How Squash started in Dubai
Dubai's first Squash Court was built by Overseas AST in 1960s on a site which later became Port Rashid. Overseas AST, an Austrian Construction Company, established in Dubai in 1959. Their Squash Court was part of a small office and sports complex for Overseas AST Staff, adjacent to the first European School in Dubai later to become Dubai English Speaking School. When Port Rashid's construction commenced in 1967, Contractor Costains took over the complex as Site Offices and Plant Yard, surrounding the Squash Court with a pipe storage yard. But this was the only Squash Court in Dubai back then so Dubai's growing community still came to play squash
In The Beginning......
Overseas AST was Dubai's first major construction company. They moved from Kuwait to Dubai in 1958. Its parent company was Austrian and initially Overseas AST was known as ????. Sheikh Rashid made land available for Overseas AST to build a small office complex. That same land was later to become part of Port Rashid. In addition to their office complex Overseas AST built a sports complex for its staff. It included Tennis Court that doubled as a Basketball Court and a Squash Court, Dubai's first!
Squash Court was rudimentary. It had a concrete floor, four blockwork walls, was lit by four street lights and no roof!. The walls were plastered to provide a smooth surface mainly to prevent players injuring themselves when they collided with the walls. Overseas AST played on the court and also invited others to play, primarily Bank Staff. In the late 1960 Overseas AST relocated to new premises on Jumeirah Beach Road near to Dubai Zoo where their Water Tank painted with their name became a prominent navigation feature. Costains Engineering took over Overseas AST's old complex for their Port Rashid construction site offices, their plant yard and materials storage. Soon the Tennis Court and area surrounding the Squash Court were covered in large steel pipes. The Squash Court itself was still playable. Many of Costain's Management and Consultant Engineer's Staff were Squash Players so the Court was used regularly but not in an organised way. Playing squash on this court required some care. Humidity made the floor slippery at time, an over enthusiastic lob could finish up in the pipe yard with lots of time wasted looking for it but on the other hand you could use the afternoon setting sun to your advantage by playing high lobs where your opponent had to stare into the setting sun looking for the ball. As more people played the game, a Squash Ladder was set up and this rudimentary Squash Court became the cradle for the growth of Squash in Dubai.
Growth of Squash in Dubai
Sir William Halcrow and Partners were Consulting Engineers for Port Rashid and friendly rivals with Costains. They started playing Team Squash. As Dubai grew, more squash courts were built. Dutco, Dubal, Shell Oil Company, Halcrows all built Squash Courts. Chicago Beach Hotel and some of the new housing complexes built Squash Courts for their Residents. There were sufficient Players and Teams to support a Squash League.
In 1974, Dubai Country Club built two squash courts. A growing membership enabled DCC to field several Squash Teams. The number of Teams and ready availability of facilities led to the Heineken Squash League being established under the sponsorship of Gray Mackenzie and Co. Teams participated from Dubai and Sharjah, initially in a single Division but eventually in several Divisions. Players formed the Dubai and Sharjah Squash League to administer the game. Later, Dubai Police became interested in Squash and developed successful Teams. With this local involvement, the Dubai and Sharjah Squash League became the UAE Squash Rackets Association in Dubai affiliated to the Ministry of Sport.
Women in Dubai's Squash
Women played competitive Squash from the very early days of Squash in Dubai. A Ladies Squash League catered for the many Ladies' Teams. Rules governing the Ladies Squash League defined the League as for Lady Squash Players only. Only men were expected to compete in the Heineken Squash League. However the League Rules did not specifically restrict Membership of the League to "Men Only" or specifically exclude women from playing in the League. So when one Team being short of a Player decided to field a Lady Player to fill the gap, there was some criticism. A review of the Rule Book showed there was nothing that prevented women participating in the League. As a consequence, women played in mixed Teams competing in the Heineken Squash League.
Dubai's Squash goes International
At the beginning of 1980s, Dubai Country Club built two Squash Courts and became the centre of Dubai's Squash. DCC subsequently built a third Squash Court to International Competition standards. Geoff Hunt (Australia) and Jonah Barrington (UK), both top World Class Players were invited to play Exhibition Matches on this new Squash Court. This led to the Dubai Country Club International Squash 3s in 1984 where International Teams of 3 players were invited to compete for a range of Trophies. Tournament attracted a top field and was the only competition in Dubai featuring professional world-ranked players in professional teams from Australia, England, Scotland and South Africa playing against top amateur teams from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia. The popularity of this competition continued for over 20 years until Dubai Country Club was closed down to make way for Dubai's new developments.