a camel beauty pageant taking place during a desert carnival that aims to preserve the nomadic way of life in the oil-rich Gulf.
Sheik Hamdan paid US$2.7 million for one camel, Emirates' state news agency WAM reported Tuesday. It gave no details on the camel and it was not clear if the sum was an official record.
There was no indication what Hamdan would use the camel for, including whether he would race it. Camels are a matter of prestige for the ruling elite in the Gulf.
More than 17,000 camels from the oil-rich Gulf countries — the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain — were registered for a camel beauty contest taking place over two weeks in the Emirates' Western desert.
Camels are registered for beauty contest in several categories, defined by age and skin color. The owners of the top three camels in each category split a $US2 million price fund and each receive a car from a pool of more than 100 4x4 vehicles and pickup trucks.
Five judges assess the camels' bodies as a whole and their necks, heads, lips, noses, humps, legs and feet separately.
The money and cars for the camel beauty contest were donated by the members of Abu Dhabi's ruling family, which organized the festival in a bid to preserve the nomadic way of life in the desert that predates the discovery of oil in the region in the 1960's.
The ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who is also the Emirates' president, and his brother Sheik Mohammed Bin Zayed al-Nahyan both own an undisclosed number of camels.
Abu Dhabi is the capital of United Arab Emirates and, with the lion's share of the country's oil resources, the richest of the seven semiautonomous emirates that make up the Gulf country. Dubai, the largest emirate in population, has been undergoing an unprecedented boom as its leaders shape it into a major financial center.