under Far from modern Dubai skyscrapers and SUVs, the sun under the scorching sun was enthusiastic about hundreds of enthusiasts traveling to the Gulf waters on traditional wooden boats to preserve ancient heritage. 118 teams compete with dhows around Saabnea, a tear-shaped island about 100 km (60 miles) from both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, two of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. rice field. .. “I started about 10 years ago with my father and brother when I was 23,” one of the sailors, Abdullah Almeiri, told AFP under the setting sun.

He explored the rugged waters with 11 crew members and participated in the tough annual tournament, the Alga Faldaow Race, which lasts from early morning to early afternoon. On one dhow, a crew member in a white robe unfolded a white sail, pulled a rope at arm length, and scrambled a giant cloth to balance it in the wind. For Mheiri, participation is his way of paying homage to his heritage-Al-Gaffal refers to the fishermen returning to the Dubai coast after going out to sea.

Seafarers participate in the annual long-distance dhow sailing race known as Argaffal, which is held near the island of Saab Nuea for the Emirate of the Gulf of Dubai.

“Obligation” of environmental protection

Like many of the Gulf before the discovery of oil, the settlements that now make up the United Arab Emirates, including Dubai, focus primarily on maritime activities, especially pearl harvesting using the once ubiquitous dhows. It was formed. However, with the establishment of the Federation in 1971 and the arrival of oil-led development, the UAE’s economic activity expanded rapidly, making it the second largest in the Arab world after Saudi Arabia.

Despite its relatively low oil wealth compared to its neighbors, the Emirate of Dubai has made a remarkable rise and has taken advantage of its strategic location to transform into a financial, air travel and tourism center. .. But apart from social media influencers and the fluttering of luxury skyscrapers, Mheiri prefers the quiet rest found in the open ocean.

He believes that the starting point of the race, Sir Bu Nea, is ideal as it is also home to the nature reserve. “We have lived with the sea for hundreds of years,” he said. “It is a duty to protect the environment.” According to the United Nations cultural institution UNESCO, the island is “one of the most important damai nesting sites in the entire Arabian Gulf and the most important place in the United Arab Emirates.” “.

Preservation of heritage is essential for the organizers of Argaffal, who have sought to set an example on competing yachts without engines. “One of the most important messages we send is to pass on this heritage from generation to generation,” tournament director Mohammed Alfa Rahi told AFP. “But the fact is that it also poses no risk to nature,” he added. “I don’t forget that Sir Bu Nea is a nature reserve that protects many types of turtles in the bay.”

A team of sailing enthusiasts departed on Saturday dawn, sometimes fighting the scorching heat as much as the sea. Their sails were lifted and the ship was winded like a white cloud floating across a blue expanse towards the Dubai coastline, where the nearby Burj Al Arab Hotel rises in the shape of a sail. – AFP

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