Building a petanque court in Dubai

By Mr.Bordsenius at 2004-10-12

Peter Macfarquhar has just finished making a petanque court in
the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf. The procedure was basically similar to the courts we have described, with a few specialized adaptations to local conditions.

By Peter Macfarquhar
Making a court here is bit different because the whole
country is built on sand dunes. As such there is no
drainage problem at all, 1) because it never rains,
and 2) because any water around immediately disappears
down into the sand. The main difficulty is how to make
the sand firm enough to support a a field solid enough
to play on.

We first went out and leveled a convenient patch of
sand behind my house. In the process, I discovered all
manner of building rubble left over from making the
house had been buried underneath it, so the leveling
part turned into a much longer effort than expected.
Anyway, eventually that was done, and then a 13m x
3.5m frame of 2'x 6' timber was nailed together and
laid on top of the sand and staked in place to keep it
from shifting about.

What to use for the first layer was a bit of a
After a bit of tinkering with this and that, we
decided to use a local material known as 'subka".
Subka is a kind of salt flat mud similar to very soft
sand stone. It handles a bit like cubed sugar : when
it is dry it is quite hard and solid, but when it
absorbs a bit of moisture, it is very pliable and easy
to smush. We filled the frame with about 6 cubic
meters of that stuff, leveled it off, and then soaked
it thoroughly. Then friendly road building crew
working on a freeway exit nearby kindly sent over a
crew with a very small deisel powered steam roller and
compacted it in a few hours. This settled down into a
very solid layer about 5' thick.

At first I had hoped we would be able to just play on
that, but it turned out that when it was wet, it got
rather greasy and sticky, and stayed that way for some
days until it dried out again. So we added another
layer of clean sand on top of that about an inch thick
and compacted that with water and feet during the
course of an extended happy hour. Amazing what one can
accomplish with willing coolie labor.

We now have a good surface to play on, although the
top layer of sand may be a hair too thick for a good
fast game. But that can easily be adjusted by trial
and error, and just thinned out somewhat by a bit of
raking if necessary. Also, the sub layer of subka
material is gradually mixing with the top layer and
hardening it up a bit as well. In brief, the playing
surface is still an evolving work in progress, but I
think we are basically there. As a final touch for
appeareance, I had several cubic meters of 3/4 inch
round gravel delivered and spread it all around the
outside of the frame. This was a nice touch, giving
the whole thing a finished and and park like air to

I think from all this I would echo some of the folks
who have described their efforts, and say that the
main thing is to put down a solid, well compacted
first layer. Once that is in place, the rest is easy.
And it is too big a job for one person. Get some

Hope this is useful to someone out there somewhere.
Go well,


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