SPORTS

 

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As spectator or participant you can indulge any or all of your sporting passions in the UAE. Languid days by the pool or beach can be interspersed with a huge range of sporting activities, including adventurous exploration of mountain and desert. If you are feeling really fit, you can take part in the Abu Dhabi Triathlon or the Dubai Marathon.The choice of major international sporting events is endless, if you would rather sit and watch.

Camel Racing
This may be your only opportunity to view a unique sport that is an integral part of the heritage of the UAE. Camel racing takes place during the winter season (Thursdays and Friday mornings, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., from October to March) at special tracks around the country. The atmosphere is electric, especially during public holidays when major races for considerable prize money are held. There is no admission fee.

Al Wathba racetrack is situated about 45 km from Abu Dhabi City on the Abu Dhabi–Al Ain Road. Nad al-Sheba camel track, which has an impressive grandstand in the shape of a billowing bedouin tent, is located in the suburbs of Dubai. Sharjah, Ajman, Ra’s al-Khaimah and Fujairah also host camel racing. But the camel racetrack, located between Falaj al-Mualla and Umm al-Qaiwain City, is one of the simplest and most attractive. Check with your hotel or local newspapers for exact dates and times of events.

Check with your tour operator or local newspapers for exact dates and times of events.

Canoeing or Kayaking
Canoeing or kayaking through the dense mangroves that are literally a stone’s throw from one of the main thoroughfares into Abu Dhabi City is a rare experience that I would list as one of the most engaging things to do in the UAE. An environmentally-aware adventure company called Noukhada (02 650 3600) provides kayaks and guides. No experience is necessary and Noukhada also organize sailing and trail biking.

Car Rallying
Although Formula One is a relative newcomer to the UAE motorsports scene, rally driving has been an extremely popular sport here for many years, spearheaded by UAE citizen Mohammed bin Sulayem who has made the transition from competitor to administrator: President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) and Vice President of the FIA, Mohammed bin Sulayem has 14 Middle East Championship titles to his credit.

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is a week-long motor sport spectacular (cars, bikes and quads) organised by the ATCUAE in early April each year. Staged in its entirety across the demanding deserts of Abu Dhabi emirate, the Challenge is the season-opening round of the FIM Cross-Country Rally Championships and the second round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup. The Dubai International Rally, the final round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, and a round that decides the champion for the year, has been staged in Dubai in December since the mid 1980s.

Cricket
Top world teams regularly compete in purpose-built cricket stadiums in the Emirates. Check out Zayed Stadium, one of the world’s finest cricket grounds; Dubai Sports City and Sharjah cricket grounds.

Football
Football fans need not be deprived of their favourite sport since soccer is also the most popular national sport in the UAE. There are stadiums galore, including Zayed Sports City Stadium, the biggest sports complex in the Middle East. Check in local newspapers for fixtures.

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Golf
The UAE is home to some incredible golf courses and this list is growing exponentially with the inauguration in Abu Dhabi of Saadiyat Beach course and Yas links. Other popular golfing venues include the top-rated Abu Dhabi Golf Club, the Montgomerie, Dubai, Dubai Creek Golfand Yacht Club, Emirates Golf Club, Jebel Ali Golf Resort, Al Badia Golf Club, Dubai and Al Hamra in Ra’s al-Khaimah. Many of these world-class golf courses host major golfing events featuring all of the top players.
All the major golf courses have state-of-the-art clubhouses and a range of additional facilities, including quality pro-shops and dedicated coaching facilities with PGA qualified professionals.

The European Tour kicks off with the Abu Dhabi Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in January, continuing with the Dubai Desert Classic in February and ending the Dubai World Championship held at the spectacular Earth Course in Jumeirah in December. The Championship is the final round in the season-long ‘Race to Dubai’ in which the top 60 tour players compete for a staggering US$10 million prize fund to be shared among the first 15 players. The event replaced the European Tour Order of Merit.

A relatively new event on the golfing calendar is the Saadiyat Beach Classic, a celebrity Pro-Am, held shortly after the Abu Dhabi Championship.

All the major golf courses have state-of-the-art clubhouses and a range of additional facilities, including quality pro-shops and dedicated coaching facilities with PGA qualified professionals. All players on the main courses are required to hold an official handicap of 28 or less for men and 36 or less for women. Only soft spikes or rubber-soled shoes are permitted and conventional golfing apparel is mandatory (t-shirts with collars and tailored shorts/trousers).

For more information log on to Emirates Golf Federation


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Horse Riding
As you might expect from a country enamoured with all things equine, recreational riding is well catered for in the UAE. Lessons suitable for all abilities are available and desert rides are popular for the more experienced. Most enthusiasts have their own equipment but you can usually purchase or hire a hat if necessary. Rates vary depending on your requirements. Showjumping and dressage also feature strongly in equestrian activities in the UAE.

Emirates Equestrian Centre
Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club
Ajman Equestrian Club
Jebel Ali Equestrian Club
Sharjah Equestrian & Racing Club
Umm al-Qaiwain Marine Club and Riding Centre

Horse Racing
A love of horses runs in the blood of most Emiratis, especially a fondness for the classical Purebred Arabian horses that were stalwart companions for centuries. This passion is expressed in many forms, including horse-racing, endurance racing, showjumping, and polo. All equestrian and racing activities are supervised by the Emirates Equestrian Federation (EEF), which was established in 1996.

The racing season begins in November with meetings taking place at the Jebel Ali racetrack, Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club and the new Meydan Racecourse, The latter is home to Dubai International Racing Carnival fixtures including the lucrative the Dubai World Cup, which is held at the end of March.

The UAE Equestrian and Racing Federation has also built up a very strong infrastructure to support endurance racing, in which the courage and stamina of Purebred Arabians ensure that they are particularly successful. There are three self-sufficient modern endurance centres or villages in the country, including Al Wathba Endurance Village in Abu Dhabi, at which the carefully monitored and controlled races are run. Among the sport’s strongest supporters are many members from the royal families of the Emirates, several of whom regularly take part in endurance competitions alongside large numbers of UAE nationals and resident foreign riders and visiting riders from abroad.

Ice-Skating
In a country where the sun always shines you can enjoy an activity that is more typical of colder climates. The Olympic-sized Dubai Ice Rink is located in The Dubai Mall whilst Abu Dhabi Ice Rink at Zayed Sports City, Hili Fun City and Ice Rink in Al Ain and Ra’s al-Khaimah’s Ice Land can also provide hours of fun.

Polo
Polo Clubs in Dubai (Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club), Abu Dhabi (Ghantoot Polo and Racing Club) promote this ‘King of Sports and Sport of Kings’. Spectators are welcome at many of the major events that run from mid-October to April.

Watersports
Emiratis are at home on the water, sailing, and boating in general, having sustained the country in one form or another for millennia. Not surprisingly, the warm and usually calm blue waters of the Gulf provide great scope for a range of watersports and clubs throughout the Emirates provide superb facilities. Numerous hotels and beachclubs also offer sailing facilities for short-term visitors.
Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club organizes open regattas for sailing boats (catamarans, lasers, etc.) and windsurfers.
Abu Dhabi Sailing Club (ADSC) is part of The Club, Madinat Zayed. Temporary membership is available.

Dubai Offshore Sailing Club is a non-profit club, run by a committee of volunteers, where sailors of all abilities are welcome. It provides moorings, launching facilities, sail training as well as full catering and an active yachting and social calendar.

UAQ Marine Club offers great sailing in all types of boats. Waterskiing, windsurfing and jetskiing are also catered for.

The traditional dhow-racing season begins in October with the first heat for the 22-foot class at the DIMC. Races are held throughout the season for all classes culminating, in May, in the Sir Bu Nu’air dhow race. Keeping the age-old tradition of seamanship alive, a younger generation of sailors call upon their knowledge of local winds and tides as they set off from near the island of Sir Bu Nu’air in a modern-day re-run of the pearling fleet’s race home.
Organisations such as Emirates Sailing School in Abu Dhabi bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary sailing, imparting maritime skills and providing competitive experience for local youngsters. The clubs also run races for all classes of dinghies and yachts, with the Dubai Muscat Offshore Sailing Race taking place in November. International teams, including America’s Cup challengers, frequently train in the ideal local conditions and international competitions are often held in the UAE Dubai hosted the prestigious Louis Vuitton Trophy series in 2010 and the Volvo Ocean Race will include a stopover in Abu Dhabi as the new year dawns in 2012. Watercooled Dubai is a RYA sail-training centre providing powerboat, windsurfing and dinghy sailing courses.

Local knowledge has also been put to good use in powerboat racing, a watersports event that is far from traditional. Here Emiratis have excelled on the world stage, the Dubai-based Victory team being the most successful in the history of the UIM and WPPA Class 1 World Powerboat Championships.

Rock Climbing
If you are a beginner or wish to improve your skills try the indoor climbing wall at Pharaohs Club, Pyramids, Oud al-Mehta, Dubai www.waficity.com. If you are a competent climber and the excellent rock climbing routes in the UAE mountains beckon to you, staff at the Pharaohs Club may have information about informal groups who tackle the mountains on a regular basis.

Rugby
The expatriate community brought their love of rugby with them to the UAE and the sport is now played in a number of clubs throughout the Emirates. Major tournaments such as the Dubai Rugby Sevens, which has become a significant international event over the years, have also increased its popularity. The local clubs have become more professional in their approach to the game and Abu Dhabi's Club, a founding member of the Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union, is partnered with London's Harlequins, playing under the name Abu Dhabi Harlequins. Checkout Dubai Exiles RFC, Sharjah Wanderers Rugby Club and Ra’s al-Khaimah Goats.

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Shooting/Archery
Hatta Fort Hotel has supervised clay pigeon ranges and archery facilities.

Jebel Ali Shooting Club (www.jebelalihotel.com) offers pistol, skeet and trap shooting, as well as simulated laser shooting. Ra’s al-Khaimah Shooting Club will teach you to shoot with a variety of guns. It also has facilities for archery. Facilities at Umm al-Qaiwain Shooting Club include air conditioned and soundproofed indoor ranges, outdoor ranges and a ‘big gun’ range.

Snow Skiing
Ski Dubai in Dubai's Emirates Mall is the third largest indoor ski slope, measuring 400 metres and using 6000 tons of snow. Skiing, snowboarding and other snow-based activities provide fun for all the family.

Tennis
Tennis is another sport in the Emirates where the enthusiast can watch world-class tennis players compete. The Mubadala World Tennis Championship is staged in Abu Dhabi at Zayed Sports City Tennis Complex, whilst the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships takes place at Dubai Tennis Stadium.

If you are more eager to play than to watch, tennis courts are widely available at hotels and private clubs throughout the UAE. Many are floodlit to facilitate playing in the cool of the evening.


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