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The million star lifestyle at Al Dhafra Festival

The Million Street at Al Dhafra Festival is, for two weeks of the year, one of the world’s most expensive roads. Despite being an unpaved dirt road with no high-brow brand boutiques, this is where transactions worth millions of Dirhams are happening, hence its name, the Million Street. Starting from close to the arena where the camel beauty show takes place, the road goes on for several kilometers into the desert. Some of the Arabian Gulf’s prettiest camels walk its path, beautifully dressed up in gold and silver as they travel to or return from the competitions. Their owners and keepers are always with them, driving around in four-wheel-drives, music blasting and occasionally dancing around the camels if they won one of the top places in the camel "mazeyna", or beauty contest.

To one side of the Million Street, camel camps stretch as far as the eye can see. Usually, each camp has a large tent majlis for receiving guests, flanked by the flags of the country of the owner. Emirati, followed by Qatari and Saudi seemed to make the large majority of campers.

"Camping at Al Dhafra Festival is free of charge. Camel owners have to register first, then they are allocated a space, but they don’t have to pay for anything. Even camel food and firewood is given at discounted prices," said Abdullah Butti Al Qubaisi, Director of Projects Management at the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee – Abu Dhabi, organisers of Al Dhafra Festival.

Some camel owners spend only a few days at the festival, returning home after their round in the camel competition is over, others stay for the full 10 days of the festival, enjoying the desert life and the great weather.

"We have everything here. At the back of the majlis there are tents for sleeping, and even kitchen and bathroom. The festival gave us a water tank and we have some water pumps to make running water. Look, I even have TV here in the majlis; we don’t like to watch TV in the desert, but I brought it for the kids, who mostly play games on it," said Mohammed Al Dhaheri, who came all the way from Saudi Arabia with 20 of his black camels.

Hamed Al Obaidly has his family camel farm only 60 kilometers away, in Liwa, but he is camping in Al Dhafra with 12 of his 60 red haired Asayel camels. "It’s beautiful here! It is like going back in time, the way the Bedouin life used to be. We are sitting with friends, sharing news, we cook here and at night we warm up by the fire with karak," he said.

One of Hamad’s camels just gave birth at the festival, and he decided to name the new born baby "Dhafra", in honour of the festival.

The festival will end on January 1st with the impressive Bayraq camel beauty competition, where the best looking group of 50 camels will win their owner AED1 million.

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