ABU DHABI // Some of the world's leading female horse riders will compete in a UAE-backed 120-kilometre race in England next year.
The inaugural Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Endurance Championship will be held at Newbury racecourse, west of London, as part of the World Arabian Horse Racing Conference's (WAHRC) fifth anniversary celebrations.
The race was announced at yesterday's final day of the Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (Adihex).
Lara Sawaya, the director of the Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival, of which the WAHRC is a part, said: "Five years, five events. Three days of conference, one day of racing."
An extra fifth day next year will be the ladies' championship.
John Robertson, a member of the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) endurance technical committee, said the new race was a landmark event. "It's a first for the FEI, it's a first for Endurance GB and a first for endurance worldwide," he said.
The Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup will also be held at the conference in England, as will the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship. These events will have a combined prize of £100,000 (Dh574,000).
Ms Sawaya, who is also head of the ladies racing section of the International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing Authority, said: "This is our tradition and our heritage, racing is a part of our life."
It was also announced yesterday at Adihex that the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Darley Awards would be held in Hollywood next year.
Ms Sawaya said: "It's their third year and in 2014 will be in Hollywood on April 4 and 5. On April 4 we're hosting it where the Oscars are held and on the fifth we're having a big gala at Universal Studios."
Visiting Adihex yesterday were Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, and Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, Deputy Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council.
Sheikh Saif was briefed about efforts to upgrade authentic Arab sports to preserve the heritage and spread awareness about the hunting-sports culture and arts.
Among the exhibitors were stalls selling falcons, sweets, oud and other Emirati goods, including traditional canes, known as assaya.
Amber Home Trading, a shop based in Wafi City, had a stand selling the canes, costing from Dh150 to Dh1,000. The Wafi City shop has canes worth up to Dh10,000, said its owner, Ahmad Alwazhan.
"The price depends on a few things. Firstly, the colour - the canes are made from bamboo, some have natural colours and some are painted," he said.
"People like natural-coloured ones and they can be a lot more expensive, depending on the colour.
"The normal colours go from beige to black, but some are white or have tiger patterns. They can go from Dh150 to Dh4,000 - or more.
"Some other ones have gold, silver or diamond on them too, but they're different."
With such high price tags - it would be an expensive exercise to have one break. Mr Alwazhan said the bamboo the canes were made from was much stronger than ordinary wood.
"You can bend them in half," he said.
The canes, originally from Ras Al Khaimah, were traditionally used in war dances and worn to official meetings. They are still used in wedding dances, ceremonies and meetings, Mr Alwazhan said.
There are two main types of cane - one has a long arc at the top and the other has a half-arc. The latter were traditionally carried by sheikhs and VIPs, said Mr Alwazhan, and were imported from Oman and even Pakistan.
"Now everybody uses both types - they carry them around, use them with their camels and horses and in some dances. It's cultural," he said.
While Saudis and Qataris traditionally would carry swords, Yemenis would have khanjar daggers. Oman, being between the UAE and Yemen, had both assaya canes and daggers. "Every Emirati family has one of them, even if they don't use it," Mr Alwazhan said.
For video from Adihex, visit thenational.ae/multimedia