1 thought on “Chess in Saudi Arabia”

  1. As an aside to the tricky politics described above, I can add that I went just before Christmas to the Dhafrah Camel Festival, which is held every winter in the sands south of Medinat Zayed, on the road from Abu Dhabi to Mazaria in the Liwa. It has grown in recent years to be a huge gathering of camel lovers, townees with a love of their history, bedouin tribesmen, and representatives from many camel-fancying countries in the region. A couple of years ago there were perhaps a quarter of a million camels spread over the dunes, which were littered with expensive motor cars, majlises and camps in the sand as far as the eye could see, black tents, local craft fairs, Shaikhs flying in by helicopter and vast prizes awarded to the most beautiful, the fastest and the otherwise best endowed camels. A million dirhams is the prize for the most beautiful camel. It was a real slice of old Abu Dhabi life, which gave the Shaikhs a chance to hand out largesse and meet their people.
    This year, as I saw myself, the festival was perhaps a quarter of what it was before, or even smaller. The Qataris were not invited. The Saudis set up a rival festival which opened on 1 January, as announced by a Royal Tweet from Riyadh, and it seems that many others, including Emiratis, with that acute nose for the direction of the wind that all Arabs have, simply did not turn up. As a result, several Shaikhs stayed away too. A large industry had grown up catering for the Shaikhs who used to entertain lavishly in their encampments, but it largely disappeared this year.
    Politics affects camel fairs too!

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