Time Out celebrates Rio 2016 by profiling the Olympic sports to try in Dubai, from handball to tennis, badminton to weightlifting and more
The 2016 Olympic Games is arguably the most anticipated event of the year. From Friday August 5 to Sunday 21, athletes from more than 200 nations will be competing for medals, attempting to break records and doing their countries proud.
And whatever it is you choose to watch, we can be certain you'll be inspired somewhere along the line to take up something new, or return to an old favourite sport. So whether you like lifting, throwing, jumping, firing or pretty much any other form action, we've got you covered with this list of where to try every single Olympic sport in Dubai.
Oh, and Modern Pentathlon isn't listed because it comprises fencing, swimming, horse riding, running and shooting!
Get ready to have an “oar-some” time at the UAE’s first-ever man-made white water rafting, kayaking, wakeboarding and surfing attraction.
The levels of fun will be turned up rapidly once you start navigating your way through crashing waves of an adrenalinecharged white-water rafting experience at the base of Al Ain’s Jebel Hafeet.
Whether you’re new to the activity or have dipped your toe in the waters before, you’re in for plenty of thrills and spills.
There are three different levels of whitewater rapids available and no previous experience of it is necessary.
For those with a sense of adventure, this is an exhilarating experience that is not to missed.
All raft trips include a professional guide, a short briefing on the essentials, and all the safety equipment you could need. With that taken care of, all that’s left is to make an almighty splash.
The best way to truly appreciate what life in the UAE was like before its meteoric rise from sand to skyscrapers is to actually experience it for yourself.
I’m not suggesting you grab the nearest camel and head for the dunes. There’s a better, safer and much more enjoyable alternative – an overnight stay at a desert Bedouin camp.
Our experience is with Platinum Heritage, one of the city’s best companies for desert safaris in and around Dubai, who have invited us down for the night. Based inside the protected Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve in Margham, Platinum Heritage specialises in plenty more than wildlife-spotting.
At first, the name of our tour package –Overnight Desert Safari – left my wife and I slightly puzzled. Would we be given infrared goggles to spot oryx, camels and other species? The reality is that there are only so many words you can fit into a title when a tour includes falconry, a safari, dinner, traditional Emirati dancing, henna, shisha, accommodation and breakfast with a Bedouin.
At the camp, guests hop straight into a board beautiful 1950s convertible Land Rovers and head off on safari. When there are no animals in sight, the driver puts his foot down and takes us on a bumpy but equally exciting ride, not exactly dune bashing but definitely adrenaline-fuelled.
We spot some Arabian oryx, gazelles and most amusingly, a sandfish – a tiny lizard-like skink, which our guide jokingly tries to catch, only to fall face first in the sand as it quickly “swims” underground.
We also learn about the medicinal plants of the desert, as well as the life-saving qualities of the trusted camel, essential for survival prior to the arrival of fast cars, caviar and air-conditioning.
At the base of a dune, we all clamber out, looking very much like a pack of tourists – after all, we’ve been fitted with shemaghs or ghutrahs, traditional Middle Eastern headdress that we get to keep as gifts.
The Platinum Heritage team have done a great job protecting us from sun on the drive. Now they add the Lawrence of Arabia touch to the selfies we all take with an amazing backdrop of rolling dunes as the auburn sun starts to set.
Next up is falconry, a fairly short display, which sees a few guests catch their breath as one of the birds of prey swoops inches away from their heads on its way to catch its meal.
As night falls, we head to the Bedouin camp, an open-air bazaar-like setting, with a henna stand in one corner and underground food stations in the other. These shallow rock wells were used to slow-cook traditional Emirati meat dishes. Just like the extra-tender meat that these ovens produce, the salads and mezze-style dishes that accompany are equally delicious. Stomachs full, we head over to the central majlis, where our friendly driver, Hajaj, joins us for shisha and Middle Eastern coffee. My wife and I listen attentively to tales of his upbringing in the UAE and its spectacular metamorphosis.
Lounging on comfy cushions, we’re treated to two Emirati dances: yola, where young men skilfully spin wooden rifles to the rhythm of the music and a woman performing khaliji – a folkloric dance from the Arabian Peninsula, more about neck and hair spinning than belly dancing.
With just the overnight guests left, I begin to truly take in the peace and quiet of the desert. We’re 65 kilometres from Dubai and there’s not a car to be heard, no flashing lights or bustling bars. It’s not even 9pm and I actually feel sleepy. Despite this realisation of how overstimulating life in Dubai can be, I chat to the mix of visitors until the lights go out at 11pm.
This proves to be a light lesson in desert living, as we totter through the sand towards the toilets, brush our teeth in the dark and then hesitantly find our way back to our modest Bedouin abode. No air-conditioning means it’s slightly stuffy inside, but we decide to leave the canvas “door” closed after overhearing the word “scorpions” several times throughout the day.
We wake up just in time for breakfast with a local Bedouin. With a guide as interpreter, he answers questions about his nomadic life and why the arrival of expats in the UAE “has made life easier”.
It’s a fitting finale to this crash course in heritage. The activities are fun and insightful, and it has have helped me appreciate Dubai’s past and present even more.
Dhs895. Pick-up from locations across Dubai, www.platinum-heritage.com.
Since it opened in September 2007, Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club has provided Al Ain residents and visitors the chance to enjoy its equestrian lessons, shooting, rugby and 18-hole and nine-hole golf courses. But that’s not all. The club also offers many activities to keep the whole family entertained, including outdoor pools, a gym, football pitches, beauty salon, tennis and basketball courts and even a climbing wall. And if it’s the shooting that really appeals to you, you’ll be glad to know the club is considered one of the UAE’s best in terms of Olympic and International Shooting Sport Federation standards. It’s perfect for beginners, corporate groups and experienced shooters alike thanks to its wide range of facilities, including a 25m pistol range, 50m rifle range and 10m air pistol and rifle ranges. Each of these is equipped with an electronic scoring system so you can challenge your pals and see the scores rack up. There are also four ranges for the clay shooting disciplines of skeet, trap and double trap. Pull!
Prices and times vary.
The fastest growing multi-participant sport in the world, triathlon is big business in Dubai.
But go into it under-prepared at your peril. TriDubai supports athletes of all levels and training sessions are free of charge to all levels. Since launch, they have fostered a brilliant community of 4,000 people, the most senior or which volunteer the time throughout the year to help improve technique and race attitude for all.
The team also hold seminars with elite competitors, as well as specialist camps which have limited availability.
Sign up at www.tridubai.org
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