Sailors at the Dubai Marine and Heritage Festival at Umm Suqeim which highlights the heritage of the UAE. Image Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: Learn how to dive, make traditional Emirati crafts, and experience traditional Emirati life at the inaugural Dubai Marine and Heritage Festival in Umm Suqeim 2 this week.

The week-long event, being held under the patronage of Shaikh Majid Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and Chairman of Dubai International Marine Club, opened on Saturday to host traditional dhow sailing, rowing races, heritage events and activities.

“We would like to highlight the marine and cultural heritage of the UAE for the young generation and the generations to come to know about their culture, their heritage. We want them to be familiar with our rich history and make sure that nobody forgets,” Nasser Juma, head of the organising committee of the festival, told Gulf News.

Juma emphasised the importance of the pearl diving industry which, for hundreds of years before the discovery of oil, was the primary source of income for the people. The sea, like in many early civilisations, was the source of food and livelihood forpeople.

“During that time, diving was very difficult and a bit dangerous. They’d be out in the sea for three months and 10 days, and they’d be away from their families. They’d dive unassisted without any diving gear from 6am to 6pm, taking short breaks in between,” Juma said.

A diving instructor himself, Juma could only recall his father’s accounts of their forefathers’ deep sea adventures in amazement.

“As an Emirati, the sea means everything to me. I’ve been attached to the sea since I was young. Despite being a diving instructor myself, I find it difficult to do what they did. Now, even with diving gear, I still feel tired after a day’s dive. But our forefathers excelled in it and they did well,” he added.

Juma said the festival is not only for Emiratis but is open to the public. People interested to learn basic diving skills for free, or how to make traditional Emirati crafts, taste traditional Emirati cuisine, and see traditional dhows can come and visit the 8,000 square-metre open facility from April 13 to 20.

The festival flagged off with the 43-feet Dubai Traditional Dhow Sailing Race with around 1,000 contestants in 85 boats at Jumeirah Beach on Saturday.

Five hundred young contestants in 65 boats compete for the 22-feet Dubai Traditional Dhow Sailing Race on April 15 while the 30-feet Dubai Traditional Rowing Race will take place on April 16.

The final match, the ‘Maktoum Cup’ Traditional Rowing Race, will determine the winner of the inaugural Dubai Marine and Heritage Festival on April 18.