Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed and Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, during the national rally from Al Manhal Palace to Qasr Al Hosn fort on the opening day of the Qasr Al Hosn Festival yesterday. Also seen are other shaikhs and officials. Image Credit: WAM

Abu Dhabi: His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, yesterday led the national rally, marking the start of the Qasr Al Hosn Festival.

The annual festival will be spread over 17,000 square-metres of historic area in commemoration of the iconic white fort of Abu Dhabi — Qasr Al Hosn and run until February 21.

Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid and Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed, accompanied by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Lieutenant-General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior; Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs; Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister, and other shaikhs and senior officials, toured the festival and acquainted themselves with its various cultural and heritage activities.

They inspected Qasr Al Hosn’s interior and its landmark facilities and developments that has rendered the fort an authentic national milestone and a unique heritage structure.

They were updated on the maintenance and restoration plans underway as well as excavations and geophysical surveys, which revealed the remnants of the foundation of an old building.

Restoration works

They viewed a slide of the restoration works underway in one of the fort’s towers, where they listened to a presentation on the old towers of the fort, which were used as watch towers to ensure the protection and safety of people living there.

Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid and Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed then visited the Qasr Al Hosn exhibition and viewed some old models and archaeological collections as well as interactive paintings depicting the importance of the fort and its development and vital role.

They were briefed on the oral historical documentation efforts, and praised the efforts of all national bodies and institutions to adhere to the national identity of the UAE society.

Held under the patronage of Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed, the 11-day festival celebrates the UAE’s tangible and intangible heritage through a rich, diverse programme featuring guided tours of the fort, inspiring activities and live performances in addition to public programmes held on festival grounds reflecting various elements of its local culture.

“The 2015 festival programmes have been created to offer visitors a holistic cultural experience and narrate stories in a compelling, educational, yet engaging manner. The festival area has been redesigned to include new elements and activities that seamlessly fuse the traditional with the modern,” said Shaikh Sultan Bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA-AD) in an earlier statement.

More than 70 shuttle buses have been deployed to take festival visitors to and from parking areas all through the 11 days of the event as part of the Department of Transport’s (DoT) park and ride services.

“With Qasr Al Hosn Festival, we are not just celebrating monuments; we are celebrating the people that have carried the story of a nation from generation to generation. We are looking to celebrate our recent history through a compelling narrative using modern-day tools to recreate historic experiences,” he added.  
The festival ground is divided into four major areas — the Oasis, Desert, Marina and Abu Dhabi Island Zones, in addition to the Cultural Foundation building. An array of activities has been set up especially for children, including artefact digging, traditional games, a gardening club and an architectural workshop.