When you look for the number one polo destination in the world that offers horses, trainers and facilities of world class.
By Ane Bjølgerud Hansen. Photos: Dorte Tuladhar
A city of horizontal and vertical sand – Dubai is a glass city wonder in the middle of a desert and home to some of the most spectacular buildings in the world, including the world´s highest man-made construction, the Burj Khalifa. It is a luxurious playground for the rich with white beaches, spectacular hotels and enormous shopping centers. Summers are sweltering hot in this sandy land with average temperatures on more than 40 degrees Celsius in July. However, come October and the polo season in Dubai starts.
The place to go to see or play polo in Dubai is the Desert Palm. Actually, according to the best polo players in the world, Adolfo Cambiaso, the Desert Pam is “clearly the number one polo destination in the world”. The horses, trainers and facilities are world class, despite the harsh climate in the area. The managers and instructors at Desert Palm are among the top polo players in the world, namely Martin Valent and Matias Machado, both Argentinan.
“Here, polo players and riders of all age ranges, and players of all abilities are welcomed.”
No more than 20 minutes drive away from the centre of the busy city of Dubai, you find the club. A haven in the desert, with stables covered in Bougainvillea built in a Spanish style. During summer the whole place is air-conditioned. The atmosphere is multicultural, social and relaxed. Here, polo players and riders of all age ranges, and players of all abilities are welcomed. Novices and professionals alike can learn and enjoy the place. Club chukkas are arranged for members and non-members. The place offers the unique possibility to play on grass, something which was impossible thirty years ago when polo was played on sand here.
The stables include 25 livery horses as well as 45 riding school owned horses. All horses are kept in top condition. Regular classes start for children aged five years. The premises include two dressage arenas, a jumping course and five floodlit standard arenas. But Desert Palm is not only a polo estate and riding school, it also contains a boutique hotel and luxury residences. It is also the home for the Riding for Disabled Association Dubai.
The stables include 25 livery horses as well as 45 riding school owned horses.
The history of Dubai Polo Club
Ali Albwardy, the founder and owner of Desert Palm explains his original vision: “Horses have always been part of the Arab culture and I have had a love for them from an early age. However, it was neither Thoroughbreds nor Arabians that held my interest – it was polo ponies, which led me to play the game some 30 years ago. In 1993, the Dubai Polo Team was established and it was a dream of mine to have a facility where we could all come together, practice, hold international tournaments and position the UAE at the forefront of the international polo scene.”
“Horses have always been part of the Arab culture and I have had a love for them from an early age. “
Albwardy then managed to build Desert Palm with the help of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The ruler granted him land to build on. The premises have been the foundation for a wave of popularity for the sport: “To play on grass was a great achievement for our small group of polo players and an even greater achievement we have realized is spreading our passion for the sport previously undervalued in the Middle East,” Ali Albwardy says.
For more than a decade, the Dubai Polo Team has dominated the British polo scene.
Ali Albwardy is both owner of the Desert Palm and the patron of the Dubai Polo Team. This team has recently put Dubai on the global sporting map through their achievements. For more than a decade, the Dubai Polo Team has dominated the British polo scene. The players have won the Queen´s Cub and Gold Cup, the two most prestigious titles in Europe. Back in Dubai, the Dubai Polo Club hosts several international polo tournaments yearly, such as the Cartier International Dubai Polo Challenge, the UEA Nations Cup and Sunset Polo International. Albwardy´s two sons Tariq and Rashid play on the team.
Still, the big star is the before mentioned Argentinian Adolfo Cambiaso who is currently the best professional polo player in the world. He has been playing for the Dubai Polo Team for 11 years and has taken an active part in developing the polo scene in Dubai. Who knows, you might happen to see him train or play on a visit to Desert Palm?
During the reign of the present emir, horses have been put centre stage in Dubai.
During the reign of the present emir, horses have been put centre stage in Dubai. Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Emir of Dubai and Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, is himself highly involved in horses and equestrian sport. He is a successful endurance rider and owns the largest Thoroughbred breeding operations in the world. There are a number of important equestrian sports events held in Dubai. The most famous is the Dubai World Cub, a Thoroughbred horse race and the world´s richest race with winning prices at $27 million. It has been held annually since 1996 at the Meydan racecourse.
Polo is an ancient Asian sport stretching back more than 2500 years in time. The geographical origin of the sport is debated, but was most likely developed by Central Asian nomads and tribes. At the time of Darius the Great and Alexander the Great, polo is mentioned as a training method for the Persian cavalry. The game is recorded in numerous ancient Persian sources such as poems, statues and paintings from the 6th century onwards. Polo also has a long tradition and history as royal entertainment in China, and elsewhere in Asia. Numerous Byzantine emperors played polo, and several of them even died of injuries and exhaustion while playing. Polo was introduced in the West in the 1800s, after it being observed in the North Eastern Indian state of Manipur during colonial times. The British anglicised the sport and spread it further around the world. Due to its history as a sport for the elite and royalty, it is often nicknamed the sport of kings. Polo was, but is no longer, an Olympic sport. The name polo is reported to come from the Tibetian word “pulu” (ball). The game is played in 7 minute intervals called chukkas.