While soccer is one of the most popular sports in the Middle East and throughout the world, it’s worth noting the region also has a diverse range of other sports. Have you ever heard of Oil Wrestling or Saluki Racing, for example? Those are two popular sports that originate from the Middle East.
Nonetheless, the following is a list of 5 sports that have their origins in the Middle East:
Falconry is a popular sport in the Middle East, particularly in the Gulf and is said to have originated there. According to experts from Wild Flight, a falconry company in the United Arab Emirates, the sport dates back 4,500 years ago in Central Asia and was only 2,000 years later as a sport brought to the Middle East.
Originally, falconers employed the birds to feed their families by hunting with them. During the seasonal winter migration, men would set out to capture falcons for four to five months, then teach them to catch prey during the second wave of bird migration.
In addition, falconers made it a point to provide enough food for their birds to eat on their own. The falcons would be released back into the wild at the conclusion of the season.
Hunting is now outlawed in Middle Eastern towns such as Dubai. Falconry has evolved from a means of feeding families to a sport, with domesticated falcons available for purchase from merchants with government-issued permits. Falconers teach their birds to fly from one team member’s arm on one side of a field to another team member’s arm on the other side – where the second team member stands with false prey.
Once released, the falcons use their hunting instincts to fly across the field and collect their reward. The falcon that accomplishes this in the quickest length of time wins the gold.
- Notable Athlete: At the Middle East’s largest falconry tournament, King Abdulaziz Falconry Festival, Athari Alkhaldi stands out among a sea of men and falcons as the first Saudi woman to qualify and compete!
2. Camel Racing
Camel racing, which originated in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Jordan, has a long and tumultuous history.
Camels are not commonly thought of as fast-moving animals, although they can attain speeds of up to 40 mph, not bad compared to 55 mph for horses.
Those who took part in the sport, in the beginning, employed camels from the area. Today, camel breeding is big business, with owners competing for financial prizes worth millions of dollars if their camels cross the finish line first.
In the Middle East, particularly in the United Arab Emirates, archery has a long history amongst known sports. Ancient arrowheads dating back thousands of years can be found on display at museums. For Muslims, archery has religious significance, which explains its appeal as a sporting activity.
You may practice archery at the Jebel Ali shooting club in Dubai. Archery practise and lessons are available at various resorts and camping locations.
4. Saluki Racing
Traditional hunting trips used to be frequently accompanied by Salukis, one of the world’s oldest dog breeds. They’re also some of the fastest, with top speeds of 65 kilometres per hour. Saluki racing is now a prominent sport in the United Arab Emirates.
Saluki races take place at racetracks all around the world, notably Sweihan near Abu Dhabi. Championship events, such as the Arab Heritage Saluki Race Festival, are also held throughout the country. Huge awards await the winners, just as they do in horse racing.
5. Oil Wrestling
The sport can be traced all the way back to the 1299 founding of the Ottoman Empire. Wrestlers are teamed up and their bodies are slathered in olive oil to play the game. The “Kispet”, or tight, knee-length leather pants, is their only piece of apparel.
To win, a player must either put his opponent on his back, hold him upside down from his feet, carry his full-body three steps without his foot touching the ground, rip off the Kispet, or exhaust the challenger until he quits!
- Notable Athlete: Ismail Balaban, a farmer’s son from the southern city of Antalya, won one of the most prestigious oil wrestling tournaments in 2017.
It is pretty cool to learn about sports that originated in the Middle East and are still practised today!