Traditional sports in the United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates, an Islamic and Arabic country in the Middle East, was established in 1971 by the enormous efforts of its leaders. Despite its relatively short existence, it has devolved its own unique traditions and costumes that are distinguished from the nearby countries.
As the case for any country, there must be a few traditional sports that are passed down from a generation to the next and each country must preserve at any cost for it is said before that a country with no past has no future. Listed here are three of the main traditional sports in the UAE and a brief explanation of each one.
One of UAE's oldest tradition is falconry and it dates to past times. It is not known exactly when falconry emerged but some history mentions assume that it dates back to 2000 years. In the old times falconry started as means to source for food, and it was to hunt hares and houbara mostly. In addition to that it was considered a way of life for leaders of the tribe and the rest of the tribe, it was done in the broad of day light and then later on it was the topic around the evening get-togethers. Furthermore, there was another companion that went hand to hand with falcons, which was the saluki hunting dogs, but saluki in addition to assisting falcons; it was mainly for hunting down gazelles.
A few might think that falconry is easy as it sounds, actually it is not. It requires a deal of patience, skill and courage to tame, capture and train a falcon. To protect this traditional sport and also to make sure that falcons were treated properly, a number of laws were laid down in sake of preserving this goal. The idea of placing trackers under each falcon skin with a unique identification numbers was established by Emirates Bird Society. This will help a great deal in tracking down the patterns of falcon’s migration and will open new possibilities of preserving this unique breed. A few years ago, an idea to issue passports to these birds was undertaken and was aimed at checking the illegal trade of falcons.
Today, falconry is an endangered branch of Dubai’s rich cultural legacy. Rapid urbanization in the UAE over the last few years has adversely affected the natural habitat of the falcons. Moreover, new falconers do not respect the codes of practicing this sport and also indulge in over-hunting. This has posed a threat to these beautiful birds as well as to the cultural offshoot of the game itself.
In order to preserve this sport for posterity’s sake, the UAE government is working in collaboration with UNESCO for imbuing falconry with the status of a cultural heritage across the globe and attracting more Dubai holiday makers for this reason.
In the traditional boat racing, long-boat races, although the boats are not quite as long as in the past, create an impressive picture as their tightly-packed crews labor at their oars, propelling their svelte boats through calm inshore waters under the appreciative gaze of spectators.
Traditional sailing races are held at regular intervals from October to April. Majestic wooden dhows assemble at the start line, evoking the customs and traditions of a bygone era. Competition is intense and great attention is paid to the preparation of the boats and their massive rigs. One major sailing event is the Mubarraz Island marine sports festival, held in December and organized under the support of Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Maktoum as part of their efforts to promote the country's marine sports heritage. Eighty 60-foot (18 m) boats from all over the country participated in the Dh 6 million 1998 race held over a 55-nautical-mile (102 km) course. It was decided that as from 1998 the number of nationals in each boat would be 50 per cent, to be increased gradually to 100 per cent by 2001. In May 1999, 157 43-foot boats manned by 1,500 crew took part in the Al Dabb’iyya sailing race,Finishing at the Abu Dhabi Corniche break water.
In accordance with the traditional nature of the event, the race was preceded by the national anthem followed by folk dance and songs presented by local heritage troupes. Al Sarab owned by Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan came in first, winning a cash prize, a gold model of a boat and a vehicle.
Thoroughbred Racing Camels are first put through their paces when they are about two years old. Initially the animals are trained to obey basic commands issued by the jockey. Then, a crucial two-kilometer gallop decides which have the ability for racing. To help build their stamina, the camels are made to run certain distances every day, which varies in proportion to their age. Recently jockeys were banned from racing and instead robots were used it their place according to human right laws.
There are two main breeds being raced, the Omani and Sudania which differ in color - the Omani being very light and the Sudania more of a tan color. Traditionally, a racing camel was fed on dates, honey, alfalfa, milk and seeds. They were never allowed to drink the day before a race and were prevented from feeding for the 12 hour prior to a race. With this type of saddle the jockey sits behind the camel's hump.
Camel-racing, a traditional sport, is extremely popular in the Emirates. It was originally staged in an informal setting, at weddings or special festivals, but now customized tracks have been built throughout the country where race meetings are held in the winter months from October to April, culminating in the annual camel race festival at Al Wathba which attracts entrants from all over the world.
Racing camel’s top speed 40 mph (64 km/h). Can run at 18 mph (29 km/h) for one hour or 7 mph (11 km/h) for up to 18 hours. In the Gold Cup that was recently run at NAD al-Shiba, the winning camel covered the 10 kilometers in 17 minutes and seven seconds (6.21 miles, averaging 21.76 mph). Because camels' humps store fat-not water- lean, streamlined racing camels have very small, almost vestigial, humps. Compared to an ordinary, run-of-the-desert camel, a racing camel looks like an enormous over-tall greyhound.
- "TRADITIONAL SPORTS ." www.grapeshisha.com. 2006. 20 May 2009 <http://www.grapeshisha.com/traditional-sports.html>.