The Al Gaffal Dhow Race
Heritage & Culture
Can’t tell a dhow from a dinghy? We’ve got you covered. Here’s a comprehensive guide to the most highly anticipated event on the Dubai sports calendar, the Al Gaffal Dhow Race. Often called the most beautiful race in the world, it is a tribute to the pearl divers who scripted Dubai’s success story. Read on for everything you need to know about this traditional sport.
Everything you need to know about the traditional dhow race
Five interesting facts about the iconic boat race
It's vital to the nation’s identity
In a city home to over 200 nationalities, it’s rare to find an event reserved almost exclusively for locals. The fact that every crew member in the Al Gaffal Dhow Race must be an Emirati makes it a truly special event.
It’s supported by royalty
None other than His Royal Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Finance Minister and Deputy Ruler of Dubai, is the principal financier of the event. He has followed the race closely since its inception in 1991.
The vessels have a rich history
The traditional dhow dates back to the days of pearl diving, once a main industry in the Arabian Gulf. Many Emirati families trace their roots to the pearl trade, having ancestors who were divers, dhow captains, or pearl merchants. The race was established in honour of these divers, who played an integral part in the development of Dubai as an international trading port, allowing younger generations to keep the skills and traditions alive while paying homage to their forefathers.
The route has historical significance
The route shows off some of the most impressive parts of the Dubai coastline. Starting at Sir Bu Nair Island, the race heads east for 23 nautical miles to a mandatory checkpoint at Moon Island, before turning southeast to the finish line at the Burj Al Arab hotel. This happens to be the same route taken by pearl divers returning from long trips at sea. The term Al Gaffal translates from Arabic as “the return.”
There are two ways to watch the race
Starting just after 5.30am, the dhows usually arrive at the finish line before midday. Spectators can watch the crisp white sails from anywhere onshore, or get up close and personal with the race action aboard one of the ferries specially chartered for the event.
Find out more about the event at Dubai Calendar.
Dubai Corporation of Tourism & Commerce Marketing