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Top 10 most popular expat sports in the UAE

17 November 2022

Runner tying their shoelace

Sport is a great way for newly arrived expats to make new friends and integrate into life in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). With year round sunshine and great sporting facilities, there is plenty of sport to choose from. Here, we look at some of the sports most popular with expats:

1. Cricket

Cricket player on one knee after batting

In the UAE, there are over two million Indians, South Asian, British and Australian expats, making cricket one of the most popular sports in the country. Whether you are looking to practice for a big match or play with friends, there are some great places to play indoor cricket. The country recently hosted major cricket tournaments for local and international teams and has spent a lot of money to develop their cricketing facilities and stadiums.

2. Golf

Close up of a ball and driver while golfer lines up shot

Golfers have long known that playing golf is an excellent way to enjoy exercise outdoors. Eighteen holes of golf means a couple of hours spent outside, with fresh air and sunshine. The UAE has had a proliferation of top-class golf courses and resorts over the last 25 years in which local and amateur golfers from across the world head to the UAE for training and golf lessons too.

3. Rugby

Rugby player running with the ball

Rugby is a popular sport among expats in the UAE. In 2022, Dubai hosted the Dubai Rugby Sevens. The Sevens Stadium is an excellent rugby facility, with seating for over 100,000 fans who can expect excellent action on the pitch, as well as performances from pop music sensations.

4. Football

Legs preparing to kick a football

Football’s popularity in the Middle East has increased in recent years and is widely played in schools and colleges. It is one of the most popular games played in the UAE now, with 51% of UAE residents following the sport. The UAE has invested in hosting major tournaments and encouraged sponsorships by regional brands.

5. Polo

Woman on a horse about to hit the ball

The UAE’s wealthy business people and royals have popularised polo in recent years. The UAE is at the forefront of the polo scene, organising international tournaments in excellent facilities. Polo is an outdoor team sport that enhances the ability to strategize and involves a lot of fun.

6. Cycling

Cyclists competing in a road race

There has been a huge growth in cycling in the UAE, which has invested heavily in new cycling tracks and paths to encourage more people to get on their bikes. There is a real UAE cycling community, whether you’re a casual or a competitive rider.

7. Badminton

Shuttlecocks sat on a court while

Badminton’s popularity in the UAE has grown significantly in recent years with the introduction of the Badminton World Federation Dubai World Super series. High-profile events are held in excellent stadiums, suggesting badminton has bright future in the UAE.

8. Volleyball

Woman reaching over a volleyball net to hit the ball

Volleyball is a sport all about communication and teamwork; it brings people together and offers the opportunity to create lifelong friendships and bonds. Volleyball is played all year-round both in indoor and outdoor settings. The physical and mental benefits of playing volleyball are unparalleled, making it one of the UAE’s most popular sports.

9. Padel

Player holding Padel racket while picking up balls

Padel (a racket sport similar to tennis) has grown in popularity over the past 10 years in the UAE; growing from only six public courts in 2012 to more than 150 in 2022. It is the second most played sport in the country after football. A friendly and welcoming game for all ages and fitness levels, Padel is also an extremely entertaining sport to watch.

10. Horse riding and equestrian activities

Horse and rider jumping over a bar in show jumping

Horse riding holds large historical significance and cultural importance in the UAE, which is well known for celebrating the sport all year round. Horse riding on a beach in the UAE is top of the bucket list of most exciting things to do in the Emirates. For expats, clubs offer lessons and packages that are popular with expats and international visitors, with expert horseback riding tuition on offer for children and adults of all skill levels.