DUBAI // Rao Berenjian, who has been shooting arrows in Dubai for more than 20 years, fondly remembers when 250 archers would regularly compete in competitions in the emirate with equipment that was easily imported from overseas. The problem these days, he says, is that there is no national archery federation to promote the sport and to create regulations allowing controlled access to equipment, which is now being destroyed or returned to its point of origin by Dubai customs officials.
That situation is likely to be corrected within the next four months as a national archery association is established. The group should be able to set rules for importing what could be deadly equipment, a fact Mr Berenjian acknowledges. "I don't blame them," said Mr Berenjian, a co-founder of the Dubai Archers Club (DAC), of the customs agents. "The items are dangerous in the wrong hands. They have had some issues with air guns being misused and they have forbidden these items."
A campaign by authorities against dangerous items in recent months has included bows and arrows purchased by club members from international suppliers being confiscated when they reach Dubai. Imports of such items require prior permission from the Ministry of Interior's General Directorate for Criminal Security. As cinema-goers flock to UAE screenings of the Hollywood movie Robin Hood, local archers are hoping the prowess of its protagonist will inspire imitators to get out of bed on a Friday morning and head to Sharjah Wanderers Golf Club, the DAC's base since the 2007 demolition of the Dubai Country Club. Its membership has shrunk to 70 from 250 since the move.
The DAC have areas for beginners as well as target ranges of between 10 metres and 90 metres set up around the golf course. They also have three-dimensional targets including fake deer, bears and turkeys. Many archers cite movies such as Robin Hood as their inspiration. "It had been like a dream for me for a long time," said Jalal Mouris. "I had been watching these films since I was young and then one day, three years ago, I asked myself why I wasn't just giving it a try."
He met up with the DAC and was hooked after the first session "Some people do yoga - I find it gives similar [mental] benefits," he said. "If I want the perfect shot then I have to focus. It's an individual sport, it's about you." Officials are also doing their part to get young people interested in the sport. A comprehensive archery programme in public and private schools began in 2002, said Ali Jasim, the manager of UAE Schools' Sports Association.
A national under-18 team comprising the best young archers in the country has already begun winning medals in regional competitions, he said. A Dubai-funded scheme for the emirate's schools was also in the works, said Ahmad Abdul-Rahman, the project manager for the Prince Haya Initiative for the Development of Health, Physical Education and School Sports. email@example.com