Juma Obaid Al Ali was crowned champion of the 15th edition of the Al Youlah tournament, organised by Hamdan bin Mohammed Heritage Centre (HHC), last Friday.
Al Youlah is a heritage sport, which is a traditional dance involving the use of a rifle as a prop, and an integral part of Emirati culture.
The competition is just one of the many initiatives undertaken by HHC to preserve their intangible heritage for future generations to cherish.
The HHC has done its fair share in bringing Emiratis together on a single platform and raising awareness about their traditions and culture.
There was a different feel to this season’s competition, which was reflected most in the slogan, which translates to “don’t say, ‘I don’t know’, it’s your heritage, you preserve it.”
So, what does youlah mean to the young Emiratis and how has this sport impacted their lives.
Matar Al Habsi, winner of the 2018 Youlah championship, said: “Al Youlah has taught me discipline and taught me how to respect and appreciate my culture.
“There is so much more to the sport than what meets the eye. When we join in, we have to learn the choreography and learn proper etiquettes during and after the performance. We have to perform in our traditional garb and make sure that it isn’t soiled or the ghutra (Emirati headgear) doesn’t come undone. It’s very challenging, but at the same time the experience is amazing and very rewarding.”
Al Habsi hails from Ras Al Khaimah and works for the police department. After being crowned champion, the 24-year-old used the AED 1 million cash prize to turn his entrepreneurial dream of opening a traditional Emirati restaurant into reality.
According to HE Abdullah Hamdan Bin Dalmook, CEO of HHC, the Youlah programme is vital in instilling all the qualities of a model citizen into the Emirati youth and also creating leaders for the future.
“With this championship, we are turning our boys into men. They go through lengthy training and are put in the spot where they are criticized in front of an audience. It definitely teaches you how to be patient and stay grounded, which are definitely qualities of a leader. So, this platform is not just for our boys to get in touch with their roots, but we are creating future leaders here,” he said.
The ongoing success of the Fazza championship shows that young Emiratis possess the drive to get more involved in their heritage. This season signifies the official passing of the torch to the current generation as they are ready to carry their traditions forward and pass it on to the next generation.