The Al Saif Traditional Sword Competition concludes this week—Thursday from 5pm when the Heritage Village will be buzzing and Friday from 5pm with the final night of the sword competition—but the full impact of this event will last for a long time.
Notably there are several ways that the Sword Competition is revolutionizing tourism in the emirate of Fujairah.
The End of Slowly Slowly
How often one hears the saying: “You know how things happen in Fujairah—Shway, shway (slowly, slowly).” This mantra is given as a reason for indecision or an excuse for laziness.
In contrast, the amazingly successful sword competition has demonstrated that a new way is possible in Fujairah which is efficient yet in keeping with the resources and ethos of the emirate.
Envisioned and sponsored by the Fujairah Crown Prince, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Hamad Al Sharqi and coordinated under the leadership of Sheikh Abdulla bin Saif Al Sharqi, the Al Saif Traditional Sword Competition was pulled together in approximately three weeks.
This duo quickly brought together an able Organizing Committee that hammered out the rules for the inaugural competition, established a panel of judges, marshalled the media, oversaw the safety requirements and prepared the physical structures.
The area in front of the Fujairah Fort was cleared, a new road was laid, a car park established and an entire heritage village was created with cultural displays, a heritage souk, a cafeteria selling Arabic delicacies, camels providing rides, falcons drawing attention to an ancient sport, bull butting, varieties of dancing and even a horror show.
This interactive heritage festival has drawn in crowds of more than 3,000 people a day that has included cruise ship visitors in the morning and spectators to the competition at night. Added to this, Dubai and Fujairah media crews have filmed the event for a sizeable television audience that has enjoyed the proceedings each week from their homes. All this has been achieved with an army of volunteers who were captivated by the vision and who worked to make it happen.
Resuscitating the Heart of Fujairah
A major reason for the success of the sword competition has been the selection of the venue—against the backdrop of the stunning Fujairah Fort. This area has been renewed and the ancient building, lit up by spotlights each night, has looked spectacular and has been a place where people have loved to gather.
The staging of the sword competition over ten weeks has given people a reason to keep returning to the fort. This is in stark contrast to the quick one-off visits that tourists often make to the fort when they get off a tour bus to take a photo or simply snatch a picture from inside the bus!
For centuries the royal family and the people of Fujairah have lived around the fort and this defensive structure and its surrounding buildings have been the heart of their community. In the last few weeks the Al Saif Competition has brought the fort and the old village to life and the people of Fujairah and visitors from afar have been reacquainted with what is foundational to Fujairah’s identity.
In conversation this week, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Hamad Al Sharqi spoke of the fort’s iconic status. He said, “Each emirate has its own symbols. For example, Dubai has its towers, the Burj Al Arab and the Burj Khalifa…the major symbol of the emirate of Fujairah is the Fort.”
It is hoped that the Al Saif competition has forged a new way which might keep the Fujairah Fort in the centre of people’s attention. The newly created arena in front of the fort with its large grandstands should be increasingly used for concerts, plays, poetry recitals and a variety of entertainment and cultural presentations.
Rise of Heritage Tourism
Fujairah’s fort has been recognized as an example of fine Islamic architecture and being set on a hill, it is a visible reminder of the emirate’s rich history and cultural tradition.
In 2009, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, a UAE Supreme Council Member and the Ruler of Fujairah outlined a plan for Fujairah’s future which aimed at combining tourism with the showcasing of the emirate’s heritage.
The Al Saif Traditional Sword Competition is a fine expression of this vision. The Fujairah Crown Prince has taken an ancient sport, formed it into a competition and added a variety of cultural traditions to create an attractive tourism experience.
The innovative idea of aiming and achieving two Guinness world records along the way has meant that an Emirati tradition, practiced for centuries in the remote highlands, has enabled Fujairah to receive valuable international recognition and exposure.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Hamad Al Sharqi summed it up well when he said this week:
“We are Fujairah. We must be ourselves. We don’t have to copy what is happening in other emirates. We don’t have the size and the resources that some other emirates possess. But we need to do the things that reflect our landscape and our own unique identity.”
Final Al Saif Programme Events
Thursday 9 December 2010: The Heritage Village and displays will be active from 5pm.
Friday 10 December 2010: Join the Crown Prince and the crowds attending to watch the final of the sword competition and the presentation of prizes. The heritage displays will be open from 5pm with the sword competition to follow after evening prayers (which commence on Friday at 7.09pm).
Al Saif - Tel: +971 50 989 2000
Fax: +971 9 222 7183
More Information on Al Saif Traditional Sword Competition
Personal Website of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Sharqi
بطولة السيف Al Saif Traditional Sword Competition Facebook Page
Keeping Ancient Traditions Alive in Fujairah with the Al Saif Competition, FIF, 28 November 2010.
Two Guinness World Records Established in Fujairah, FIF, 27 November 2010.
World Records Add New Dimension to Sword Competition in Fujairah, FIF, 22 November 2010.
Dine Out at the Fujairah Fort and Cut Your Cake With a Sword, FIF, 4 November 2010.
Sword Competition at Fujairah Fort is Much More Than Swords, FIF, 4 November 2010.
Traditional Sword Competition Off to a Good Start at Fujairah Fort, FIF, 3 November 2010.
All the Details on the Al Saif Traditional Sword Competition in Fujairah, FIF, 25 October 2010.
Swordsmen Showcase Their Skills in Fujairah, FIF, 22 October 2010.
Al Saif Traditional Sword Demonstration and Training Commences in Fujairah, FIF, 20 October 2010.
Anna Zacharias, Not Everyone Can Shake the Sword, The National, 10 October 2010.
Traditional Sword Competition to be Held in Fujairah, FIF, 30 September 2010.
Take a Look at the Crafts
Check out some of the crafts to look at or buy at the heritage souq in this photo album.
See the Food
Check out the amazing prices and download the menu for the Fujairah Fort Café Menu from this link.
Some photos of the food available at the fort are in this photo album.
This article is also posted on the Fujairah in Focus Facebook Page.
Image: The sponsor of the Al Saif Traditional Sword Competition, the Fujairah Crown Prince, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Hamad Al Sharqi (right) and the Al Saif Competition’s Executive Leader and Coordinator, Sheikh Abdulla bin Saif Al Sharqi (left).