x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Fujairah in double Guinness World Record bid

The emirate has extended an invitation to the Guinness World Records to witness an attempt at the world's highest sword throw and largest yolla dance.

A traditional dance prior to the start of competition in Fujariah earlier this month.
A traditional dance prior to the start of competition in Fujariah earlier this month.

FUJAIRAH // A young Fujairah swordsman will set a Guinness World Record on Friday for the world's highest sword throw.

It will be the first time the height of a sword thrown into the air and caught by its handle will have been measured for an entry into the record books.

The invitation to the Guinness World Records was extended by the committee of the Al Saif Traditional Sword Competition, which is in its first year.

"Adding a Guinness Record will add value for the heritage itself and that is one of the main reasons why the sword competition was launched," said Sheikh Abdulla bin Saif Al Sharqi, the director of the organising committee.

Hazza Sulaiman al Shehhi, 18, from Dibba al Fujairah, was selected by the competition judges to represent Fujairah for his style and unparalleled technique.

"There is a noticeable difference in how he handles his sword," said Sheikh Abdulla. "Some other people might go higher with their swords but at catching the sword in the right way he's the best according to our criteria."

Mr al Shehhi was recently eliminated by text voting from the ongoing competition, despite qualifying as one of the final 32 contestants and earning the judges' best marks.

"He's the best, but because we are linked to SMS voting system and the judges only have 30 per cent of the marks, he didn't get the chance," said Sheikh Abdulla .

Friday is a second chance for the young swordsman to prove his strength to the world. He will have three throws to set a world record.

"It comes from inside, I just understand the sword," said Mr al Shehhi, who hopes to work as a police officer. "I know where it will go and how it will fall.

"I've done it since I was a boy when my father taught me. I do it at every wedding, maybe once or twice a week. We do it in the mountains or the city, everywhere. It is something for all the Shehhi and Hebsy men."

The sword for the world record must be at least 70cm long. Mr al Shehhi has just the blade for the job - his eight-year-old favourite, passed down from his father. Most of his collection comes from the old market of Ras al Khaimah.

"I have many swords, maybe 20," said Mr al Shehhi. "I have broken too many in dance."

The sword competition committee spent weeks perfecting their proposal to the Guinness World Record organisation.

"It was a little bit of a headache for us to come up with a way to measure the height accurately in centimetres," said Sheikh Abdulla. "We submitted three options for them and by Monday they will reply."

Height could be measured by GPS tracking, by horizontal lasers or by balloons set at one metre intervals. Many tosses reach a height of 13 to 15 metres.

"Since when did the human being start using the sword? Since forever," said Ali Yaeesh, a member of part of the organisation committee. "The sword was named for heroes and used for bloody things over the ages. Now we are documenting it as something positive and a piece of beautiful heritage. I believe that in itself is a record."

It may not be the only record set on Friday. While swordsmen pair off in mock battles in competition, the theatre will open to dancers' tribal entourages in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest yolla dance.

Dancers will include the 83 competitors from the sword competition, the 50 professional dancers and musicians who accompany them and the competition organisers. Visitors familiar with the dance, which features spinning toy rifles and blades, will be welcome to join the celebration and help set the record.

The festival takes place at the Fujairah Fort from 4pm onwards. The competition will follow evening prayers.

Fujairah is hoping to take the title of largest yolla from Dubai, which set the current record when 221 men from desert tribes performed a five-minute yolla at Global Village in 2008.

A record for the world's largest khandoura was broken the day before at Dubai Shopping festival with a khandoura that measured 24.96 metres and was tailored in just 12 days.

While desert tribes perform the yolla with toy rifles, people from the mountains often opt for the quivering blade, which promises to set this event apart.

 

azacharias@thenational.ae