Abu Dhabi is set to light up in celebration of the spirit of the Union, with a captivating line-up of activities, entertainment events and promotions across the emirate. Image Credit: Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi: Celebrating the best of Emirati culture and tradition, the annual Shaikh Zayed Heritage Festival opened in Abu Dhabi on Friday with this year’s edition promising to be even bigger than previous years.

Held under the patronage of His Highness President Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the festival will run until January 26 featuring several daily activities and performances — in total the festival will have more than 1,500 cultural and traditional events. This year’s edition also sees the addition of the ‘World in UAE’ section which will feature iconic replicas of international landmarks from the UAE and around the world.

With more than 1.5 million visitors attending last year’s festival, organisers are expecting similar if not even more numbers this year thanks to the festival’s growing popularity. The festival’s reach extends to visitors from neighbouring countries including Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Marching band at Shaikh Zayed Heritage Festival. Sami Zaatari/Gulf News

“The Shaikh Zayed Heritage Festival is an excellent event for people who want to learn and experience Emirati culture. There are many different areas to visit showcasing our traditions and what they mean to us,” said Mahmoud Al Ali, an Emirati father who was visiting with his wife and three young children.

“I bring my children every year and we come during the weekends. The children have a lot of fun when they visit, and at the same time they’re also gaining a good appreciation of our culture. It’s important to keep our traditions alive especially with our young ones,” he added.

Nicholas Caparra, an Argentinian tourist also visiting the festival with his wife and daughter for the first time, said they wanted to learn about Emirati culture — and more specifically to see some camels.

Traditional Emirati dance at Shaikh Zayed Heritage Festival. Sami Zaatari/Gulf News

“We want to see what the local culture is like, to taste their foods, and to understand their customs and traditions. We’re also very keen to see some camels!

“We’re visiting the UAE from Argentina and we heard about this event and so we decided to visit to get the true local experience,” he added.

Fountain and laser show at Shaikh Zayed Heritage Festival Sami Zaatari/Gulf News

Like previous years the festival has different sections each with their own themes, these include the UAE District, Memories of a Nation Exhibition, World Heritage, Traditional Customs Exhibition and Funfair City among many others.

Daily events such as horse and camel shows, international folk art performances, world heritage parade and the UAE fountain and laser show will be taking place, giving visitors and families a range of activities and entertainment to choose from.

Shaikh Zayed Heritage Festival

Where: Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi

When: Running daily until January 26

Admission: Free entry

Times: Daily 4pm-10pm

At a glance

  • 15 historic UAE landmarks
  • 20 plus landmarks from around the world
  • 40 cultural districts from around the world
  • 500 plus shops
  • 1500 cultural and traditional activities