A recent BBC news article describes how in the Middle East whole families attend beauty contests held in the middle of the desert. These, however, are not beauty contests as you might know them where glamorous models parade on a catwalk like in Paris, London or Milan. Instead, these are beauty contests attended by Saudi families who come to admire camels.
These camel beauty contests, also known as camel competitions, can be huge events which attract hundreds of families in the Middle East who all come to watch, buy or sell camels. This year the competition was so big there were over 28,000 camels being presented.
Owning camels in the Middle East can be a sign of prestige and wealth. This is particularly true if the length of the camel’s neck, the firmness of its ears or the colour of its skin are right making it worth more than $2 million in some cases.
At such a price, camels can unsurprisingly be considered a status symbol for whoever can afford one. As such, Saudi families fiercely bid against each other to buy the most beautiful camel on display in the same way Europeans might bid for a Van Gogh canvas.
Understanding cultural traditions like this and being aware of the impact they may have on individuals is extremely important when doing business in the Middle East. If your Middle Eastern colleague proudly tells you his brother or uncle is the owner of a herd of camels, it’s important you recognise this is as a marker of status and wealth. In hierarchical societies like Saudi Arabia or the UAE, respect is an invaluable asset shown to those with status gained through wealth or family connections.
This is just one Middle Eastern tradition that might impact your business counterpart’s behaviours and attitudes. A cross-cultural training programme such as Doing Business in the Middle East will help you understand a plethora of other cultural customs. By simply being aware of some of these cultural customs, your ability to build relationships with your counterparts in the Middle East will improve and your understanding of the culture will help you be more successful doing business in the Middle East.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2010