Al Gaffal Dhow Race in Dubai

Of the many events that lure visitors in hordes to Dubai, a landmark one is the Al Gaffal Dhow Race. Held every spring, the race was envisioned by the late Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid in the year 1991. Moreover, the much awaited event is held annually when the marine sports season ends. Also, the boat race fiercely operates along a 92-kilometre-long course to reach the finish line close to the Burj Al Arab.

History of the Al Gaffal Dhow Race

The Al Gaffal Dhow Race is organised by the Dubai International Marine Club and has indeed been granted a heritage status. Furthermore, it happens to be the world’s largest traditional sailing race. The Al Gaffal Dhow Race is regarded as an ode to the glorious maritime heritage of the Emirates. Many families in the Emirates consider that they have their roots in ancestors engaged in the pearl trade.

The ancestors were divers, pearl merchants or dhow captains and the race is a celebration of their lives combined with the history of the 7 Emirates of the UAE. Dubai is a cultural melting pot and people of as many as 200 nationalities have made the city their home. Under the circumstances, the Al Gaffal Dhow Race being the exclusive preserve of only Emiratis comes as a surprise since only they can man the boats with effective control.

The Race Defines the Emirati Identity

Dhows have played a stellar role in the development of Dubai. These boats go back ages and their use in the pearl trade made Dubai an important port where ships from all around the world would dock as they still do now. The large 60 feet dhows sailing gracefully through the shimmering waters as the sunlight falls on them are a sight to behold.

The dhows sail along a route steeped in the history of the Emirates. They are a wonderful sight sailing along with Dubai’s stunning coastline as a stunning backdrop. The race sets off from Sir Bu Nair Island and the boats sail east covering 23 nautical miles reaching the Moon Island mandatory checkpoint. Then, they turn towards the southeast sailing to the finish line at Burj Al Arab.

The route taken by the boats is the one that pearl divers would take on their way back to Dubai from long voyages out in the seas. Al Gaffal translates into ‘the return’ in Arabic. The race kicks off at 5:30 am and it ends around midday usually. It’s a joy watching the pristine sails of the dhows as they sail through the azure sea waters. One can also take a ride on a specially chartered dhow to get closer to the action.

Organising the Annual Al Gaffal Dhow Race, Dubai

A lot of effort goes into organising the Al Gaffal Dhow Race. His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai’s Crown Prince and The Executive Council of Dubai’s Chairman takes personal interest in the event. It’s under his direction that the Higher Organising Committee leaves no stone unturned in holding the race without any glitches.

The Al Gaffal Dhow Race is certainly a wonderful showcase of the Emirates’ tradition. It brings together the locals with only Emiratis being eligible to man the boats in the race, an important event in Dubai’s calendar. People flock to the shores to watch the white dhows as they sail through the dark blue sea waters. Also, they are a lovely sight and you are sure to reach for your camera to capture their beauty forever. The race honours the contribution of pearl traders to the rise of Dubai as an international trade hub. You can try out Boat Tour Dubai for a wonderful experience. Additionally, the city owes much of its present opulence to the toil and hard work of pearl traders. So, the Al Gaffal Dhow Race is Dubai’s way of honouring them.


Now that you know about this Dhow racing event, think about it while you are on a Dhow cruise in Dubai. So, plan your Dubai or UAE trip around the Dhow race event and experience the exciting Emirati sport. Choose Travel Saga’s expert transportation services to reach Dubai Marina and sail over the clear waters of the Persian Gulf in a traditional wooden boat. Get in touch with Travel Saga Tourism to plan your perfect vacation in Dubai.