Saudi authorities have raised the profile of the King Abdulaziz camel festival by relocating it from the desert to the outskirts of the capital, Riyadh.
This year’s event has been been mired in scandal after the lure of $31.8m (£22.6m) in prize money tempted some owners to cheat.
The key attributes in camel beauty are considered to be delicate ears and fulsome snouts. But there are strict rules against the use of drugs in the lips, or shaved or clipped body parts.
This year, a dozen camels were banned after a vet was caught performing plastic surgery on them. Camels were also given Botox-type injections at his clinic, according to Saudi media.
“They use Botox for the lips, the nose, the upper lips, the lower lips and even the jaw,” Ali al-Mazrouei, the son of an Emirati camel breeder, told the UAE daily the National.
“It makes the head more inflated so when the camel comes it’s like, ‘Oh, look at how big that head is. It has big lips, a big nose.’”
After the banning decision, the chief judge of the show, Fawzan al-Madi, told Reuters: “The camel is a symbol of Saudi Arabia. We used to preserve it out of necessity, now we preserve it as a pastime.”
The month-long festival is the biggest in the Gulf and involves up 30,000 camels.