Sport in the UAE

Despite only being established in 1971 the UAE has developed its own unique set of traditions and sports that are different from its surrounding nations. The philosophy of the nation rulers is that every nation must have a number of traditional sports that are passed down through the generations and cite the mantra that a country with no past has no future.

Traditional Boat-racing

Traditional boat racing involves boats called dhows; these boats have been used for centuries and were formally used for pearl diving or the transportation of goods. Modern boats aren’t as long as their predecessors but the sight of several boats crammed with rowers racing along calm inshore waters is always a crowd pleaser.  Dhow races are held during the winter season, and use 40-60 feet dhows and up to 100 oarsmen who use their physical strength and traditional practices passed down to them from their forefathers to raise the mast and slide down swiftly through waves. Prior to the races, sailors study the weather condition well to determine which track to take in the race as the time required to finish the competition mainly depends on the wind speed.

Today, major sailing events, such as Marwah Traditional Dhow Sailing Race (43 ft) and Abu Al Abyad Traditional Dhow Sailing Race (60 ft), both organised by Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club, see the participation of dozens of dhows crewed by young UAE nationals.

Camel Racing

This sport is based on the traditions of the Bedouin tribes who would hold camel races to mark an important social occasions such as a wedding, festival or the visits of sheiks.  These days camel racing is a well organised and popular sport that can attract huge numbers of spectators. A racing camel begins its training at two years old and to build their stamina they are made to run certain distances every day. Recently humans have been banned from riding the camels under animal rights laws. There are two main breeds being raced, the Omani and Sudania which differ in colour – the Omani being very light and the Sudania more of a tan colour. These days the sport is regulated by the Emirates Camel Racing Federation which was set up in 1992 to regulate and oversee camel racing events in the UAE and promote the event abroad.

Equestrian sports

Equestrian sport is another well-liked traditional sporting activity in the UAE and is a very important part of the UAE’s heritage. Like their reputation in camel racing, the people of the UAE, both members of royal families and ordinary citizens, are famous for their horsemanship. The UAE is also home to many world class stables which contain large numbers of Arabian horses that are renowned for their intelligence, stamina, good temperament with humans and suitability for long distance endurance riding. The horse riding season in the country extends from November to March.