In Saudi Arabia, twelve camels have been banned from a beauty contest.
Because they’ve had plastic surgery: Botox injected into their lips, nose, and jaw.
This is to give them a beautiful pout, droopy and full.
The camels also had surgery to make their ears more petit.
This is seen as cheating by the organisers, because it affects the camel’s value.
The camels may look beautiful when sold, but their offspring will not have the same attractive features.
But it’s okay to present the camel in a way that enhances their natural beauty.
To darken their coat with oil, to fluff up their hump with fine combing, to use hairspray to hold the styling and grooming in place.
These are acceptable, surgery is not.
The main reason for the cheating is the prize money on offer: 209million dirhams (around $31 million).
This is the annual King Abdulaziz camel festival.
Over 300,000 visitors come to see thousands of camels compete in the beauty pageant.
The man who began the festival was Rames Saleh, he is known as the camel king.
Rames loves camels, he has been married sixteen times, twice in honour of his camels.
He says of the festival “When I started it everyone laughed. They’re not laughing now.”
However, Rames has a rival for the title.
Nasser Mersan is a multi-millionaire who builds petro-chemical refineries.
When he arrives at the festival, he erects a sixteen thousand square foot marquee.
It’s complete with chandeliers, golden Persian rugs, golden curtains, golden ‘thrones’ for 150 guests, 45 staff to serve them, and two massive screens to watch the proceedings.
This year he is expected to win, as he paid 9 million dirhams for a very beautiful camel.
Each of the seventy camels he enters will be dressed exquisitely.
They will be outfitted by the queen of camel wear, Umem Khalid, who will dress them in a rhinestone motif of green swords and palm trees, costing a thousand dirhams each.
The most popular camels in the festival have a fan base and their own hashtags on twitter, where their followers can write poems about them.
If this seems strange, consider what we do.
Annually, we have many huge festivals dedicated to prizes for advertising.
The little messages that interrupt us when we’re doing something else, like browsing on our laptops or mobile phones.
To enter these festivals costs thousands of pounds.
The people who run these festivals are rich and influential.
Careers, and fortunes, are made over who wins these awards.
We are approaching the time when the entire advertising world gathers on a beach in the South of France.
They sit in the sun to tan, and drink wine, and eat, and gossip.
All the talk is about who will win which award.
Some people will produce fake advertisements so that they can win an award.
Some will even create, and fund, clients and media and pay for the ‘advertisements’ to run.
They will proudly show off to each other their awards.
Of course, just like the camel show, none of this has anything to do with the outside world.
No one outside this circle of people cares.
Because none of it is real.
It is the equivalent of a camel beauty parade.
But somewhere there exists the original purpose of what it was all supposed to be about.
Somewhere a long way away from the champagne and little gold statues.
Somewhere called the real world.
Where real people live.