Holding fort: The historic Qasr Al Hosn fort Image Credit: Supplied photo

Abu Dhabi: The capital city is in the grips of nostalgia as the political and cultural history of the emirates comes alive on the grounds of the 250-year old Qasr Al Hosn Fort.

The second edition of the 10-day annual Qasr Al Hosn Festival that kicks off Thursday till March 1 promises to be a fascinating flashback with a grand theatrical show, cultural exhibitions, workshop demonstrations, guided tours, and a host of activities guaranteed to give residents a trip down memory lane.

The biggest attraction is the Cavalia at Qasr al Hosn – a lavish equestrian stage-show featuring 50 highly trained horses and riders performing alongside aerialists, acrobats and musicians.

Enjoyed by over four million people in North America, Europe and Australia, Cavalia created by Cirque du Soleil co-founder Normand Latourelle has for the first time adapted Emirati traditions as it marks its debut in the Middle East.

“This show is a fusion between the Cavalia and Emirati world. For the first time we have altered the central plot to integrate Emirati themes and traditions,” Latourelle, creative director of the show, told XPRESS.

He said the three-dimensional show will take the audience on a journey through the sea where the pearl-diving tradition comes alive; to the sand dunes of Arabia and the bedouins’ search for oasis and later ending at the historic Qasr Al Hosn fort.

In Cavalia, horses perform with artists in front of a constantly-changing digital background projected onto a 60-metre-wide screen, drawing spectators into dream-like virtual environments. Unlike traditional horse shows, the 50-metre-wide stage here allows horses space to gallop at full speed, at times running completely free, unfettered by bridles or halters.

Starring 11 equestrian breeds including Arabian, pure Spanish and miniature horses, Cavalia takes place under a white, 2,440-square-metre big top, rising some 35 metres high, giving the horses ample space to perform with their trainers and artists.

central theme

“The central theme is the age-old bond between man and his horses. Horses have been with men for 5,000 years, in every civilisation. The show at Qasr Al Hosn talks about the same story, but in an Emirati context,” said Latourelle, 58.

The Cavalia team has been rehearsing for ten days in Abu Dhabi. The horses arrived two weeks ago from Australia on a Boeing 747. A 20-person stable team including trainers, veterinarian, health technicians and grooms create a comfortable environment while providing horses daily health care, grooming and exercise.

“It is a happy show with emphasis on kindness and love. Horses do on stage what they are naturally good at doing,” said Latourelle.

Each horse performs for roughly eight minutes in the one hour show. The original Cavalia show is one hour 50 minutes.

In addition, visitors can also get an opportunity to explore the Qasr Al Hosn fort which is undergoing renovation. The interior foyer will be partially open to visitors on guided tours and educational activities for children and youth. The cultural foundation next to the fort will be opened during the festival for performances, poetry recitals and films produced by UAE artists.

Another unique aspect this year is that visitors can visit the historic National Consultative Council chamber located adjacent to the fort walls, where many historic decisions were made.

Partial road closure:

Some roads and intersections around the Qasr Al Hosn Fort on Zayed First Street will face partial closure and diversions on Thursday,

These include Zayed the First, Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Hamdan and Khalid Bin Al Waleed Streets from 2pm to 8pm said the Safety and Traffic Solutions Committee (STSC) in Abu Dhabi.

Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum Street (Airport Road), will be closed from Hamdan Street intersection to Al Falah Street intersection. Zayed the First Street will be closed from Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum intersection to Khalid Bin Al Waleed Street intersection. Hamdan Street will be closed from Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum intersection to Khalid Bin Al Waleed Street intersection. Khalid Bin Al Waleed Street will be closed from Hamdan Street intersection to Zayed the First Street intersection. Al Mashtal Street (the local road adjacent to Al Manhal Palace) will be closed from Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum Street to Mubarak Bin Mohammed Street. Some bus routes will also be diverted from 2pm to 6pm on the first day.

Festival details:

When: February 20-March 1 
Horse show: Cavalia at Qasr al Hosn from February 22-March 1
Tickets: Platinum: Dh 695 
Gold: Adult Dh500, Child Dh300
A reserve: Adult Dh250, Child: Dh150 (Tickets at www.ticketmaster.ae, Virgin Megastores, or 800 TM UAE (800 86 823)

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