American squad enjoy Emirati hospitality ahead of Abu Dhabi's hosting of the Special Olympics World Games
Special Olympics stars get early UAE welcome
American athletes enjoyed a taste of Emirati hospitality a few months early - as preparations gather pace for Abu Dhabi's hosting of the Special Olympics World Games next year.
The United States' Special Olympics squad took a break from their training camp to take part in a welcoming event held by the UAE Embassy in Washington DC.
A rich array of cuisines and traditions common to the UAE were on show at the get-together attended by more than 300 athletes, coaches and support staff.
The Special Olympics World Games will be held in the Middle East for the first time ever next March.
Organisers of the massive sporting spectacle are keen to ensure all of the 7,000 athletes, representing more than 170 countries, feel right at home.
During the visit, Emirati students from local universities and UAE Embassy diplomats shared various aspects of Emirati culture. Athletes had the opportunity to sample Emirati sweets, try on traditional clothing, and learn useful Arabic phrases.
"It is a wonderful privilege to share a small example of our culture with you," said Dana Al Marashi, Head of Heritage and Social Affairs at the UAE Embassy.
"We are even more excited to welcome all of you to Abu Dhabi in March, and for you to experience Emirati culture and traditions first hand."
"Many of our athletes have never travelled outside of the United States, let alone to the Middle East," said Chris Hahn, Head of Delegation for Special Olympics USA.
"The impact the World Games will make not only with our athletes, but with those in the UAE and beyond will forever change the hearts and minds of countless amounts of people."
The UAE is proud to work alongside Special Olympics to support people of determination, and commends the organization for its work to encourage inclusion and acceptance.