Once the sport of kings, polo has been adopted by Dubai as the national sport and championed across the world by local tycoons, the Habtoor brothers. Each year, Mohammed and Rashid Al Habtoor take their prized stable of polo ponies and a host of talented team players to compete in the international circuit as far afield as Spain and Argentina. Their crowning moment in 2008 was their sponsorship of Britain’s most prestigious polo event the Royal Windsor Cup.
For Rashid, the Chairman of the Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club, it is yet another step towards popularizing the sport in the U.A.E. The club itself is the unofficial centre of the sport in Dubai. It has 336 stables, 300 horses and two international-sized polo fields which host games every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 3.30pm onwards. Visitors are free to watch the play from the field, bring a picnic or watch from the club terrace over drinks or late lunch.
For those with the yearning to participate rather than spectate, the club has its own Polo Academy. Whether you are a seasoned player or a novice, trained instructors will assess your ability and tailor your sessions accordingly. Polo is a physically demanding sport with a network of rules to navigate, so don’t expect it to be a trot in the park. But with some assistance on the practical aspects, even beginners can find themselves in the field competing against experienced players in no time.
At the boutique Desert Palm Hotel, renowned for its relationship with the Desert Palm Polo Club, you can opt for a leisurely approach to the sport if you wish. Every spring, Cartier host their famous International Polo Challenge at the Club’s grounds, surrounded by some of the most luscious green space in the city. Usually in royal attendance by Princess Haya, wife of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed and the President of the World Equestrian Federation, it is one of Dubai’s most exclusive events.
If you happen to miss the Cartier polo, then console yourself with afternoon tea or a Gin and Tonic on the hotel’s beautiful terrace. There you can watch the teams play every day (except Sundays) until May. Again, if you are keen to learn, ask to speak to the polo manager who will be able to rate your ability and create a programme especially for you.
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