Thursday, January 21, 2016

Bouthieb (Abu Dhabi): The Mutation - Full Article

Coming closer for a better understanding

May 10 2014
by François Kerboul

From far away, we often see undefined blocks, groups, masses, and we end up very quickly - if not invariably - making snap judgments and deciding, once for all, that "they are like that". Thus we have "Indians", "Blacks", "Arabs", "Chinese", etc.

From far away we see an anonymous figure, which as it gets nearer, becomes a man who is actually a woman and we soon discover that she is not the unknown one we had suspected... In short, when getting closer we become aware that reality is always more complex than the idea we had of it before.

For the Yemeni who has never left his native mountain, or for his Chinese counterpart, "Europeans" (or "Westerners ") are seen as a global and undifferentiated entity. For us, Europeans, it is clear that this is an absurd shortcut because we know that there is little relationship between a Sami (Lapp) and a Basque or even a Southern Californian. But seen from afar...

It's the same in reverse for us and we cannot completely avoid the trap created by distance.

Group VII, The Emirates, The Arabs, etc.

For many Europeans all that is about the same and one is satisfied with the recent global anathema (doping, cheating) without further questioning. You can even hear some people talk of the need for their exclusion from the FEI, which would in itself mean the beginning of the end of the international federation.

So take a magnifying glass and come closer to understand better.

Here we will talk of what is happening today in Bouthieb, one of the three endurance villages in the UAE (and also the oldest), as you would do for example to explain what we are trying to do and how we do it in Fontainebleau (FRA) or Rascafría (ESP) to an Indonesian.

Doing so, we will leave Manichaeism and monolithic thinking to replace it by the description of the real men and their intentions. A little bit of information, a gust of fresh air on the issue.

Brief And Essential Background

When in the 50s it was discovered that the underground of the northern Arabian Peninsula was full of oil, SH Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi, understood very quickly that this resource required the emirates to unite (unity is strength) and that the country would inevitably be overwhelmed by the sudden change induced by this extraordinary resource and the new era to come with it.

He managed to convince his counterpart neighbors to form a federation whose name is the one we know today: UAE (United Arab Emirates).

His second priority task was to set up a body to preserve the cultural heritage for the future generations. This great idea took shape under the name of Emirates Heritage Club (EHC). Its purpose is extensive. It spreads from the preservation of the culture of the past to the latest study on the environment, youth training and education, promotion of tolerance and peace, etc.

In this context horses were of course present.

Sh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, second son of the UAE founder, the late Sh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, currently a member of the government, is the president of the EHC. He created in Bouthieb the first endurance village in the UAE, some 100 km inland among sand dunes, not far from his palace.

Each year five to six weekends of endurance competitions are held there. It is currently the largest center in the world by the number of participating horses each time. For example, on January 23rd to 25th 2014 nearly 800 horses over three days with 340 on the second day participated in the competitions.

The Prince's Will of Renewal

A few years ago, the prince told us his annoyance at seeing that the UAE had created a new type of endurance race he called "flat endurance race" in which speed was privileged at the expense of the horses' safety. That was far in advance of the recent controversy. His voice was not heard despite his conviction...

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