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Camels strut their stuff at colourful desert festival

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(20 Mar 2017) LEADIN:The camels of Pakistan's Tharparkar desert have been showing off some very fancy footwork. Camel racing and so-called "showboating" are just two of the events at a local festival celebrating the region's colourful traditions.STORYLINE:Strutting their stuff. Decked out in traditional finery, these camels are entertaining the crowd with some of their most intricate footwork.These animals are dromedaries, the one-humped species of camel found across the desert that forms a natural boundary between southern Pakistan and India.They are the headliners on the first day of the 'Thar & Parkar Festival 2017', a four-day event celebrating the culture of the desert region."Showboating" is an event where riders encourage their camels to prance and pick their feet up high - in a similar way to horse dressage competitions. The lack of a proper course or track causes a few stumbles for some, but no accidents.Shakhi Kumar, aged 60, is the proud winner of the showboating competition."I have been taking care of this camel since it was a baby. I trained him, fed him good food, and took care of this camel to the best of my ability. I have been going to festivals and showboating competitions for the last 43 years. And I have been performing and winning with this camel in various festivals for several years," he says. On day two of the competition, the focus is on desert horses - another animal steeped in the folklore of the region.The desert is famous for its tales of fierce locals who fought off foreign invaders on horses like these."People raise these horses like their own children. They train them. If you see how they walk or trot, you can see the difference. Sometimes they gallop like the wind and other times they trot in a majestic manner," says festival-goer Mukhtar Ali Soomro."Ordinary horses won't do things like this. It requires hard work and also needs a good investment. But these people do it because they love horses, and it is also a reflection and representation of our culture."The traditional craftsmanship of the desert and its unique culture are also on display, with stalls promoting local arts and crafts. A local artist is showing off work consisting of mechanically-operated mannequins dressed in traditional attire to showcase the rituals of desert life."The purpose behind this festival is to showcase the many colours of the Thar desert. The world doesn't know about the beauty and diversity of our land because many people can't come here due to security issues. We want to show the world the many flavours and colours of this land – our beloved desert of Thar and Parkar," says Syed Sardar Ali Shah, the Sindh province cultural minister, who was the driving force behind the festival.One of the distinctive sounds of the desert is its folk music, performed here by musicians including 18-year old Pancha Pakistani, who is blind. He says he learnt how to sing by beating out rhythms on his body. "I have been blind since childhood. I would cry while sleeping at night. Being a naughty kid, every time my mother would put me to bed, I'd bang my chest to rhythmic beats. All that practicing and singing helped me improve my voice and that's how I became a performer," he says.The festival is spread over four days and three cities and is a rarity in the desert region.It's giving locals used to the arid landscape and sand storms a chance to celebrate the area's colourful traditions and let their hair down. The first part of the festival took place in Mithi on 17 March and Nagarparkar on 18 March. The second part of the festival will be held on 24 and 25 March in Umerkot, Sindh.You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/you... Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork

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AP Archive 4086849 b29a254a8328805a21358c167a8a7f6c HZ Pakistan Camel Racing India Pakistan South Asia Animals Arts and entertainment Lifestyle Business
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