Captivated by Turkish TV series, 60-year-old Emirati transforms into horseback archery mentor – News

Today, Saeed Al Dharif shares this unique art with people from around the world

Photos/Videos: Supplied

Photos/Videos: Supplied

Published: Sat 2 Sep 2023, 6:13 PM

Last updated: Sat 2 Sep 2023, 6:49 PM

At 60, while many contemplate retirement, Saeed Al Dharif blazes a different trail. This intrepid Emirati teaches mounted archery, a traditional martial art he mastered after being captivated by the epic Turkish TV series, Dirilis: Ertugrul (Resurrection: Ertugrul), set in the 13th century.

Often likened to the ‘Muslim Game of Thrones’ , the historical drama loosely recounts the life of Ertuğrul Gazi, father of Sultan Osman and the founder of the Ottoman empire.

The show’s standout feature is its action sequences, where the protagonist, Ertugul Gazi, portrayed by Engin Altan Düzyatan, expertly shoots arrows at enemies while on horseback.

Saeed Al Dharif was so profoundly moved by Ertugul’s character that he undertook the challenge of self-teaching mounted horse riding and archery. Notably, Engin Altan Düzyatan, who brought the iconic role to life, dedicated three months to perfecting these skills, whereas for Saeed Al Dharif, it took just a little under six.

“Unlike Engin, I didn’t have access to formal training, as this unique skill requires a deep understanding of its nuances,” Al Dharif explains. “So, I invested a significant amount of time in self-directed research and study, primarily using books and online resources. It took nearly half a year for me to fully grasp the intricacies of training and marksmanship on my own.”

He purchased a horse and began his journey in the Al Wathba suburb of Abu Dhabi. Gradually, he learned to connect with the horse, building a strong bond with the animal. Although he had prior experience in trap shooting, archery presented an entirely new challenge. However, he persevered, and soon, everything fell into place.

Today, Al Dharif shares this unique art with people from around the world. “They come from as far as Germany, France, and the US to learn mounted archery,” says the proud instructor.

Teaching method

His teaching method includes three stages for beginners. First, two hours are dedicated to mastering body position and shooting control. The second stage, spanning 2-3 hours, focuses on equestrian skills, horse handling, and the correct riding position. The third stage, lasting 4-8 hours, involves controlling the horse without a bridle while shooting at targets. Training duration varies based on individual physique and goals.

Al Dhafri primarily connects with clients through his Instagram profile, utilising social media’s power, and relies on recommendations from satisfied clients to expand his reach.

Galloping across the desert with his white flowing beard, bow and arrow ready to strike, Al Dharif resembles a figure straight from the pages of Dirilis: Ertugrul, a series he binge-watched during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since its release in 2014, the Turkish TV series has endeared itself to audiences in Latin America, South Asia, and Africa. Notable figures like Nelson Mandela’s grandson and Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, are among its fanbase. The English-subtitled version, released on Netflix in 2017, has enchanted English-speaking audiences across the UK and the US. The series has become so popular that it’s been dubbed into six languages and broadcast in 72 countries, amassing over 1.5 billion views on YouTube alone.

Al Dharif, who had a penchant for adventure since childhood, said he was hooked on the series and wanted to test his skills in mounted archery, a tradition that traces back to the Avars and continued with the Huns, reaching its zenith during the Ottoman period. Turkish mounted archers have been renowned for their ability to hit targets while turning back on the saddle and shooting arrows. The most skilled practitioners of this backward arrow shooting on horseback, known as the ‘Parthian Shot’ in international literature, were Turks.

“I ‘ve never shied away from new challenges. I was just a teenager when I ventured into the high seas with my father to catch fish. I learned falconry, followed by adventure sports like motorbiking, car racing, kite-surfing, snowboarding, and paragliding on my own. So, I thought, why not try mounted archery?” Al Dharif muses.

Today, mounted archery has emerged as a global sport accessible to enthusiasts of all levels. As he gracefully ages, Al Dharif continues to be a steadfast representative of the UAE on the international stage. “Earlier this year, I had the privilege of attending an international archery competition in Kazakhstan bearing the UAE flag. It was a proud moment,” he shared. He firmly believes that nothing lies beyond your grasp when you dedicate your heart and soul to your ambitions.

In his own words, Al Dharif classifies individuals into three categories:

  • Those gifted but hesitant

  • Those without talent but eager to learn

  • Those with determination who actively seek guidance

It is this last category that he believes ultimately achieves success.


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