Traditional artists perform at Al Hosn Festival in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi’s original urban block, located in the heart of the city, is ablaze with festive lights.

The majestic Qasr Al Hosn stands proudly in all its glory, overlooking the dozens of people walking about a mock Emirati village of yore. Across the block, popular artists engage visitors, as children learn about the UAE’s many achievements and aims.

Over the ten days of the festival, similar activities will continue at the site, as part of the awaited Al Hosn Festival that has kicked today. Continuing until December 4, the festival is a celebration of Emirati heritage, even as it looks forward to the UAE’s promising future.

Past and future

“Al Hosn is a symbol of the emirate’s rich history and is a source of enormous pride for our people. This annual festival [therefore] serves as the ideal platform for celebrating both our vibrant Emirati heritage and creative, innovative contemporary art scene,” said Saood Al Hosani, undersecretary at the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) Abu Dhabi.

Celebrations will obviously reach a crescendo on December 2 as the country marks its 50th year. But in its run-up, visitors can learn about traditional Emirati life and crafts, meet popular artistes, and even participate in a ‘gahwa’-making competition.

Abu Dhabi spirit

“We want our visitors to be able to take away the story of Abu Dhabi, as well as its spirit,” Randa Omar bin Haidar, director of cultural festivals and platforms at DCT Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News.

Part of this experience is the Festival’s design, which places the old way of Emirati life, including a village, a souq and even a classic cars exhibition, close to Qasr Al Hosn. The fort is the oldest standing structure in Abu Dhabi, and served as the presidential palace and seat of government until the early 1990s. So it is only apt that visitors can learn about traditional embroidery or ‘talli’, pearl diving, falconry, fishing and dhow-making — once everyday elements of an Emirati life — next to this well-loved building.

'Bukhour' (traditional incense) being prepared at Al Hosn Festival. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Live performances by musicians, film screenings, and homegrown businesses and eateries make up the offerings in the contemporary section, which is situated next to the Cultural Foundation. Children can also learn about the UAE’s Mars exploration mission, and engage in other activities, at the dedicated zones within the Cultural Foundation.

Community celebrations

With its range of activities, Al Hosn Festival is a popular fixture on the city’s annual calendar. In 2020 however, the majority of offerings were virtual.

“It is good to be back, celebrating the UAE as a community. The global pandemic hit artistes and cultural contributors hard across the world, so it is good to welcome everyone back as we celebrate this beautiful nation,” Bin Haidar said.

More than 70,000 people are expected to attend the Festival this year.

“Marking the UAE’s Golden Jubilee next to Qasr Al Hosn is aslo a big deal. It was there that the first nation building decisions were made, as the office of the National Consultative Council when the UAE was formed, and it is wonderful to mark these jubilee festivities next to it,” Bin Haidar said.

Preventive measures

All events will take place amid COVID-19 preventive measures, so visitors must present a negative PCR test report, with 96-hour validity, and proof of vaccination. They must also wear face masks onsite.

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Al Hosn Festival

Where: At Qasr Al Hosn and Cultural Foundation

When: November 25 to December 4

Timings: 4pm to 11pm

Tickets: Dh30 for visitors 12 years and above; Dh15 for visitors from 5-11 years; free admission for children less than five years old.