Many people say Dubai is best known for its state-of-the-art architecture, bustling nightlife, expensive cars on every corner, and a plethora of luxury shopping outlets, but there is much more to Dubai than those things. Dubai has a long and illustrious sporting history, with several major sporting events occurring annually. Dubai natives, tourists, and sports fans from around the world descend on Dubai several times per year to soak up the incredible atmosphere generated by these sporting occasions. If you visit Dubai, you should catch at least one of the following events.
Dubai World Cup
The Dubai World Cup is one of the biggest and richest horse races globally. Hundreds of thousands of horse racing fans from around the world tune into the Dubai World Cup. Anyone looking for a guide on how to bet on sports in California will no doubt be told to add the Dubai World Cup to their calendar because it is a race packed with the best jockeys and horses on the planet, making it a bettor's dream.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum created the Dubai World Cup in 1996, and the race has taken place annually ever since. The Group 1 race is open to thoroughbred four-year-olds and up for Northern Hemisphere horses and three-year-olds and up for Southern Hemisphere horses.
Credit: Flickr/Jaguar MENA/CC BY 2.0
The United States Hall of Fame horse Cigar won the inaugural Dubai World Cup. Jockey Jerry Bailey also went on to win the 1997 Dubai World Cup on the Irish horse Singspiel. Only one horse has managed to win the Dubai Classic more than once; Thunder Snow was victorious in 2018 and again in 2019.
Two jockeys are tied for the most wins. The aforementioned Bailey had ridden four winners (1996, 1997, 2001, 2002), with Frankie Dettori also enjoying four winning rides (2000, 2003, 2006, 2022). Saeed bin Suroor is the race's most successful trainer, with nine incredible victories under his belt.
Dubai Desert Classic
Taking place at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai, the Dubai Desert Classic is part of the PGA European Tour. It was founded in 1989 and was the first European Tour event to be staged in the Arabian Peninsula, but it is currently one of six such events. Historically, the Dubai Desert Classic has had one of the most challenging fields on the European Tour thanks, in part, to offering massive prize money plus promotional payments to attract the world's top golfers; the most recent Dubai Desert Classic had an $8 million purse!
Some of the most established names in world golf have won the Dubai Desert Classic. These include Colin Montgomerie (1996), Ernie Els (2002, 2005), Tiger Woods (2006), Rory McIlroy (2009, 2015), and Paul Casey (2021). Norwegian Viktor Hovland won in 2022, finishing 12 under par and walking away with $1,333,330 for his efforts, the largest prize to date at the Dubai Desert Classic.
The Dubai Sevens is an annual rugby union event that takes place at the purpose-built The Sevens Stadium in Dubai. It was founded in 1970 and is the longest-running sporting event in the Middle East.
The Sevens Stadium has hosted the Dubai Sevens since 2008. This fantastic venue features six cricket itches, four netball and tennis courts, a basketball court, and eight rugby pitches; the stadium is a sight to behold. Rugby fans love the venue, with more than 50,000 fans turning out for the 2008 edition at the festival's new home.
Five teams have won the Dubai Sevens at least once: Samoa, Fiji, England, New Zealand, and South Africa. The South African teams have dominated the Dubai Sevens recently, having won five of the last six competitions, taking their total number of triumphs to a tournament-leading nine.