x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dibba teenager sets sword-throwing record

Hazza Sulaiman al Shehhi, 18, sets the Guinness World Record on Friday for highest sword throw during the Al Saif Traditional Sword Competition in Fujairah.

Hazza Suleiman al Shehhi, 18, set a Guiness World Record for the highest sword throw at the Al Saif Traditional Sword Competition in Fujairah.
Hazza Suleiman al Shehhi, 18, set a Guiness World Record for the highest sword throw at the Al Saif Traditional Sword Competition in Fujairah.

FUJAIRAH // A young Emirati has set a world sword-throwing record, pitching a weapon more than 21 metres into the air and catching it.

Hazza Sulaiman al Shehhi, 18, set the Guinness World Record on Friday, with a height of 21.275m, at the Al Saif Traditional Sword Competition.

A second record was broken for the world's largest yolla dance. For five minutes and five seconds, 285 men danced with flashing canes and clashing swords.

"I really didn't expect the results to be so big and such a big celebration," said Tarika Vara, a Guinness World Records adjudication executive. "It's lovely that's it's got a cultural twist. We didn't expect such a celebration."

Mr al Shehhi, from Dibba al Fujairah, had three goes at setting a record with a sword measuring more than 70cm.

Before hundreds of tribesmen, sheikhs and a Guinness records adjudicator who had flown in from London two days earlier, he stepped forward, positioning himself under a 30-metre cloth banner that resembled a giant measuring tape. With a flex of his arms, he flung his sword into the air. It soared into the night sky before landing back in his hands.

"We set the minimum at five metres so I was expecting a throw of six or seven," said Ms Vara. "I'm not sure if the record was on the first, the second or the third attempt. To me they were all incredibly high."

A Leica Disto D8 laser meter recorded the first-time Guinness entry.

"At first I was very nervous," said Mr al Shehhi, who had a few spots of blood on his khandura and a bandage on his thumb from earlier practice.

"The third throw was the most exciting. My father and grandfather were watching. They are proud of me."

Mr al Shehhi was one of 32 finalists in the ongoing sword dance competition but was eliminated in a final round when he failed to receive enough votes from the audience, despite earning top points from the four judges.

"We can all throw the sword but he has a special technique," said his friend, Zayed Saeed, 18. "When he throws it, he's better than anyone. It was the same even when he was small."

With one record established, the audience readied itself for a second: the largest yolla dance.

Boys too young to participate watched from the sidelines.

Khalifa Saif, age five, watched with his brothers and nephews, who each wore the bullet belts they don for special occasions.

Khalifa is too small to yield a heavy sword, but participates in wedding dances around his village of Sukumkum by twirling his toy rifle between his fingers.

"He does yolla every day at home," said his father, Saif al Mazrooie, 35, who works at Dubai International Airport. "He is a little devil. But today he is shy."

Mountain dances today are influenced by the yolla dance of twirling rifles and flicking canes made popular by desert tribes.

At weddings, a frenzy of men will rotate in a circle and spin toy guns between their fingertips, slink to the ground with canes, and pounce into the air with swords.

Singers form two lines on the sides of this wild dance, raising their canes up and down as they provide the melody.

"In the old days it was not like that, only four or five people were inside dancing at one time," said Mr al Mazrooie. "Now everybody needs to dance."

For a Guinness record, every man was needed on Friday.

Dancers descended from steps below the 14th-century Fujairah fort and lined three sides of the arena with canes over their shoulders.

As per Guinness guidelines, each man wore traditional attire and carried his own sword, rifle or cane.

About 20 young swordsmen leapt into the circle of singers with their swords raised to imitate war, a mountain twist on the yolla dance.

Amongst them was Ali al Shehhi, a boy who had attended the sword competition each week to practise on the sidelines against men three times his age. It was his night to share the spotlight with his cousins.

"I am nine and a half years old. I have no fear," he said.

The dance had to continue for a minimum of five minutes to break the previous record of 221 men, set at Global Village in Dubai in 2008.

Ms Vara presented two Guinness World Record certificates to Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad, the Crown Prince of Fujairah, at the Royal Palace.

"Most of the participants are from two or three tribes," said Sheikh Mohammed, who sponsored the competition. "Inshallah, next year other tribes will start too."

 

azacharias@thenational.ae