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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 26 April 2018

'Not everybody can shake the sword'

Competitors are preparing to showcase their skills next month in Fujairah's first-ever sword contest, with a total purse of Dh200,000.

Competitors are preparing to showcase their skills next month in Fujairah's first-ever sword contest, with a total purse of Dh200,000.
Competitors are preparing to showcase their skills next month in Fujairah's first-ever sword contest, with a total purse of Dh200,000.

FUJAIRAH // Contestants will be leaping around with blades in their hands and kicking up dust this week in the run-up to Fujairah's first annual sword competition. 

Swordsmen will gather over the coming weeks to show off their mastery of the traditional sword dances of the mountain tribes before the contest begins next month. 

The competition, an initiative of Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad, the Crown Prince of Fujairah, offers the top swordsman Dh100,000, a gold sword and a luxury vehicle. The total purse is Dh200,000.

During the contest, combatants will face off in mock battle with narrow swords trembling over their shoulders. 

Organisers are consulting elders and young swordsmen across the mountain regions to lay out judging criteria for the competition. "When they shake it, the sword must dance," said Salem al Zahmi, the director of the Crown Prince's office. "His Highness took to this idea because he found that the tradition started gradually to disappear. It is an old tradition, but not everybody knows it.

"Not everybody can shake the sword." 

Style points are likely to be a major part of the judging as ability to show prowess in this area will be more highly valued than fighting tactics, said Mosabbah al Mesmari, a member of the event's organising committee. 

"There is a way to carry the sword and we are not looking for people to fight as much as to show their capabilities in mastering the sport," he said. "It can be a dangerous sport so the aim is not to defeat the other party."

The programme begins with training and demonstrations at cultural centres in Dibba Fujairah and Masafi. Demonstrations will be held across Fujairah for the coming three Fridays, after which the best challengers will be chosen. 

The competition will then progress through four elimination rounds in November before the finals on December 10 at a site below the Fujairah fort. Emiratis and Omanis over the age of 15 can enter the competition, which is already generating excitement among enthusiasts of the tradition.

Mohammed Saeed, 30, from the town of Sha'am, said: "I love the sword. Yes, I love it. When I was a small boy I watched my father, by his side. I learnt without anyone telling me how." 

He insisted the mastery of making a blade quiver has not gone out of fashion. "This dance will not stop because it is a tradition." 

azacharias@thenational.ae