In Dubai, spring is a time for polo

In a country known both for its love of Arabian horses and for all things expensive, polo has risen from a niche sport to an annual fixture on the city’s social calendar.

Spring in Dubai means it is time for some serious chukkas.

Although the game of polo is usually associated with Britain or one of its ex-colonies, the sport actually originated in ancient Persia (modern Iran) around the 5th Century BC as a training game for cavalry units. It eventually became a national sport played by the Persian nobility before finding favour with royalty, the upper classes and nowadays, the rich and famous.

The sport still has upmarket associations all over the world, with multi-million dollar endorsements from luxury brands such as Cartier. This, together with the advanced equestrian skill needed, has seen the sport springboard in popularity in the modern UAE, a country known as much for its love of Arabian horses as for all things gold and shiny. Dubai is already home to the richest horse race in the world, and over the past three or four years, polo has risen from a niche sport for the horse mad to an annual fixture on the city’s social calendar.

Polo matches are held at the Polo & Equestrian Club with the season running from 25 January through 26 April, with teams made up of prominent local Emirati and international polo players. Matches are played three times a week (on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday), but it is the cup matches held on Friday afternoons that attract the crowds. For both locals and visitors, one of these games is much more than just watching the horses – it’s a social occasion and chance to dress up and be seen. Spectators are encouraged to bring a picnic, and one side of the field is given over to those who want to set up a gazebo, stoke up a barbeque or just spread out a rug and enjoy one of the largest expanses of grass this sandy city has to offer. End of season Cup matches can sometimes also see pop up bars and clubs take over after the match. If you are not up for lugging a cool box with you, the club can provide you with a picnic or you can mingle with the city’s A-listers at the clubhouse restaurant’s licensed terrace and gaze over those slumming it on the grass.

Entry is free, although cars are charged 100 dirhams.

Georgina Wilson-Powell is the Dubai Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes the hotel review blog

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