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While it is the Year of the Horse for the Chinese, horses have always had a special place in the hearts of Emiratis, and in Dubai this is well reflected.
In Chinese culture the horse symbolises stability, endurance and devotion, but to the Arab people it represents survival, for it was bred by tribesmen for centuries for hunting and fighting.
Horses adorn many parts of the city, from large photographs on the walls of Metro stations to the 18-carat gold plated horse statues lining the driveway to Al Qasr Hotel in Madinat Jumeirah. A fountain featuring a group of eight bronze horse torsos is also found here.
Fit for a palace
Dramatically etched against the sky are a group of charging horses high on top of the concrete gate at Zabeel Palace in the Zabeel district, a residence of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid A1 Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
A spectacular horse-inspired fountain created by Californian Rusty Hatfield, Lead Designer at House of Stone, sits in the fashion dome of the Mall of the Emirates. As the owner did not want human figures, he came up with the hippocamp, a mythical halfhorse, half-fish creature.
''I wanted to give them a unique and modem fountain that evoked some of the history of fountains in Europe,'' says Hatfield. ''I was completely unaware that Dubai had its own tradition of beautiful horse sculptures. My design struck just the right notes and was a perfect fit for the city.''
Blending into the Meydan Hotel in Nad Al Sheba are many equine works of art such as the huge horseshoe shaped ceiling centerpiece above the food station at Farriers Restaurant, while horseshoe-themed door handles, panels and art work are found throughout the hotel.
The colourfully painted fibre-glass horses created for a charity project known as Dubai's Celebration of the Arabian Horse in 2005 can still be spotted in various locations in the city. Some are at the Dubai Centre for Special Needs near Safa Park, Jebel Ali Race Course and Ibn Battuta Mall's car park.
The annual Dubai World Cup is high on Dubai's agenda. This year's event in March offered a combined prize purse of $27.25million(Dhl00million), making it the richest horse race in the world.
The race is held at Meydan Racecourse, which offers a full season of racing from November through to the Dubai World Cup in March. Stable tours are also available, starting in November until April.
Sport of Kings
Polo, the sport of kings and possibly the oldest recorded team sport in history, is played at the Dubai Polo Academy within the Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club on Al Quadra Road. Spectators are welcome to watch the games. The Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club, a private royal facility built by the late President His Highness Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, is sometimes open to the public for special events. It is a 15-minute drive from Dubai Marina, while the Desert Palm Polo Club is about 20 minutes from the city centre.
Endurance riding is another top equestrian sport in the UAE. At Dubai International Endurance City, a purpose-built facility, there is a full calendar of events during the racing season from November to March.
Source: Cheryl Robertson, Features Writer, Property Weekly