Experience UAE With These 8 Famous Traditional Sports

Famous Traditional Sports in The UAE

If you want to explore a country’s heritage and traditions, look no further than its traditional sports. UAE is well-known for its fun and diverse traditional sports, from Saluki racing to falconry to free diving. Tourists and citizens can partake in these sports to get an authentic experience of the country’s identity and culture.

So if you want to explore the true UAE, here are the famous traditional UAE sports you must not miss out on. 

8 Popular Traditional Sports in UAE

The UAE’s cultural heritage boasts a diverse array of traditional sports, including camel racing, falconry, and dhow sailing. These popular sports resonate with the nation’s proud legacy and continue to be cherished and celebrated today.

1. Falconry


Some sports are not just sports; they are art as well. And falconry is one such sport. Also known as the oldest traditional UAE sport, falconry began as a means of survival in the desert. Arab tribes have patiently trained their falcons to hunt animals thousands of years back. However, falconry gained prestige in modern times when the royal family became falcon enthusiasts. They imported several new falcon species worldwide, including Saker Falcons, Houbara Bustards, and Gyrfalcons.  

Today, falconry is revered in the UAE for the qualities it highlights. People believe it teaches patience, fortitude, courage, and honour. Nowadays, trainers patiently train falcons to show their skills by participating in competitions such as Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival, the Fazza championship, and International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition. The winners of these competitions win huge prizes. 

2. Camel Racing


Camel Racing - UAE's most famous traditional sports
Credits : dayoutdubai

It is no surprise that camel racing is among UAE’s most famous traditional sports. In the old days, camel racing made an extraordinary occasion more memorable. Events like weddings, festivals, or Sheikhs visiting Bedouin (nomadic Arab people) villages usually hold camel racing. 

Now, camel racing in UAE is an organised sport with many race tracks built nationwide. People can watch the race and even win prizes. The annual championship in Al Marmoum is the most popular camel racing event, hosting rewards worth millions of Dirhams and luxury cars. The camel breeds primarily used for racing include Mahaliyat, Omaniyat, and Sudaniyat. 

The best months to watch camel racing UAE are October and April. The most famous race tracks include Al Marmoom camel racing in Dubai, Nad Al Sheba racecourse, and Al Sawan. You can even try your hands at one of the camel sports, like camel polo, by visiting clubs in UAE. 

3. Horse Racing

Horse Racing

Horses were the dearest friend of the Bedouins, who relied on them heavily. They still hold the same prestige and heritage significance in UAE sports. Horse racing is one of the most appreciated traditional sports in the UAE. With the UAE’s royal family as the most enthusiastic horse racing supporters, people love horse racing. The Emir of Dubai and the crown prince are skilled endurance riders who have participated in and won many international riding competitions. 

The Arabian horse is one of the most sought-after breeds globally and is quickly recognisable by their different heads. It is also the most popular breed seen in Dubai racing competitions. The UAE has several equestrian facilities spread throughout the country. The most popular ones include Ajman Equestrian Club, Dubai Equestrian Club, and Emirates Equestrian Club. It also holds several prestigious horse racing competitions, including FEI World Endurance Championships and Dubai World Cup. 

4. Boat Racing / Dhow racing

Boat Racing / Dhow racing UAE
credits : thearabweekly

With a dry climate and deserts, you may wonder what an activity like boat racing or dhow racing is doing in the list of traditional UAE sports. Well, many popular UAE cities were once small fishing villages. Don’t believe us? Check out the history of Abu Dhabi or Dubai. These villages depended on the sea to make their livelihood, eventually developing great watersports, including boat racing.

Boat racing / dhow racing is done on traditional Arabian boats called dhows. Earlier, people used dhows for fishing and pearl diving. Now, it is famously used for boat racing. These boat racing UAE events typically happen between October and April in the winter. Annual watersport festivals in Mubarraz Island and Sir Bu Nair Island have traditional boat racing competitions for the viewers’ pleasure and the participants’ fun. UAE also offers a dhow cruise that allows visitors to experience the old cities in a show.

5. Free Diving

Free Diving

Free diving is another pillar of the UAE’s traditional sports. It goes back to the 12th century when pearl divers collected pearls to contribute to the thriving pearling industry of UAE. Divers used to spend weeks and weeks collecting precious pearls. However, the industry collapsed with the introduction of cultured pearls in the early 1900s, but the practice of diving never went away. 

Free diving involves diving underwater without using any breathing equipment. Today, people enjoy free diving as a recreational activity in the UAE. It also has a thriving base with people worldwide joining and competing in the free diving UAE competitions. Among these competitions is the Fazza Freediving Championship, which attracts expert divers across the globe. 

6. Saluki Racing

Saluki Racing in UAE

Saluki is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. During olden times, hunting trips were incomplete without a Saluki by the side. Saluki were best friends of the Bedouins, highly loyal and intelligent. Salukis are so fast that they can reach a speed of 69 km per hour. So it is no surprise that Salukis became a superb racing animal in the absence of hunting, and Saluki racing became a popular UAE traditional sport. 

People train them to participate in the annual Arab Heritage Saluki Race and win massive prizes. These races are typically held at Al Marmoom, Sweihan, etc. The races happen throughout the year and are a treat to watch.

7. Archery

Traditional Arab archery

The Middle East has a long history of archery. It is believed to go back as far as a thousand years. It also holds great significance for Muslims. Traditional Arab archery is described as similar to Mongol and Turkish archers. It uses a thumb draw for drawing a thumb ring to protect the thumb. 

Nowadays, archery is one of the popular UAE sports, with most sporting venues and even resorts allowing visitors to practise archery. The Jebel Ali Shooting Club is the best club for archery in Dubai. 

8. Shooting

Shooting UAE

With their long history of archery, shooting was an instant hit in the UAE. Initially, it was accepted as a part of hunting activities but soon evolved into a full-fledged sport. Shooting ranges are present all over UAE, with people participating in the activity. You don’t have to be an expert to try your hand at shooting. Popular clubs like Jebel Ali Shooting Club and Al Ain Shooting Club are open to all shooting lovers. 

In a Nutshell

Sports are an inseparable part of any country’s culture. And traditional sports are an enjoyable way of immersing yourself in a country’s traditions and culture. Falconry, camel racing, horse racing, free diving, Saluki racing, and all the other traditional UAE sports hold significant cultural value. These sports highlight the values the people of UAE have the closest – honour, courage, and patience. Get a glimpse into the diverse culture of UAE and enjoy an authentic experience with these traditional sports.

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Frequently Asked Question (FAQs)

What is the oldest traditional sport in UAE?

Falconry is one of the oldest traditional UAE sports

What is the most famous sport in the UAE?

The most famous sport in modern times in the UAE is football. As for traditional sports, Saluki racing or horse racing can easily take the top spot.

What are the 6 most popular sports in the UAE?

The 6 most popular sports in the UAE include football, cricket, squash, camel racing, horse racing, and tennis.

Which boat is used in the traditional boat racing competition in the UAE?

Dhow, a wooden boat, is used in traditional boat racing competitions in UAE. In earlier times, pearl divers used dhows to reach the deep waters. People also used it for fishing.

What are the traditional games of UAE?

The most popular traditional games of UAE are as follows. Ghoommemah (game of tag): The tagger has to wear a blindfold and catch players. Upon catching someone, they have to make the correct guess. Fashkhah: In this game, two people sit together with straight legs. A third person has to jump over their legs. The game continues with the sitting players getting further away from each other until the jumper fails. Carrom: Two players play a board game with 18 black and white disks and a red queen disk. They play the game until all the disks are removed from the board using a striker.

Krittika Barua
Krittika Barua Organized, vocal and everything in between. Krittika is an editor at Square Yards, passionate about weaving words with simplicity. She’s a dog lover obsessed with Microsoft Excel. Donuts cheer her up.
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