The yearly held King Abdulaziz camel festival in Saudi Arabia is held in the Dahna desert outside Riyadh. 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!
This post has been updated for 2019 Camel Festival.
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!
According to their website, The King Abdulaziz camel festival is estimated to start in February 2019. The Camel festival area will be open from 9 am to 10 pm every day during the festival period. When more information is available this post will be updated.
The Entry is free of charge. 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.
Recommended Article: “Camels – Miracles Of The Desert”
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.
Recommended Article: “Camel Milk, An Elixir From The Desert”
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.
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 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 of Blue Abaya- the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia, established in 2010. Travel has always been my passion- so far I’ve visited 75 countries and I’m always on the lookout for new adventures inside and outside of Saudi Arabia! Follow my adventures in Saudi and beyond on instagram: instagram.com/blueabaya
Fabulous photos and great info – wish I was in Riyadh for this event!
Thank you Susie! me too! Hope we will see you for Janadriyah :)
Excelente laura! Im in riyadh and thank you for the tips!!
Thanks so much Carlos!
Thanks so much for the helpful guide. Headed to the festival with friends and very much looking forward to it.
Thank you for leaving a comment, have fun :)
Is it safe to go there in private car and we are all singles?
Yes you can go in a private car just park it at the singles parking lot :)
Really good information, I was searching the real details since on week. Hopefully tomorrow will try to visit. Thanks very much.
Thanks Najm! Do Let us know how you liked it!
Do you know the timing of the festival on Fridays? Will it be open at noon (after salar obviously) on Friday?
According to the festival site it’s daily from 8 am the activities, camel beauty pageant and races being in the am and the rest of the activities in the afternoon.
[…] In January 2018 you can visit the world biggest camel festival, the King Abdulaziz Camel festival everyday. Starting from January 1st to February 1st, programs run daily from 8 am to 10 pm. The festival is entirely free and open to everyone! All of the activities available at the festival are also completely free of charge. Read the camel festival guide here: King Abdulaziz camel festival 2018 […]
camel festival is one of the unique festival it reflects one dimension of Saudi culture its also encourage festivals tourism really this event is interesting and this article show us realistic professional photos reflect how amazing is this event and really its event to be attended in the future
asalaam o alaykum dear,a mom of 3, ive been living in riyadh for about 11 years now…:) and id love to know where i can buy camels milk on a regulr basis for my kids?
currently residing in the south end of the city,right where Makkah highway begins. Swaidi area.
Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.
When is the camel festival for 2019? Thanks!
I was there last year but on last weekend so it was not very spectacular. This year Im trying to find some info but there is nothing when it will start.
They are not very precise with their announcements and different information is coming from different channels. Once there\s a definite answer I will update the post.
Hi between what dates is the fesival? Thanks !
Kind of found some interesting details, about the festival, I would suggest to check their Twitter feed, they have a bus pick and drop facility from Granada mall for SAR 30/- The event is from 5the feb-19 March, 2019 as per their Twitter feed page
Hello mom from Tajikistan, and I have national traditional music ensemble, how to participate in music festival in Saudi Arabia . Thank you
Hi Festival still going on???