National Geographic : 2009 Aug
migrated one last time, from camel-hair tents to glass skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. roughout much of the peninsula the nomad came to embody two con icting ideas. At rst city dwellers---themselves hardly removed from the desert---regarded the occasional sand-dusted Bedouin visitor as a rural curiosity, a bumpkin who carried his possessions in a sack. But that image is now giving way to something more romantic: the nomad as the quintessential Arab, a symbol of freedom. e Arab who gives no thought to oil, but merely to food and water for his camels as he rides into the sunset. Rube or hero, he unavoidably resembles the American cowboy. And just as well-to-do Americans breed, race, and show their horses, so do Bedouin with their camels. e Arabian gentleman, like the American, spends his week- ends at his stables. He examines his animals, feeds them special food, showers them with a ection. He barks at them, then sings a song of forgiveness. He loves them. And he prepares, all the time, for fierce competition. The contest arena itself embodied the nomadic lifestyle, taken to its most luxurious degree. e Bedouin erected a multistory grandstand, banked with plush chairs and lined with big-screen tele- visions that featured live footage of the contest below, all in a tent. Serving boys ran about with tea and tins of burning incense that the men waved into the folds of their ghutras, or head- dresses. Outside, the helipad awaited the arrival of sheikhs and princes. e women spent each day shopping at a nearby suq, a market the size of a small town, built especially for the event. Bedouin camps dotted the landscape around the site, and with each dawn, participants would walk their camels to the arena. Row upon row of luxury sport-utility vehicles---more than 140 Range Rovers, Nissans, Toyotas, all prizes for Matthew Teague regrets that he has yet to ride a camel. Randy Olson has photographed numerous camels, but none as cosseted as these.