Thousands turn out for end of Al Gharbia Watersports Festival

The Al Gharbia Watersports Festival saw 5,500 people take part over the course of the event, with 60,000 visitors seeing the action and Dh4 million awarded in prizes to competition winners.

Emirati girls in traditional outfit, usually worn in their village by elderly women. Karim Sahib / AFP
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ABU DHABI // Thousands of people enjoyed the final weekend of the 10-day water sports festival in Mirfa.

The Al Gharbia Watersports Festival opened its doors to 5,500 participants over the 10 days, while 60,000 watched the action.

Now in its eighth year, the annual event, which had total prize money of Dh4 million, was organised by Abu Dhabi Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee (CPHFC) and Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club.

“We had very good wind in the last two days, ideal for both the 60 feet race [on Friday] and the 22 feet one [on Saturday], which made the races even more exciting,” said Obaid Khalfan Al Mazrouei, festival director and director of the heritage competitions at CPHFC.

Competitions ranged from rowing boats to traditional sailing boat races, as well as stand-up paddle boarding and kite surfing.

On the beach at the far western town, volleyball and football matches took place and there was also a heritage village with 45 traditional souq huts, an open air museum, children’s play area and a stage for live evening shows.

“The Marawah Dhow Sailing Race, which is one of the highlights of the festival, attracted 105 participating boats this year, nearly double from last year’s 68 boats,” said Mr Al Mazrouei.

“Year after year, with festivals such as this one, Al Gharbia is becoming an ever more popular destination, particularly for the heritage seeker.”