Module 6: A sporting destination

abu dhabi module 6 - poloA sporting destination


For many people a holiday to an exotic destination is an opportunity to relax in year round sunshine, indulge in luxury hotels, and unwind from the stresses of life.

For others, a holiday is an opportunity to explore and enjoy new cultures, get up close to the history that shaped the country they are visiting, and learn about new customs and perspectives.

Or a holiday can be a chance to try new things –spend the day unwinding on the golf course, watch a new sporting event, or take part in a previously untried activity.

The great thing about Abu Dhabi is that all of these things are possible – you really can have the holiday experience that you are looking for!

Sporting activities are readily available in Abu Dhabi, thanks to year round sunshine, a fantastic infrastructure, the great open spaces of the interior, the beaches and turquoise sea that surround the coastal areas, and the history and culture that bring us camel racing and desert activity.

Discover the Desert

Desert safaris can be arranged through a number of experienced local tour operators. Those incorporating evening entertainment are especially popular. After witnessing the dramatic desert sunset, visitors can ride a camel, dress up in traditional clothing and have their hands adorned with henna, before settling down for a traditional Arabian barbecue and belly dancing performance.

Key facts

  • Abu Dhabi offers a broad range of sports – either to take part in, or to relax and enjoy watching
  • The large desert areas provide a chance to enjoy activities not on offer in most destinations
  • Enjoy ‘dune blasting’ in a 4X4, and try skiing down a massive sand dune, or take it easy with a Bedouin barbeque and a spot of belly dancing – all can be enjoyed in the desert areas
  • Fabulous golf courses, camel racing, hockey, mountain biking, mountaineering, rugby and horse riding amongst other sports can all be enjoyed in Abu Dhabi
  • Thanks to the long Abu Dhabi coast, 200 islands and fabulous turquoise seas, water based activities are also a great way to get active and enjoy the destination
  • In many ways the unique selling point for Abu Dhabi is the chance to enjoy so much – or to do as little as you want
  • Visitors will have the chance to relax, explore, and enjoy a spectrum of sports – the choice is theirs!

A popular option is to experience the novelty of skiing or boarding down a sand dune. Previous experience is not necessary as beginners can get the hang of it in no time. Safaris can also be arranged to the mountains and may be customised to include mountain biking, hiking or canoeing.

Desert driving courses are also available for visitors who want to pit themselves against the challenging terrain. Drivers are always given comprehensive safety training. The more adventurous can hire quad bikes and dune buggies to really feel the thrill of speeding up and down the dunes with the wind in their face. Again, full training and safety equipment is provided.


For the keen golfer, Abu Dhabi offers several options, with excellent clubs boasting world-class facilities and the bonus of ideal weather conditions all year round. Courses are either grass, sand or a mixture of the two.

The Abu Dhabi Golf Club by Sheraton ( features two 18-hole grass courses that will appeal to all levels of golfer; the Garden Course even has a floodlit back nine so players needn’t retire to the clubhouse when the sun goes down.

The Abu Dhabi Golf and Equestrian Club ( also has a floodlit nine-hole course set within a race track.

For a novel challenge, the Al Ghazal Golf Club (via has an 18-hole sand course. Instead of greens the course has ‘browns’ created by compacting rolled and treated sand to give a true putting surface. Al Ghazal hosts the annual World Sand Golf Championship.

All clubs are open to non-members and have driving ranges and golf academies with coaching provided by resident professionals. Their facilities include health clubs, swimming pools, tennis and snooker, as well as a range of eating and drinking options from casual sports bars to fine dining restaurants.

Traditional Arabian Sports

Camel racing remains a major activity in the United Arab Emirates and provides visitors with a thrilling chance to see this ancient and highly competitive sport at close quarters. Races are held at the Al Maqam Camel Racetrack just 45 km outside Abu Dhabi and Al Ain Camel Racetrack on Thursday and Friday mornings during the winter months, with additional races often held on public holidays.

To bring the ancient sport of camel racing up to date, race organisers are planning to use robots instead of jockeys!

Besides watching camel racing, visitors to Abu Dhabi can also enjoy the memorable experience of riding a ‘ship of the desert’ at certain heritage sites and on the desert safaris organised by Abu Dhabi’s tour companies.

Another traditional activity still practiced is falconry, known as the sport of sheikhs. Visitors can witness displays that illustrate the speed and precision of these regal birds of prey, and even have the chance to try the sport themselves.

Other land-based Sports

The list of facilities and sporting venues in Abu Dhabi is impressive by any international standard.

This includes the hotels – many of which are equipped with swimming pools, outdoor activity facilities, and international standard gyms and health clubs.

The sports and sporting facilities include:

  • Bowling – there are a number of bowling centres in Abu Dhabi
  • Climbing – particularly around Al Ain
  • Cricket – organised by the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council, and the Al Ain Cricket Association
  • Football – at various clubs throughout Abu Dhabi
  • Hockey – through the Abu Dhabi Hockey Club
  • Rugby – through the Abu Dhabi Rugby Football Club and the Al Ain Amblers Rugby Club
  • Running – both formal club running and informal groups

Set Sail

Visitors to Abu Dhabi are not limited to enjoying themselves on dry land. The area has a rich seafaring tradition, and today there are many opportunities for holidaymakers to take to the water.

A dhow is a traditional wooden sailing boat used for centuries by merchants and traders sailing the waters of the Arabian Gulf and further afield. The distinctive shape has changed little over the years, and the building methods have been passed down through the generations. Taking months to build, these hardy vessels can give over a hundred years of service. Those intended for tourist use come equipped with modern amenities such as satellite navigation. Sailing days can be arranged through hotels and tour operators.

There are a number of companies such as Al Dhafra ( offering dhow cruises and charters, and often the trip can be tailored to the wishes of the passengers. Popular options include a cruise along the Abu Dhabi Corniche, or a visit to one or more of the many islands situated off the coast. A buffet or full meal can be arranged.

Selling points

  • Abu Dhabi offers a huge range of sporting and active opportunities – to watch or to take part in
  • The fantastic facilities that most hotels offer give your client the chance to relax in style, and to do as much or as little as they want
  • This chance to do so much (or so little) on one holiday is one of the greatest selling points of the destination

As an alternative to a dhow, the Royal Meridien Hotel operates a double decker motor cruiser called The Shuja that takes evening cruises along the Corniche, or can be chartered by individuals or parties. Enjoying a fine meal and friendly atmosphere before watching the sun set over the shimmering water really is an experience to remember.

The Blue Dolphin Company based at the Abu Dhabi InterContinental Hotel ( offers a wide variety of dhow and boat trips including dinner cruises, fishing and diving tours. The more adventurous can even arrange to be dropped off at a secluded island for an overnight stay.

Underwater World

The waters around the UAE are rich in a variety of marine and coral life, and it’s possible to dive all year round in the warm seas. In addition to exotic marine life such as clownfish and seahorses, divers may be able to spot rays, moray eels, small sharks, barracuda, sea turtles and much more.

Many good dive sites are easily accessible from Abu Dhabi, including wreck or deepwater dives and reef dives. Visitors may also venture to the east coast to dive in the Gulf of Oman, and further north to explore the Mussandam Peninsula.

Abu Dhabi’s numerous diving companies can organise all manner of trips from recreational snorkelling to serious scuba diving and provide training from beginner to instructor level. Several hotels and resorts also have their own boats and equipment for guests to hire or borrow.

Gone Fishing Fishing is an increasingly popular pastime in Abu Dhabi, and visitors can expect to catch sailfish, queenfish, shari, kingfish, dorado and the local favourite hammour. There are regulations in place to protect fish stocks so it is advisable to arrange a trip through a licensed tour company. Many hotels also have their own vessels and all necessary tackle and will customise trips to suit guests’ wishes. Water Sports With the warm clear waters of the Arabian Gulf and the year-round sunshine it’s no surprise that Abu Dhabi is the perfect destination for water sports enthusiasts. Sailings, water skiing, jet skiing and windsurfing are all available either though beach clubs, resorts or hotels.


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