Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be moving to a foreign country to live, let alone a country in the Middle East. Over the 2009 Christmas and New Year’s holidays, my husband Roger and I discussed what we wanted the next part of our life to be like. He thought that before retiring, he would like to do one more airport project but only if he could find something very interesting. I half-jokingly agreed that would be fine but could he try for an exotic location? As usual, Roger came through and soon we were headed to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. This blog is a recap of our "leap-of- faith" wanderings around the Middle East and beyond. We joyfully share these expat experiences.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Weekend Excursion from Dubai . . . BULL-BUTTING IN FUJAIRAH, UAE - This is a lot of bull!

On our third road trip to the Emirate of Fujairah, Roger and I  still marvel at the dramatic twists of landscape as we drive from the humid coastal areas of Dubai, through the unencumbered desert, climbing over the weathered red Hajar Mountains, and quickly descending to the beautiful blue Gulf of Oman shoreline. This time we join the Corvette Arabia club that is hosting a gathering at the Fujairah Rotana Resort & Spa. (Be sure to watch the YouTube video of the rally in the postscripts)

As we motor, I am diligently flipping through my Lonely Planet UAE guide in search of something of interest we might have missed on our earlier trips. Eureka!! We are just in time for  . . . bull butting!!

The competition area really isn’t too hard to find. As you enter Fujairah from E89, turn right at E99, go just a short distance, and look for a gathering of assorted pickup trucks parked by the side of the road. You know you are in the right place when you see lots of really huge Brahma bulls being led alongside the road.   If you come to the Al-Rughailat Bridge, you have gone too far.

The site is quite rustic. The “arena” is an open field. Pickup trucks are parked around the perimeter. On either end of the arena, the bulls are tethered to posts awaiting their turn to compete. 

Judges sit inside the arena dangerously close to the competition area. I suspect this is so they can get a really good view of the bulls.

Please note this is a bloodless sport that is definitely a dad and kid affair. Children of all ages eagerly await the start of the competition. Vendors circulate among the crowd selling drinks and snacks. We see only a handful of tourists.  For sure, this is a local activity that occurs every Friday about 5 PM.

The prized bulls, with lead ropes threaded through their noses, come to the competition from all across the UAE. Led by their handlers, they are positioned face to face in the center of the arena. The handlers back away to a safe distance while a “ring master” stays to monitor and encourage the action.  The activity consists of the bulls, each weighing over a ton, “locking” foreheads and proceeding to push their opponent over some imaginary line or push him down.

The commentary from the loud speaker is raucous and full of passion as the crowd cheers and claps the competitors to a victory. Everything is in Arabic, and since we can find no one who speaks English, we only guess at the proceedings.

I have taken up my position, camera in hand, just inside the arena.  During the course of the competition, I manage to be chased by only one errant bull.

Enjoy the show .  .  . 

Bull-butting is an ancient sport brought to the Arabian peninsula in the 16th century by the Portuguese.

Today it is a blood-less sport testing the raw strength of the bulls. 

A shaky fence surrounds the competition arena for spectators to sit behind . . . 

 . . . or in front for those who are brave.

The safest spectator seats are on top of the 4X4s.

The children come.

The judges are seated.

Roger has picked his favorite.

The bulls, while looking a little bit bored, are ready. 

The action beings.

The bulls "lock" foreheads and begin to push.

The black bulls give it their best 

But there is no clear winner. 
It's a draw.
Bull-butting skills are passed from father to son. 

The bulls are getting bigger.

You can feel the pulse of the competition rising. 

Almost a winner, but still another draw. 

The action resumes.

This is looking heated!!

Oops, the white bull doesn't want to "butt" anymore.

And makes a hasty retreat.

Right into the judges.

Who prudently scatter.

Finally separated, the handlers lead the bulls away.

The next match proves to be the most aggressive.


Going down!

I think we have a winner. 

The most decisive victory of the day!

The enthusiastic crowd congratulates the judges on a job well done.

United Arab Emirates, a most interesting and exciting country. 

Postscript . . .
Corvette Arabia . . . When you move to a new town, you must assertively search out ways to get connected. One of the first things Roger and I did when we were settled in Dubai was find the local Corvette Club. To our delight we found the Corvette Arabia group headed by Elie Deeb who created the group to share his love of the iconic American muscle car with his compatriots in the UAE. Roger and I have enjoyed outings with them to the Dubai Autodrome and the road rally to Fujairah. In Fujairah we were joined by the Royal Squad, a group of Emiratis who treasure their large glamorous pickup trucks. They arrive at the event in true Arabian style!  


  1. Ha!! Something to put on our "to do" list here! Thanks for the tip, Katie!!

  2. Glad to help. We are always on the lookout for new and exciting adventures. The UAE has not disappointed us yet!. Thanks to you for the tip on finding the roaming camels in Abu Dhabi. Hope our weekend outing there results in the much coveted photo of the Vette surrounded by wild camels. Inshallah!!


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