Last Updated on September 13, 2021

In recent years, Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, has become a tourism hotspot and this includes for sports. The Dubai sports tourism market is thriving and includes some global sporting events such as F1 and football, but also some traditional events such as camel racing.

Sports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE

1. Dubai Horse Racing (World Cup and Winter Challenge)

One of the most anticipated and watched annual horse racing events of the year in the UAE is the Dubai Horse Racing World Cup.

The World Cup normally takes place at the Meydan Racecourse, a fantastic venue that was opened in 2010 and that includes lagoons, shorelines and excellent facilities.

Expect to see over four hundred of the best thoroughbreds in competition, but do be aware that no betting is allowed at the race track for the Dubai World Cup, as it is illegal to bet in the country.

Meydan racetrack’s full season normally runs from November through to the start of April and is the main track in Dubai.


2. Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix

uae-f1-grand-prix

From Dubai, it is well worth a trip to the nearby emirate of Abu Dhabi for the UAE F1 Grand Prix.

The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is arguably one of the best Formula 1 races on the race schedule, with a wonderful circuit and the weather to match.

The Yas Marina Circuit is one of the newest F1 circuits and one which winds around the marina and which, at just about 5.5km, is one of the most stylishly designed venues.

Getting to the Yas Marina Abu Dhabi Circuit

Getting to the F1 circuit at Abu Dhabi is not a problem as such.

As part of the development of the new circuit, a 12 lane motorway has been built to create easy access directly to the venue.

The E10 and E11 roads will take you to the circuit.

Tickets for the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix

Tickets can be bought in a variety of ways for the Formula 1 race in Abu Dhabi.

The best way though is to register with the official race site online for tickets.

Map of the Yas Marina Abu Dhabi circuit


3. Camel Racing

If you love sport and also have an interest in cultural traditions and seeing something different from what you might be used to, camel racing is something you should definitely consider watching.

Camel racing in the United Arab Emirates

Camel racing is a professional sport in many Asian, African and Middle Eastern countries and is especially popular in countries such as the UAE.

Camels play a vital role in Bedouin history and culture and they remain interconnected with the Emirates culture.

Just like in horse racing, the camels are trained and fed special diets and from the age of three, the camels are ready.

The main camel racing calendar is from November to April each year and, in each race, you will typically see between 20 and 50 camels racing against each other.

The biggest and most popular track is next to the Al Marmoom Heritage Village, home to the Dubai Camel Racing Club.


4. Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

Desert challenge in Abu Dhabi

Annually, in November, the UAE Desert Challenge is a 5-day cross-country rally that involves crossing some of the toughest terrain possible.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem is President of the Automobile & Touring Club in the United Arab Emirates and is the man behind the inception and continuing success of the UAE Desert Challenge.

Sulayem is renowned as one of the principal ambassadors of motorsport in the Arab world. He is a highly respected driver himself with a place in the record books that is almost unchallenged, winning more international rallies and FIA regional championships than any other driver in the world.

In 1991, Mohammed Ben Sulayem decided to set about creating the UAE Desert Challenge and, as its Chairman, he has devoted the same level of determination that made him a supreme rally driver in the Middle East.

Today, the UAE Desert Challenge is a phenomenal success, attracting competitors and spectators from around the world.

Over the five gruelling days, competitors drive trucks, cars and motorbikes and they push their vehicles and often themselves to the limit.

The race begins in Abu Dhabi with a ceremony and then the drivers head south into the desert towards Moreeb Hill Bivouac, which is near the Liwa Oasis.

The race is divided into stages and much of it takes place in the awe-inspiring Rub Al Khali or Empty Quarter, which is a vast sand desert, one of the biggest in the world. Courage and determination are needed to get through the terrain, complemented by excellent driving skills.

As a spectator, you can watch parts of the race and can share the exciting atmosphere by staying in tented accommodation in Bivouac, and by attending the Gala Dinner when the winners’ prizes are awarded.


5. Football (Soccer)

Soccer in Dubai, UAE

Whilst not traditional and as popular with locals as camel racing, football (soccer) is still extremely popular across the UAE with both locals and ex-pats living in the Emirates.

In addition to the 14 professional teams in the top tier of UAE football, there are a couple of leagues for expats and locals and these links can be useful:

In terms of the professional teams, The Arabian Gulf League (as the league is known)


6. Golf

There are roughly twenty golf courses in the United Arab Emirates and the best of these courses seem to mostly be located in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Golf is increasing in popularity in the Emirates and expect some more courses to open up in the near future.

Three courses I have played and can recommend are:

7. Tennis

In the UAE, you have the option between standard tennis and beach tennis.


Sports Exhibitions, Shows and Conferences in Dubai

1. Dubai International Horse Fair and exhibition

One of the big events annually in the Dubai calendar is the Dubai International Horse Fair.

Normally taking place in March of every year, this fairly new show gives the chance for everyone involved with horses to get together and build business contacts, make sales and to network. A variety of exhibitors attend including:

  • Horse care product suppliers
  • Horse food producers and suppliers
  • Veterinarians
  • Horse owners and riders
  • and people associated with many areas to do with equestrian

In the Middle East, this is the biggest festival and exhibition dedicated to horses and within the trade, it attracts a significant attendance. One of the things particularly good about this event is that space is dedicated to a show arena where some horses and riders perform and also a vets section and lots of interactive areas.

Venue: Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre
Dates: Normally March of each year
Who attends and exhibits: A list of exhibitors from past years has included companies such as:

  • Dubai Racing Channel
  • Horse Times Magazine
  • JPC Breeches
  • Royal Cavalry
  • Wintec (BATES)

You can learn more about the event from the official Dubai International Horse Fair website.

2. Dubai International Boat Show

Dubai International Boat Show is an annual event that, over the last 10 years, has continued to grow and now attracts over more than twenty-five thousand visitors and over 500 exhibitors each year.

Location and time

Held at the Dubai International Marine Club, the International Boat Show usually takes place in the first week of March, over the course of 5 days.

Normally sponsored by the Dubai World Trade Centre, this event is starting to attract some of the big manufacturers, accessory suppliers and boat builders worldwide.

As Dubai and Abu Dhabi develop, this event seems to grow and, with the real estate and million-dollar homes being built in this area, the boat show unsurprisingly is benefiting also.

Boat Show Exhibitors

If you want to exhibit at the event, there is usually space and opportunity. There are different display areas and display size areas available and prices thus vary. For prices and exhibitor information for the Dubai International Boat Show, you can email the organizers via: boatshow@dwtc.com

An example of the exhibitors you can expect to see at the boat show include:

  • Adriano Yacht charter
  • Techno Consult
  • Westport Yachts
  • Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board
  • Jastram Engineering Ltd

If you are involved in any way with the boating and yachting world, this is an excellent event for networking and doing business.

3. Abu Dhabi Yacht Show

The Abu Dhabi Yacht Show, or the ADYS, takes place on an annual basis at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre and Marina, which is also called ADNEC.

The show is conducted for three days during the month of February and is the first of its kind in the region. The Abu Dhabi Yacht Show is presently one of the world’s most luxurious industrial exhibitions of its kind and the show features a number of superyachts and megayachts that are available for viewing and for sale.

The skilfully crafted yachts that are on display at the Abu Dhabi Yacht Show are fitted with every possible luxury; the event has typically around 20 or 30 such yachts on display.

The mega and superyachts that are exhibited at the Abu Dhabi Yacht Show are all manufactured by the leading yacht manufacturers in the world.

These yachts represent the ultimate luxury machine on the water and combine safety and manoeuvrability, which make these yachts some of the most expensive seafaring crafts in the world. The event has been known to feature many yachts on display that are worth well over 200 million dollars and range in length from 30 metres to over 90 metres.

Every year, over 100 exhibitors are present at the ADYS, showcasing the latest innovations and luxury nautical services and products from their companies in individual stalls provided by the event.

Since there are many yachting enthusiasts in the region, this exhibition is always a success, and often attracts members of the ruling family from the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait. You can find out more from the venue here: Abu Dhabi Exhibition Centre


Where to Stay in Dubai

There is no doubt that luxury goes before the word hotel in most instances when looking at hotels in Dubai. Tourism is vital for the local economy and the government has spent a great deal of money creating a city that really is the state of the art.

The choice of hotels is as amazing as the sublime luxury they offer although prices in most hotels are surprisingly affordable when compared to the UK.

Meridien Mina Seyahi Resort

For example, for about £200 per night, it is possible to stay in a five-star hotel such as Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Resort and enjoy sea views. The hotel is on the beach, about a mile and a half from Dubai City and offers typical luxuries to be found in Dubai Hotels such as:

  • numerous bars and restaurants
  • outdoor swimming pools and health spa
  • a private beach
  • and satellite TV in bedrooms

>> Book the Meridien Mina Seyahi Resort Hotel

One of the priciest hotels is the Dar Al Masyaf Madinat Jumeirah, which is about 10 miles from Dubai City and 200 metres from the Wild Wadi Waterpark. This is one of the most luxurious of all the Dubai hotels and it offers outdoor and indoor swimming pools; a spa, a health club, gym and fitness classes; and a vast choice of restaurants, bars, and cafés. High speed internet is available as are conference facilities.

>> Book the Dar Al Masyaf Madinat Jumeirah

Within Dubai city there are plenty of good quality five-star hotels offering luxury accommodation for under £100 per night, such as:

  • Crowne Plaza Festival City;
  • InterContinental Dubai Festival City;
  • Metropolitan Palace Dubai; and
  • Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers.
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