.MADINAT ZAYED, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Dubai’s crown prince paid $2.7 million for a camel during a desert festival celebrating Bedouin traditions in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, state-run media said Tuesday.
The festival also included a camel beauty contest, where thousands of owners strutted their animals in a bid for the top prize of finest overall camel and separate categories such as best neck, head, lips, nose, hump, legs or feet.
Sheik Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the son of Dubai’s ruler, Sheik Mohammed, bought 16 camels for $4.5 million, including one female camel for $2.7 million, the state news agency WAM reported.
The agency called the price tag “unprecedented” but it was not clear if it was an official record.
The hefty sum was still a fraction of the record price paid at auction for a horse. The Green Monkey, a thoroughbred colt, was purchased at a Florida auction in 2006 for $16 million.
There was no indication what Hamdan, Dubai’s heir apparent, planned to do with the animal though female camels are often used for racing. Owning fine camels is also a mark of prestige for the ruling elite in the Persian Gulf.
Abu Dhabi’s ruling family organized the nine-day 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 1960s.
More than 17,000 camels from the oil-rich Gulf countries – the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain – were registered for the beauty contest, which gave out millions of dollars in prize money and more than 100 four-wheel-drive vehicles and pickup trucks, the agency said.
Dhabi is the capital of the 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 country. Dubai, the largest emirate in population, has been undergoing an unprecedented boom as its leaders shape it into a major financial center.