Camel beauty pageants and races are important in ensuring that animals, which have been a vital part of the Emirati way of life for centuries, are valued for their true worth, a senior official affirmed in the capital yesterday. Since the inaugural Al Dhafra Camel Festival in 2007, the average price of a single Asayel (brown-skinned camel) has risen from about Dh30,000 to almost Dh 1 million, Salem Al Mazroui, manager of the festival, told Gulf News. \"This is an indication of how much we treasure these versatile animals that once provided our ancestors with milk, served as means of transport and protected bedouins from the sun and the cold with tents made from their skins. They made life in the desert possible, and through these annual festivals, we celebrate their contribution to our lives,\" Al Mazroui said. The fifth edition of the festival, which ended in the Western Region\'s Madinat Zayed yesterday, welcomed nearly 1,300 camel owners as participants in a slew of competitions, including the much-anticipated camel beauty pageants. Article continues below Prize money It is organised annually by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH), and this year\'s event saw prize money worth Dh42 million as well as 155 4x4 vehicles being offered for the range of contests organised. While races were held alongside the pageants, a falcon racing competition and a saluki beauty contest were also introduced as part of this year\'s 12-day event, along with the customary traditional souq, photography competition and date packaging contest. In addition, a Ministry of Interior Village was also organised alongside the event to familiarise residents with the ministry\'s different departments and their activities. The camel beauty pageants themselves were divided into 50 distinct categories, with each category catering to a specific age group or number of camels. The pageants were also different for Asayel camels that are native to the UAE and Oman, and for Majahim (black-skinned) camels that belong originally to the Najed area in Saudi Arabia. Yesterday\'s final encounter saw the winners being announced for the prestigious Al Bayraq beauty competition, in which owners entered 50 camels each for evaluation. First-prize winners in both the Asayel and Majahin categories were awarded Dh 1 million each. Entry \"Like previous editions of the festival, we have also seen record sales being made. In fact, many camel owners purchase the animals at the festival for entry into various competitions here,\" Al Marzoui said. According to official reports, the highest sale price recorded at the festival was Dh7.5 million for a Majahim camel. \"These prized camels are then groomed and taken care of throughout the year so that they are ready for entry into various contests.