x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Adihex buyers take new hunting rifles abroad

Though falconry enjoys immense popularity, hunting is a pastime best practised outside the country.

ABU DHABI //Emiratis will spend millions of dirhams on one-of-a-kind and high-end hunting rifles and accessories at the ninth annual Adihex.

But almost none of those products will be used in the UAE. Though falconry enjoys immense popularity, hunting is a pastime best practised outside the country, exhibition attendees said.

"What hunting is there in the UAE? Zero," said Mohammed Sharif, a lifelong hunter and the owner of Al Qannas Hunting Equipment, a hunting supply business in Dubai.

"But hunting is the hobby of the nation," Mr Sharif said. "It is one of those activities that you don't know you love it until you experience it. Then you can't think of anything else you are more passionate about. All the Emiratis, they love this, but there is no opportunity here, so they go abroad."

Many Emiratis browsing the wares at Adihex, which included the industry's latest technologies, gold-plated shotguns and diamond-encrusted hunting knives, said they travelled across the Middle East, Europe and Africa to use their toys.

"This is for my son," Abdullah Al Hamad said while browsing rifles at the Al Qannas stand. "He and his friends, they love to hunt, but they cannot do it here in the desert."

Mohammed Arbabi, the sales supervisor for Al Hadaf Company in Kuwait, said most of his local clients used their purchases in Pakistan, Somalia or Niger. "People travel all over the world to practise what they love," Mr Arbabi said.

At the booth for Gulf Hunting Equipment International, Ismail Wasel said the company expected to sell about 90 per cent of its products during the four-day event. A Middle Eastern distributor of German firearms, Gulf Hunting provides guns for amateurs as well as experts.

"Here in Abu Dhabi, I think most of the shooting is just for sport," said Mr Wasel, the company's marketing manager. "Many people here like it for the fun, not for hunting."

Hunting and camping expeditions were more about the camaraderie than the thrill of the chase, said Mr Sharif, who counts Hungary and Austria among his favourite spots for a hunt.

"There is a brotherhood," he said. "It is about the conversation, the company, the laughing. It is an activity that almost everybody can enjoy."

Looking to capitalise in a growing market, several international safari and hunting trip organisers set up shop at Adihex, catering for the Middle Eastern client.

At the stand for Bahr el Jebel Safaris, the owner Thomas Banks said he had seen a steady flow of interested visitors, and he expected nearly a dozen from Adihex to participate in his South Sudan safaris during the next year. Hunting was not yet allowed on the safaris, but Mr Banks said he hoped to take gun-toters within eight months.

Adihex, an event aimed at promoting Emirati tradition and heritage, concludes today. Nearly 600 exhibitors from 28 countries are showing off the latest camping, hunting, equestrian and weaponry equipment from more than 500 brands. More than 100,000 visitors are expected to see the expo this year.

jthomas@thenational.ae