Preserving an ancient heritage in Dubai


Under a blazing solar, removed from the skyscrapers and SUVs of contemporary Dubai, a whole bunch of fanatics took to Gulf waters in conventional wood vessels, eager to protect an ancient heritage.

Around Sir Bu Nair, a teardrop-shaped island roughly 100km from each Dubai and Abu Dhabi, two of seven kingdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates, 118 groups raced dhows, the sailboats which have plied the Arabian peninsula’s waters for hundreds of years.

“I started about 10 years ago, when I was 23, with my father and my brothers,” one of many sailors, Abdullah al-Mheiri, advised AFP underneath the setting solar.

He had simply ventured out throughout uneven waters with 11 crew mates to participate in the Al-Gaffal dhow race, a gruelling annual match that stretches from early morning to early afternoon.

On one dhow, the crew, clad in white robes, toiled to unfurl a white sail, pulling at arm’s size on ropes after which scrambling for stability as the large cloth caught the wind.

For Mheiri, participating is his means of paying tribute to his heritage Al-Gaffal refers to – the return of fishermen to Dubai’s coasts after journeying out to sea.

An enormous obligation

Like a lot of the Gulf previous to the invention of oil, the settlements that now make up the UAE have been shaped largely round maritime actions, notably pearl-diving utilizing the once-ubiquitous dhows.

But with the institution of the federation in 1971 and the arrival of oil pushed improvement, the UAE’s financial exercise would swiftly balloon to change into the Arab world’s second largest after Saudi Arabia.

Despite sitting on comparatively low oil wealth in comparison with its neighbours, the emirate of Dubai noticed a spectacular rise, capitalising on its strategic location to remodel itself right into a finance, air journey and tourism hub.

But away from the flitting of social media influencers and luxurious high-rises, Mheiri prefers the quiet respite that he finds on the open sea.

The race’s place to begin, Sir Bu Nair, is right, he believes, as additionally it is residence to a nature reserve.

“We have lived with the sea for hundreds of years,” he stated. “Preserving the environment is a duty.”

According to the UN’s cultural company Unesco, the island “is one of the most important hawksbill (turtle) nesting sites within the entire Arabian Gulf and certainly by far the most important location in the UAE”.

Preserving heritage is important for the organisers of Al-Gaffal they usually have sought to set an instance with the competing sailboats, which aren’t fitted with engines.

“One of the most important messages we send is the transmission of this heritage from one generation to the next,” match director Mohammed al-Falahi stated.

“But the fact is that it also doesn’t pose a risk for nature,” he added. “We haven’t forgotten that Sir Bu Nair is a nature reserve that shelters many species of turtles” in the Gulf.

The groups of crusing fanatics set off at daybreak on Saturday, at instances battling the searing warmth as a lot because the waters.

Their sails hoisted, the vessels caught the wind, like white clouds floating throughout the expanse of blue, in direction of the Dubai shoreline, the place the close by Burj al-Arab lodge towers in the form of a sail. – AFP

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