opn dhafra festival
Image Credit: Supplied

Those familiar with the UAE’s history, and who have contemplated the life, foresight, and wisdom of its Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, with his unshakeable connection with the country’s deep historic roots, immediately recognise the extent of his commitment toculture and heritage.

With his words and his actions, Sheikh Zayed demonstrated this dedication, and the thriving cultural movement the UAE is home to today is the fruit of that vision, which has long sought to make culture an integral part of the community’s everyday life.

At the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC), we value and fully embrace the significance of Sheikh Zayed’s approach; his keenness to preserve our culture, heritage, and values; and his efforts to draft the legislation and establish the institutions that have advanced the UAE’s position, raised the community’s awareness and culture, increased education rates, and drove a notable shift in creative and intellectual movements, setting the stage for the UAE to become the hubthat it is today, hosting key cultural events with far-reaching regional and global impact.

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Doors open to all

The Centre sought to build on this knowledge and accumulated experience, assert our presence, strengthen ourefforts, and enable the Arabic language to be a “language of life” and a means of communication and cultural convergencebetween us and people around the world.

With that in mind, our Centre dedicated tremendous efforts to reinforce the UAE’s exceptional cultural movement, promoted culture of reading, and build a deep connection with books among all segments of the community — a key element inbuilding their knowledge, ideas, and creativity. Moreover, we aim to bring the Arabic language closer to people, highlighting its beauty and unique character, and deeplyembedding it in their memories and consciousness.

The Centre has launched a series of landmark initiatives and programmes, most notably the Al Ain Book Festival, which we aimed to expand beyond a mere book fair, where books and copyrights are sold, transforming it into an annual occasion that rallies all segments of the community from diverse cultures, fostering a love for books, arts, music, and knowledge.

The festival opens its doors to all — young and old — introducing them to the cultural heritage of the Arabic language and showcasing the achievements of prominent figures and their contributions to local cultural movements.

Mai Mohammed on stage at dhafra book festival pic supplied-1701877086804

Unique heritage and cultural character

Just a few days ago, the Al Ain Book Festival drew the curtain on its 14th edition, which offered a comprehensive cultural programme that brought together language and language professionals, literature and literary pioneers, Nabati poetry and its icons, and arts with its bold creators and avidenthusiasts.

The festival rallied all categories of community members, serving as a cultural carnival of sorts, fitting for the city of Al Ain, which has long been a custodian of culture and heritage.

The Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre worked tirelessly, with members from all of its teams play a part, in order to present the Al Ain Book Festival in a new light.

Held under the patronage of Sheikh Tahnoon bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in the Al Ain Region, this year’s edition celebrated a new constellation of winners in the Kanz Al Jeel award, which draws its vision, inspiration, and name from the poetry of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

On a similar cultural high note, we move on to the city of Al Dhafra next, known for the special place it held in the late Sheikh Zayed’s heart and poems, with its unique heritage and cultural character that caught our exceptional leader’s eye.

Sowing seeds of culture

Al Dhafra is the city of eloquent poets, with their stirring verses, profound thoughts, illustrious history, and deep-seated connection to their authentic Bedouin identity. To preserve poetic endeavours in the city, Sheikh Zayed established the Nabati Poets Council, bringing together leading figures in the field, and encouraging them to keep up their creative output.

This great leader, on top of being a distinguished poet, saw in poetry a powerful means to document history, preserving heritage, traditions, and customs. And this allows us to see very clearly the glorious history of the city of Al Dhafra, and its deep connection to poetry, literary creations, and the aesthetics of the Arabic language.

With all of the aforementioned in mind, we organised the Al Dhafra Book Festival, under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in the Al Dhafra Region, to act as a gateway for literature and reading enthusiasts to explore masterpieces by the city’s renowned poets, as well as a platform that welcomes all segments of the community.

We did so out of conviction in the tremendous value of sowing seeds of culture in the hearts of the new generations, which will blossom into outstanding talent and skills that help preserve and promote our local culture.

This year’s edition of the festival welcomes the entire community, offering a comprehensive cultural programme designed to expand their knowledge and foster interaction with the audience. The event will also include a special ceremony to crown the winners of the Golden Narrative (Sard Al Thahab) Award, which derives its moral values from the poems of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and honours storytellers and their creative projects.

As we have said before, in Al Dhafra, words and poems shine with a majestic radiance, blending history, civilisation, and authentic heritage.

The works of Al Dhafra’s cultural icons tell the tale of a city that comes alive in a poem, and as we embark on a new milestone in the Al Dhafra Book Festival, we pick up right where we left off in Al Ain, continuing on to a new chapter of an illustrious tale.

Dr Ali bin Tamim is the Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC)