The yearly held King Abdulaziz camel festival in Saudi Arabia in ongoing in the Dahna desert outside Riyadh this January! This is the largest camel festival in the world packed with different kinds of activities and it’s definitely worth the visit! The best thing about it is that’s it’s entirely free of charge and accessible to everyone! We spent a total of 10 sar each for a delicious Saudi traditional home cooked meal there, everything else was free. The camel festival in local media is called Alaibil, which in arabic means “camels”.
It’s very easy to reach the camel festival by any type of vehicle from Riyadh, about an hours drive out. We went to the camel festival on its first weekend on a Saturday and it was a very nice experience I was positively surprised how beautiful and well organized the area was. The festival area is all brand new and it has a modern look with traditional touches all over. The mosque and astronomy dome are actually quite beautiful architectural structures in the middle of the desert! You can visit the King Abdulaziz camel festival any day during January 2018, it’s open from 8 am to 10 pm every day, free entry. Please note some activities are available only in the mornings while others are best for the afternoons. Read on to find out more.
In this article you’ll find out all the things you can do at camel festival, when is the best time to go, how to get there and the exact location.
The World’s Biggest Camel Beauty Contest
Also known as “Miss Camel”, this festival’s main activity features a camel beauty contest, with prizes amounting to almost 120 million SAR ($31 million). Thousands of camel herders travel with their herds here to have their camels participate in the “Miss Camel” competition. The Camel Beauty contest continues through the entire month.
Camel beauty contests are taken very seriously and this year some camels have been disqualified because their owners tried to make the camels more beautiful by using Botox!
There are several different categories of beauty camels depending on their colors ranging from the darker black ones to the red, brown, beige and white. Please note that the camel beauty pageants are held only in the mornings, so if you want to see these specifically you should be there around 9-10 am. The beauty contest is held at a separate stadium nearby to the festival area.
We arrived at the festival in the afternoon around 4 pm and the camel beauty competitions were all over by then. The camel races would be in the mornings as well. Apparently, the camels are more motivated and co-operative in the mornings and that’s why the early timing:) You can also learn about how camel beauty pageants are judged at the camel expo.
Activities In The Camel Festival
The camels played an essential role in day-to-day life for people of the region. They used to be a source of food and drink, transport, and a trading pillar. The festival recognizes their importance through a mix of traditional festivities. Visit the Sanad expo to learn more about camels. They have english and Arabic texts on display.
You can see the world’s tallest camel at the festival and also a two humped camels and a odd looking blue eyed two colored camels.
Camel caravans are circling around the dome from 10 am- maghreb prayer daily. You can hop on the caravan for a ride- free of charge.
Kids and Family
The festival has a friendly mascot: Hwair the camel who is present in a variety of workshops. For kids there plenty of activities and they are all free of charge!
There’s a theatre where they can watch songs and plays ( Sponge Bob, traditional dances etc) and an Arts & Crafts hall where you can drop your kid off for an hour to make all sorts of fun crafts. Special mention to the wonderful staff there, who almost all spoke very good English and were engaging and professional.
Outdoor playground, camel rides all free of charge.
In the sand art tent you can drop the kids for sand play while you walk around the exhibit.
The Camel Festival is the homage to a Panoramic Dome equipped with technology that allows guests to stargaze into the night and learn about what’s beyond our planet; an interesting option for kids and grown-ups.
This was really cool! Do not miss it! English shows available, ask for this with a group of english speaking friends from the staff working inside the dome. There was a very helpful friendly Saudi lady there who can arrange this for you.
A collection of goods such as spices, traditional Saudi food, artisans, decorations and clothing at the souk.
Visit Exhibitions such as “Don’t Throw Away Plastic Bags Initiative”, “Food Waste Initiative”, and “Green Dahna”.
Art & Culture
There are also activities related to arts, such as poetry and photography competitions hosted by National Geographic.Sand art exhibit with the talented sand sculptor Neelu from India. You can watch them making new sculptures live. Camel Hair Art and kids arts and crafts area.
Traditional dancing, songs and music at the tent and also in the desert area in the evening they have a concert. You can have your own bedouin tent with a fire and watch the concert.
How to get there:
By any type of vehicle, drive yourself or hire a driver/ taxi to take you. It takes about 1h – 1,5 hours drive depending on traffic from Riyadh to the festival area. Hiring a taxi would be around 200- 300 sar back and forth for the entire taxi if you negotiate they wait for you at festival. Sharing the ride with friends would make it more affordable.
Parking lots separated into singles/ families but festival area is mixed.
It’s possible to experience the festival on a guided tour. I recommend you go with Haya Tours, for the tour sign up click here: Haya tour camel festival trip 27th January
Best time to go:
If you want to see the actual Camel beauty contest in action, you have to go in the morning around 9-10am and head to the camel beauty pageant stadium. All of the other activities you can experience in the afternoons and evenings so arriving around 2- 3 pm would be best for a visit to the festival site only.
The festival is open daily until 1st of February.
The festival area looks very pretty in the evening lighting too!
Where It Takes Place: The Southern Terrains of Al-Dahna (Between Ar-Rumah and Al-Hefnah) Check exact google map location of camel festival below. Turn off point to the festival area from the main road at this location:
Location Of The Festival:
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Hello there, I’m Laura, the founder, author and manager of Blue Abaya, the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia established in 2010. Travel has always been my passion- so far I’ve visited 69 countries and I’m always on the lookout for new adventures inside and outside of Saudi Arabia! Having visited all corners of the Kingdom with over a decade of experience, I have a vast knowledge base about travel and tourism in Saudi Arabia.