SHARJAH: With over 500 events and activities for people of all age groups at the 18th annual edition of Sharjah Heritage Days (SHD 2021), the cultural capital of the region will once again bring together the UAE community and visitors to learn more about and closely experience the unique customs and traditions of 29 nations around the world.
Perhaps the largest and longest celebration of local and global cultures in the UAE and the region, the three-week festival from March 20 – April 10, is organised by the Sharjah Institute for Heritage (SIH) and embodies the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, to enrich our future by opening a window to our past. Themed ‘Cultural heritage gathers us’, this edition of SHD is turning the spotlight on Republic of Montenegro as Guest of Honour.
Steeped in history, the Heart of Sharjah district and the Khorfakkan Heritage Area, will be the two hubs of the celebration, where artists, chefs, intellectuals, artisans, and leading cultural entities from the UAE and 29 other countries will be engaging audiences with dances, traditional foods, arts and crafts, clothing, unique to their cultures.
The full details of the festival’s programme were unveiled at a press conference on Monday evening at the Cultural Heritage Activities Centre in Al Mureija, Sharjah, in the presence of Dr. Abdulaziz Al Musallam, Chairman of the Sharjah Institute for Heritage and Chairman of the Higher Committee of Sharjah Heritage Days; Major General Saif Al-Zari Al-Shamsi, Commander-in-Chief of Sharjah Police; Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA); Mohamed Hassan Khalaf, Director General of the Sharjah Broadcasting Authority (SBA); Saeed Ali Al Mannai, Director of Activities at the Emirates Heritage Club, and other officials and representatives of local and international media.
Addressing the media, Dr. Al Musallam said: “Since 2003, Sharjah Heritage Days has furthered the emirate’s cultural vision and the directives of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, which emphasises on the need to foster community awareness and appreciation of local heritage as a means to enhance their capacities to protect it and carry it into our future.
“This year, SHD is being held under special circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the festival we aim to reinforce Sharjah’s message that preserving our heritage and sharing our identity with others safeguards humankind as a whole and brings people together, revealing our similarities to each other. This is something we need more than ever,”
For his part, Major General Al Shamsi, noted: “The vision of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah has continually fostered the cultural environment of the emirate we so proudly uphold. Over the years, Sharjah Police spared no effort to ensure the success of every cultural event staged by the emirate. This time, the role of the public in stepping up to take precautionary measures for their own and others’ safety, as they enjoy the events and activities, will be paramount to the successful running of Sharjah Heritage Days.”
Speaking on behalf of SCTDA, longstanding partners of SIH and sponsors of SHD, Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, remarked: “The event plays a vital role in boosting Sharjah’s tourism appeal and supporting the national economy. The complementarity of our roles at SCTDA and SIH in ensuring that we offer the very best experiences for families and tourists in Sharjah is reinforced with festivals like these. This collaboration is among the first significant steps being taken to revive the culture and tourism landscape, not just in Sharjah but for the UAE.”
Mohamed Hassan Khalaf said: “We have been committed to offering strong media coverage to events in Sharjah that celebrate culture and local heritage. Furthering these efforts, we will take this unique cultural festival to every Emirati and Arab household, as we believe in the role of heritage in binding community and promoting understanding. SBA has a comprehensive plan to cover the Sharjah Heritage Days on all our TV channels and radio stations.”
On behalf of Activities at the Emirates Heritage Club, Saeed Ali Al Mannai, said: “Heritage is that special link, which connects our past to our present and future. Inspired by the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, UAE is making great strides in conserving our national heritage. This unique festival is the product of close collaboration among 22 local government entities dedicated to the preservation of our Emirati identity and passing it on to future generations so they can feel a strong sense of belongingness to their nation.”
29 countries to showcase their heritage
In his presentation, Al Musallam said that 29 countries including Montenegro, the guest of honour, would participate in the 18th edition of Sharjah Heritage Days.
Other participating nations include Belarus, Macedonia, Bashkortostan, Tajikistan, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Maldives, Yemen, Egypt, Italy, Spain, France, Sudan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Algeria, Syria, Kenya, Tunisia, Netherlands, Mauritania, Iraq, and India.
Experiencing cultures through folklore
Vibrant folk performances from Belarus, Macedonia, Bashkortostan, Tajikistan, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, and Montenegro, will introduce visitors to new cultures while eight Emirati folkloric arts and dances - Ayyala, Nuban, Andima, Razif and Rawahh, Harbiya, Liwa, Habban, and Daan - will highlight the heritage and rich culture of the country.
Traditional Arab heritage will be showcased through 22 activities, including seminars and workshops.
UAE’s diverse landscapes inspire creativity
The exciting cultural agenda will also feature 67 crafts inspired by the UAE’s four diverse natural environments: the mountains, desert, coastal and agriculture.
Of the 80 stores on site, traditional products such as fragrances and incenses, and Emirati costumes will be showcased. Cuisines represented here include flavourful Emirati dishes, and regional and international dishes.
Folklore Documentation Project
For a period of three weeks, SHD will undertake a project to scientifically document UAE’s audio-visual heritage and provide a historical overview of the specialty and musical instrument artisanship of the diverse art forms, including its pioneers and early adopters. The three types of arts covered under the project include Festive, Performance, and Religious.
Community Theatre and Child Village
Nine countries, including Yemen, Palestine, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, India and Pakistan, will demonstrate the artistry of their diverse cultures and heritage through colourful performances.
In the Child Village, visitors can partake in 214 activities comprising workshops, storytelling sessions, and Family and Child programmes throughout the three-week event. Children can also look forward to participating in a host of traditional games.
Cultural and academic programmes
The Cultural Café will host 20 lectures, and book signings with the launch of 15 new book titles by SIH. A special Heritage Bulletin will be distributed daily, as well as the special issue of Marawed magazine.
The Heart of Sharjah will be the setting for a series of academic programmes that include 17 cultural lectures and seminars and 17 workshops and storytelling sessions.
Oasis of reading and art galleries
A new addition to the Sharjah Heritage Days this year is the Oasis of Reading that will be home to works from the ‘Al Mawrooth Library’ and several local publishers.
The event will also bring eight exhibitions which will be showcasing various heritage collections, including O’koos Salmeen, a photography exhibition by Salmeen Al Suwaidi; crafts from Sharjah Gallery – organised in cooperation with the Archives Department of the Arabian Heritage Centre; pottery items; folk art instruments – organised in partnership with the art committee of the Sharjah Institute for Heritage; a set of artefacts belonging to Judge Ali bin Ibrahim Al Juwaied; furniture inspired by Emirati heritage created by students of the College of Fine Arts & Design, Sharjah; and Arabic manuscripts from Macedonia.
Sharjah Heritage Days in Khorfakkan
Residents and visitors in the eastern city of Khorfakkan can participate in a series of cultural programmes, lectures, art performances, workshops, handcraft displays, and competitions throughout the three-week event.
The Higher Committee has announced that 20 precautionary measures are in place to safeguard the health and safety of visitors and participants. Amongst these are two entry and exit gates equipped with thermal detectors, social distancing signs and posters, availability of masks and sanitisers, and daily sterilisation of the various venues.
The World Heritage Village will undergo 30-minute sterilisation after each activity. Visitor entry is limited to 3,000 on weekdays and 6,000 during the weekend.
Sponsors and partners
The 18th edition of Sharjah Heritage Days is organised in strategic partnership with the Districts and Villages Affairs Department and Emirates Heritage Club. Twenty-two participating government entities and institutions will organize more than 150 activities during the event.
Sponsored by Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority and Etisalat, the main sponsors are Next Media, Giftco International, Sharjah Cooperative Society, and Sharjah Airport Travel Agency (SATA). Participating and supporting bodies include The University City, Al Montazah Parks, Bee’ah, Sharjah Municipality, and Sharjah Islamic Bank. Sharjah Broadcasting Authority is the media partner while Sharjah Government Media Bureau and the Hamdan bin Mohammed Heritage Centre are media sponsors.