The most traditional local sport is camel racing, which takes place across the U.A.E. in Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain, Al Ain, and Abu Dhabi. The controversial use of children as camel jockeys is now prohibited by law, and robotic jockeys are used instead with operators following in 4WDs guiding them with remote controls. Races take place during the winter months, usually on Thursday and Friday mornings, and are free to attend. Ras Al Khaimah has the popular Digdagga racetrack; the location of Dubai camel racing is being changed following the closure of Nad Al Sheba racetrack. Visit www.dubaitourism.ae for the latest information on camel racing in Dubai.
And the Sexiest Camel Is . . . As part of an annual Camel Festival, Abu Dhabi's Authority for Culture and Heritage hosts an international beauty pageant for camels in late January/early February called "Ship of the Desert." Expert camel judges choose the most beautiful from among 10,000 camels brought from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Saudi Arabia in a contest worth almost $11 million. In recent years, 24,000 camels belonging to 2,000 owners have participated. Judges look at the contestants' big brown eyes, long lashes, and extra long necks as they choose who will reign above all others. The contest is meant to showcase the region's heritage, in which camel ownership has long been a sign of prestige among Bedouin society. To compete, the camels must be pure-bred and free of any diseases. And the best part is you can take home one of these beauties if you're willing to pay the price.
The Dubai Desert Classic is the emirate's preeminent golf tournament, which Tiger Woods won in 2008. The European PGA tour event, boasting $2.5 million in prize money, runs from late January to early February at Emirates Golf Club (tel. 04-380-1777; www.dubaidesertclassic.com). Admission is AED 175 per day, and tickets sell out quickly.
Dubai takes horse racing seriously, although gambling is not part of it. The Dubai ruling family has one of the world's best racing operations, called Godolphin (www.godolphin.com), which it sends around the globe to compete in the world's top races. Dubai's racing season brings top jockeys from Europe, the U.S., and Australia, and lasts from late January to late March, with races that will take place at night at the new Meydan Racecourse (tel. 04-327-2110; www.meydan.ae), with a seating capacity of 60,000. General admission is free. Dubai International Racing Carnival is a 9-week festival of top-class racing beginning in late February and culminating in the Dubai World Cup (www.dubaiworldcup.com), the world's richest race, which takes place in late March. General admission to the World Cup is AED 350, and tickets should be purchased well in advance.
The Dubai Rugby Sevens (tel. 04-321-0008; www.dubairugby7s.com) is one of the year's most popular social events, attracting tens of thousands of spectators to the new Dubai Rugby Grounds. Usually the last weekend in November, the Dubai Rugby Sevens marks the opening round of the IRB Sevens World Series, in which 16 of the best Sevens nations compete.
The Dubai Tennis Open (tel. 04-282-4122; www.dubaitennischampionships.com) takes place each year in February at the Aviation Club in Garhoud. The million-dollar event includes men's and women's tournaments.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.