Abu Dhabi Invitational attracts Pro-Am talent from all walks of life

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Credit: Emirates News

Abu Dhabi has hosted the HSBC Championship event since 2006 and in that time, has quickly established itself as a favourite for players and spectators alike, becoming one of the biggest on the European Tour.

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Rory McIlroy (courtesy of Emirates News)

The Abu Dhabi Charity Invitational is a Pro-Am contest held in the lead-up to the main event that gives the pros a chance to warm up and test their skills especially after the long break in December, while the amateurs get a once in a lifetime chance to tee-off with their heroes.

It’s also a chance to see how popular the sport is with the broader community, albeit the higher-net-worth end of it.

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Tim Henman (courtesy of Emirates News)

Tennis player Tim Henman says, “It’s magnificent for us to come from the UK at this time of year when most of the country’s flooded and it’s still raining and it’s windy and it’s cold and you come out here, the weather’s brilliant.”

The retired English professional  is also a keen golfer and was just one of the players in this year’s Invitational, teamed with world number 24, Thomas Bjorn.

Henman was delighted to get the chance to play in Abu Dhabi.

“The course just looks in such good shape, the greens are fantastic so it’s a real privilege to get the chance to play a course that’s set up for tournament play,” says Henman.

The tournament sponsor recognises it’s a significant tournament on the international calendar, kickstarting the golfing year and giving everyone a chance to see how the players’ form has carried over the holiday period.

“Everybody gets their rest during December and sort of brings it down, then because of the ranking points, especially in a Ryder Cup year, especially players want to get their year off to a good start because as we all know in anything if you get off to a good start its easier to sustain that throughout the year. I think that’s why it attracts the right level of golf,” says Giles Morgan, head of sponsorship at HSBC. 

But Abu Dhabi’s appeal is not only about it’s position on the golfing calendar.

“The course is absolutely world class and has been for a number of years, so they know they’re going to get a true test of golf,” says Morgan.

“The weather is always outstanding its not like playing in other parts of the world particularly on the west coast of America or in Europe where it’s obviously cold, so what’s there not to like? You’ve got wonderful hospitalty, a wonderful welcome, wonderful golf course, wonderful weather. It seems like the perfect place to play golf.”

Originally featured on Emirates News, 16 January 2014.

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Sportswear tailored to a cultural fit

Throughout the Muslim world, and beyond, women like to dress both for comfort and according to their moral code and while this choice is largely linked to religion and culture, a woman’s personal preferences will always play a large role in what she wears and how she wears it.

Yoga teacher, Joumana Saber, from Dubai’s ‘The Yoga Room‘ says ‘I’ve seen different religious women cover up in different ways as well.”

“Obviously it depends on the region you come from and what your faith is, you know in Islam there are different sects and in these sects women wear the hijab in different ways, also if you’re from a different country that’s also a reflection of how you wear the hijab.” 

Dubai-designer Sarah Sillis identified this need for individual expression in exercise wear and her modest sportswear line Saqueena is proving popular on the market. 

Her customer Khadijatou El Hamed, says “Even though I don’t wear a headscarf, I am quite conservative, so when I heard about Sarah and her label I thought, finally, I can wear something I am comfortable in and I can go out for walks whenever I want.”

A Belgian national, Sillis started wearing the headscarf a few years ago. She found that women who wanted to dress conservatively but also be active were finding it hard to find appropriate clothing to workout in.

“We want to empower you girls to go out and do some sports activities,” says Sillis, “which is good for your health and at the same time it also builds your community and you feel comfortable.”

Yoga teacher Nea Ferrier agrees that comfort is key and for her variation of Ashtanga yoga, this needs to allow great freedom of movement.

“I’ve taught in quite a few different countries, in Australia, in China, Japan, Russia, Turkey and now Dubai and I’d have to say what people wear doesn’t vary that much, people wear fitted clothing, normally, particularly for Ashtanga yoga.”

Her colleague Joumana Saber agrees.

“There isn’t an outfit really, but obviously something you can easily move in,” says Saber, “something that you feel comfortable in because you will break a good sweat so you don’t want something that will feel heavy as well.”

Image Credit: Saqueena

Sillis uses a variety of fabrics in her designs including cotton, lycra and viscose, with items selling for between 450 and 500 dirhams.

Customer Sabreen Mahmoud appreciates that the swimwear range comes in two pieces with a turban-style cap.

“She uses summery colours and the fabric is nice and not cheap quality so it makes you feel good and encourages you to do more sports, and to go out with friends and family to water-parks, like Wild Wadi, without having to be constrained to go on women-only days,” says Mahmoud.

For Sillis what started out as a swimwear line, has now become a sportswear range which includes garments that can be worn for badminton, tennis and golf.

Now the designer hopes to expand her line even further by breaking into other markets and selling her items online to customers further afield.

Originally run in Emirates News, 22 June 2013.

Dubai Dragon Boating

The 2013 Dragon Boat Festival was far from being just a spectacle. Competition was as fierce as the name would suggest, as Noni Edwards reports.

This year’s event at Festival City was the seventh time it’s been held in Dubai and its popularity is gaining.

It’s no wonder, with its combination of fun, sunshine and the all important team spirit.

Courtesy of Dubai Calendar

“It’s very fun because it’s a team sport. It’s the ultimate team sport, says one competitor. “It’s synchronized, it has to be together, you have to play with the whole team. One stroke, one sound.”

57 teams are competing this year over the two days, for titles in 200, 500 and 1,000 meter races.

Globally, organisers say it’s the second most popular team participation sport in the world, with over 50 million participants.

“Dragon boating has been around for the last two and a half thousand years. Originating from China, and here it is now in the UAE, says one team member. “It brings together different nationalities, different people of all ages, different abilities, and we’re having fun on the water.”

The UAE Dragon Boat Association was founded in 2006 but organisers say the sport has been practised in the UAE for about 80 years.

Originally broadcast on Emirates News, 13 April 2013