The Desert Challenge and Al Dhafra Water Festival…

Abu Dhabi has hosted some absolutely massive international sporting events in the past year, attracting the world’s elite cyclists, swimmers, jiu-jitsu masters, marathon runners, Spartan trail runners and those wild souls that actively choose to do triathlons. Beyond that, the emirate hosted multiple UFC clashes, and witnessed the thrilling, controversial climax of motorsport’s most coveted prize, the Formula 1 World Championship, at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

But Abu Dhabi also has some incredible, homegrown sporting events, unique to this area that still attract an international crowd, and two of them are happening this month.

Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

Already underway, this gruelling cross-desert race makes up part of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) and FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme) World Rally-Raid Championship circuit. Falling directly after the infamous Dakar Rally, this UAE leg of the championship winds through the monstrous dunes of Al Dhafra, across five stages making up a punishing 1,917km long trail. Competing in the event are, cars, motorcycles, quad bikes and trucks — previous participants in the race include Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz, Ari Vatenan and Heinz Kinigadner. The final day of this endurance motoring festival, now in its fourth decade, is on March 10, 2022.

Al Dhafra Water Festival

Taking place between March 17 and 26, centred around the Al Mughirah beach area, the Al Dhafra Water Festival takes place under the patronage of Hamdan bin Zayed. In addition to the exciting duelling sails of sea top racing, spectators can also take part in a range of family-friendly activities and shoreline entertainment. The event celebrates the UAE’s rich seafaring heritage, with opportunities to learn alongside the fun.

Images: Getty/Abu Dhabi Media Office