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Arts & Culture

Traditional Emirati sports to watch in Dubai

Fri, October 7, 2022

From falconry to camel racing, find out where you can catch the local sporting action in Dubai.

From falconry to camel racing, find out where you can catch the local sporting action in Dubai.


Marvel at skilled birds of prey

Falconry in Dubai

The traditional sport of falconry originated in the Arabian Peninsula as a means of obtaining food. Falconers would capture migrating birds passing towards the south at the start of winter, and tame them to use their skills as hunters. An integral part of desert life since the 13th century BC, falconry may be a local pastime, but you don't need to be a falconer to experience it.

To see the best birds in action, plan your trip in January to catch the Fazza Championships in the Ruwyya region of Dubai. This is the time when the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Centre hosts a series of contests highlighting Emirati sports, including hunting, shooting, undersea diving and ayala (a traditional Arab dance). Alternatively, book a falconry experience with tour experts Platinum Heritage.


Watch ‘ships of the desert’ in action


Camel racing is a must-see experience for all sports enthusiasts. This traditional twist on the typical race is incredibly popular in the Gulf region. In Dubai, there are several tracks where you can watch the animals in action, but the biggest one is the Al Marmoom Camel Racetrack, home of the Dubai Camel Racing Club. This is a short drive from the city, near the Sevens Stadium, and has hosted camel owners from across the UAE, and even some from neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The sport has evolved over the years without losing its traditional core. The animals are manned by robot jockeys while operators drive on the sidelines in their SUVs, honking their horns to spur the camel on to greater speed. It is quite the spectacle. Looking to get in on the action? Enjoy a day of camel polo with the experts at Gulf Ventures, or catch a free race during the winter camel racing season. And, if you want to participate, there are schools where you can pick up skills at the Arabian Desert Camel Riding Centre.


Catch some equestrian excitement

Horse Racing in Dubai

Horse racing is a prized sport in the region, and Dubai is world-famous for hosting some of the richest races globally. Time your trip for March and watch the majestic horses and their gifted jockeys battle it out at the annual Dubai World Cup, which takes place at the Meydan Racecourse. Another Emirati must-see race is the Dubai Crown Prince Endurance Cup, which attracts the créme de la créme of the sport – you may even rub elbows with the royal family. This event, which takes place at Dubai International Endurance City, showcases more than 100 of the best riders racing through the rugged 160km course. 


Hit the high seas with the pros

Dhow Racing in Dubai

Alongside desert dwellers, seafarers have played a significant part in Emirati history. Dubai traders would sail wooden-hulled dhows with traditional triangular sails for hundreds of years. Today, you can experience this at Dubai Offshore Sailing Club and explore all the activities the Arabian Gulf has to offer, including the opportunity to see some of the biggest racing competitions. The club opened its doors in 1974 with no more than a barasti shade on the beach and a few small sailing boats, but has subsequently grown to host some of the best sailing opportunities. You can catch much of the action from the shore during the winter season, from October to April, as young Emirati athletes carry on an age-old tradition of boat and dhow racing.

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