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Where Camels Become Beauty Queens: Inside Mongolia's Biggest Camel Festival

"Humps and hair. That's the scene in Bulgan Soum, a tiny Mongolian town in the middle of the Gobi Desert about 160 miles north of the Chinese border."

"Bactrian camels arrive in all directions on foot, bearing bundled-up riders wedged between their two humps. It's early March. While the sky is cloudless, the wind can pick up quickly. Officially called the Thousand Camel Festival, the crowd that arrives for the kick-off approximates 100 camels."

"The two-day festival begins with a camel beauty pageant."

"'Mostly young people participate in the Beautiful Couple Contest. But we wanted to represent the older generation of herders,' says lifelong herder Enkhbaatar Dashnyam. At 59, he and his wife, Dulamsuren Yunden, 47, have been herding all their lives. They rely on their animals as a form of transport, and sell products from their wool and milk."

"The judges are looking for earmarks of tradition; contestants who wear herding decorations and utensils will have a better chance of winning. Both members of this husband and wife duo wear leather boots with upturned tips and fur hats. Enkhbaatar's belt is slung with an ornate knife and a silver bowl."


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