Life in Abu Dhabi

by David Marshall
David Marshall, of Holly Farm Arabians, is an arabian breeder and endurance rider currently working in Abu Dhabi

Living on the Island of Abu Dhabi where the birds fly at night and it never rains. Situated in the suburbs of the island, rimmed by a stunning corniche, surrounded by verdant gardens, pretty villas and grand palaces yet only ten minutes from the city center is the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club. With its turf racecourse, vast grass show-jumping arena and garden-like stabling and training areas.

Intertwined with a substantial golf club, extensive sports, health and fitness center. It can be justly termed as the 'Green Club' of the United Arab Emirates and exemplifies Abu Dhabi, the government center of the UAE, as the 'Garden City of the Gulf'.

Established by directive of The President H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, H.E. Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan and H.E. Sheikh Manzoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan put together a working plan which has placed the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club as one of the best in the world.

Confining this to equine, ADEC is home to many activities. Host to more than 15 race meetings, base to no less than four race trainers for The President and his family, more than 30 days of show jumping competitions both International and National, a very busy show jumping team, a highly popular riding school and it's own endurance team. Also host to auctions and shows all supported by personnel under the capable directorship of Adnan Sultan Saif Al Nuiami.

My responsibility is to engage the endurance team in competition. I have been favoured with the opportunity to take part as a trainer and as a rider in the most unique and demanding endurance calendar in the world with all the support the ADEC has to offer.

Three months into my contract I am not sure I can describe a typical day. A week starts on a Saturday not Monday, the weekend is Thursday and Friday. Early morning starts, followed by a long siesta and evening work appointments makes each week seem like fourteen days long. I live in a two bedroom modern apartment within a traditional styled quadrangle whose residents refer to as Albert Square. I am enjoying the environment while applying myself within a fascinating culture. Having a life long passion with one of their most precious counterparts, the Arabian horse could not have served me better.

A genuine belief that the sport of endurance is the ultimate complement to the Arabian breed and to be included in a team with unreal facilities and commitment allowing unlimited opportunity is a privilege still being realised. I am honoured to be able to work alongside some brilliant personalities, such as Patrick Buckley and Dr Tony Doherty who have been here longer than most. I am committed to being a contributor, to strive to be considered an ambassador for my country and enjoy being involved.

I have been able to stretch my wings a little as an official in the Emirates Racing Association and doing work for the UAE Equestrian and Racing Federation as a steward. Beside the daily responsibility of the Abu Dhabi Endurance Team which is my main focus. I have been able to experience Emirates style, show jumping to International level. The club has already this year qualified and sent to Chile a junior rider to the World Championships.

We have recently welcomed home The President, His Highness Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, God bless him, Father of the Nation. Ruler of Abu Dhabi since 1966, President of the United Arab Emirates since its creation in 1971. His Highness has returned after a successful kidney transplant. In preparation for his return and National Day celebrations the entire city of Abu Dhabi is transformed with elaborate decorations, lights, huge billboards, fresh flower beds, flags galore, one the size of a rugby field.

Cars etc. are plastered with pictures of The President, everywhere honouring the leadership of a man who has overseen the development of the Trucial States from tribal traders to a financial conglomerate.

Abu Dhabi is by far the largest of the seven emirates, equivalent to 86.7% of the country's total area and controls more than 85% of the UAE's total oil output capacity and over 90% of its crude reserves. Along with 92% of the countries gas reserves, are also located in the Abu Dhabi Emirate.

Presently we are in the Holy month of Ramadan, where fasting from sun up to sun down including all food and liquids are observed least you be jailed. All pubs are closed for the month. This is not so much in the Emirate of Dubai but certainly in Abu Dhabi. A feast called Iftar is held each evening and the place comes to life during the night (It is nothing to be show jumping after midnight). Ramadan is a time of sacrifice to honour and appreciate those who are less blessed. This will be in continuance during Christmas, which is not celebrated here in Abu Dhabi, publicly anyway. The endurance ride calendar after Ramadan include 20 more rides at 15 separate competitions. So I assume my honeymoon is almost over. Time will tell what can be accomplished, but without any doubt everyone around me and I know where I have come from and I will return with experience to share.

Today it has rained in Abu Dhabi, and we celebrated a sixth birthday for a local girl, Aliazi who had never known rain. Walking along the Corniche with everything washed, crisp and clear is quite unusual, obviously more so for the locals.