Time Frame: Pockets of Sand

  • Stephen Hendry watches Steve Davis play a shot in the Dubai desert before both players took part in the Dubai Duty Free Classic snooker tournament in 1990. Ted Blackbrow / Daily Mail / Rex Features

September 16, 2012

This week sees the start of the Arab Snooker Championship in Dubai, the first time the tournament has been held since 2009.

Snooker has been played in the UAE for a long time. The game was almost certainly invented by British army officers in India, who developed it from billiards.

There are various theories about the origin of the name, the most generally accepted being that “snooker” was military slang for an inexperienced first-year cadet.  Players who missed easy shots were called “snookers”.  Rules were drawn up in 1882 in Madras before the game rapidly spread across the British Empire.  It would have arrived here in the UAE with British forces, who were stationed in Sharjah and Dubai from the 1930s onwards.

Although this picture suggests otherwise, it was not generally played in the desert.  This is a publicity shot for the 1990 Dubai Classic, which was held in the emirate between 1988 and 1994.  Dragging the table out into the sands would have been no small task.  A full-sized snooker table has a slate base and weighs well more than 1,100kg.  The two players are six-time world champion Steve Davis (who won the tournament that year) and Stephen Hendry, who’s been world champion a record seven times.  The identity of the camel is not known.

* James Langton

Explore our pictorial history of old Abu Dhabi with the interactive map below, and see all of our Time Frames here.

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