This is why the country’s rich heritage has stood the test of time

We find out how an annual hunting and outdoor sports event brings age-old Emirati traditions into the present.

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When we think of what life in the desert was like before the malls, skyscrapers and fast paced metropolis that we live in now, we think back to the ancient Bedouin tribes that once patrolled the dunes.

Back then, this was a land where man relied on his relationship with the natural world. It was a place where the stars provided compass points for navigation, where camels and horses were prized for transport, and where mastery of the falcon meant food for dinner.

While these may seem like archaic skills for today’s tech-directed world, they ensured man’s survival in an unforgiving climate and we owe a lot to them.

These skills from times gone by are something that the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (Adihex) will be bringing to the fore from 25th to 29th September.

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Each year, the event fuses innovation and tradition with four days of cultural demonstrations and exhibitions as well as drawing together enthusiasts in the fields of hunting, equestrianism and outdoor sports from all over the world.

From camel auctions to saluki beauty contests, horseback demonstrations and children’s workshops, the event, now in its 16th year, will explore why the Emirati connection to the natural world is still vitally important.

Future traditions

While the event showcases the best of Emirati culture to the world, it’s not just about having a global audience; it’s about keeping the connection to the past alive.

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Tina Al Qubaisi

“For the old Bedouins, this was their life,” explains Tina Al Qubaisi, whose riding school, Dhabian Equestrian Club, will be providing horse-led displays as part of the event.

“When they woke up in the mornings, their falcons caught their food and the horse was their transportation. Everything has happened really fast in terms of development here,” she notes.

“Everything children do now is based around a concrete jungle. We are in danger of losing a cultural connection with our traditions, and it’s very important to get children involved in keeping these alive.

“Shows like Adihex can help foster this connection,” Tina continues. “It’s about showing people what’s out there. I really do feel that there is not enough being done now, and we are in danger of losing our culture.”

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For Tina, the draw of Adihex is as much about teaching its visitors about the UAE’s past, as it is exploring how these traditions still bear a very important connection to the present.

“In Emirati culture, it’s important that children learn how to work with falcons, salukis and horses, because these three animals were revered by Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). What we need to remember is that these outdoor activities teach empathy, life skills, responsibility and fitness to children.

“People don’t realise that these kinds of experiences are something you keep with you forever, and are lessons as well,” she reflects.

“You learn that this is not just a bird you see on television, it’s real and it’s very much part of our culture.

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“That’s why we need to make sure that in the future, places like equestrian clubs and falconry schools are kept in the forefront and supported, so that they can make sure that people have somewhere to go and learn these important life skills.

“This is the heritage of the UAE – this is what we stand for,” she adds, thoughtfully.

“Getting back to nature with these animals is the best way to learn about them and keep these traditions alive.”

Need to know:

What: Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition
When: 25th-29th September, 11am-10pm
Where: Adnec, Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street
Cost: From AED 25, free for children under 12 years old
Contact: adihex.com, tickets virginmegastore.me

WORDS Camille Hogg

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