In 2013, thousands of people visited the Festival in its first edition, organisers Abu Dhabi Tourism ‘&’ Culture Authority (TCA), is building on this huge success and is looking forward to welcoming more visitors to the festival 2014 to celebrate together the iconic birthplace of Abu Dhabi.
Under the patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the 10-day annual Qasr Al Hosn Festival, got to an impressive start on Thursday and will run untill 1 March 2014 with an exciting programme that includes guided tours of the fort, public programmes and an internationally renowned show adapted to reflect the elements of the UAE culture.
Qasr Al Hosn Festival is an annual opportunity to celebrate this magnificent national monument and iconic symbol of Abu Dhabi’s proud history and identity and to engage our community in the development of Qasr Al Hosn restoration programme.
The public programme of this year’s Qasr Al Hosn Festival reflects Abu Dhabi Tourism ‘&’ Culture Authority’s holistic vision of culture, which embraces both tangible and intangible heritage. The festival is a key part of the authority’s commitment to the preservation of architectural and archaeological assets as well as to the development of visual and performing arts, literature and poetry to celebrate the Emirati identity.
For the first time in several years, Qasr Al Hosn Festival presents an opportunity to its visitors to explore the historic fort as it undergoes renovation. The interior foyer will be partially open to festival visitors on guided tours and educational activities for children and youth.
Qasr al Hosn Festival will be a platform and an annual milestone, allowing the community to be completely associated with and engaged in the progress of Qasr al Hosn’s restoration.
Another unique aspect of this year’s festival is that visitors will be able to visit the historic National Consultative Council Chamber located adjacent to the Fort walls, where many important historical decisions were made.
In the Qasr Al Hosn Centre, a public exhibition will enable visitors to delve deeper into Qasr Al Hosn’s history. The exhibition will be complemented by a series of oral narratives about Abu Dhabi’s history and people.
In addition to the Qasr Al Hosn fort being partially opened to the public, areas of the adjacent modern heritage building, the Cultural Foundation, will be opened during the festival, and will stage a series of live performances, poetry recitals and a series of films produced by emerging UAE artists.
The Cultural Foundation will also include a unique space, Gahwa (coffee in Arabic), a contemporary take on the Emirati coffee tradition where guests can learn about the Gahwa’s history and ritual, and taste or buy various types of traditional Gahwa.
Qasr Al Hosn Festival Area will offer four distinct experiences revealing different aspects of Abu Dhabi’s history and culture. Each area – Desert, Oasis, Marine and Abu Dhabi Island – will present interactive public programmes for audience of all demographics, including heritage workshops, traditional performances, celebrations highlighting Emirati skills and traditions, and guided tours and exhibitions.
The grounds of the fort have been turned into a massive heritage village, honouring all aspects of Emirati traditions, splitting the area into four sections: Desert, Marine, Oasis and Abu Dhabi Island, each showcasing exhibits, workshops, demonstrations and performances.
The Abu Dhabi Island has a Beit Al Zehba (a traditional wedding house) where visitors can watch performers prepare for a traditional Abu Dhabi wedding with dancing, music and the adorning of the bride with henna and jewellery.
Demonstrations of sadu (weaving), henna and dukhoun (traditional scent or incense making) will take place daily, along with horse riding, a souq and, new this year, Emirati chefs showing how to prepare local dishes.
The Desert area will have Bedu men showing off their Hatheera skills, the techniques of making traditional Arabic coffee, while others will put on a Yola folk show, reveal traditional Bedouin etiquette, make horse saddles, and teach about kandoora dying and burqa making. The Desert area will also feature the showing of saluki dogs and camels.
New this year is a partnership with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), which will set up a houbara bustard pen, to hopefully raise awareness about this endangered species, once hunted by Arabs for food.
Fishing and pearling are the focus in the Marine area exhibits, while in the Shasha building there are workshops on paddle making, sail making, dhow building, fishnet making, fish trap making and fish salting.
The Oasis area is all about making a living from date palm trees, with exhibits and demonstrations on palm tree climbing to harvest the dates, palm weaving to make household objects like mats and fans and rope making from palm tree fibres.
Creating a festival in the historical Qasr al Hosn site is a feat that has never been attempted before and the opportunity to learn more about Abu Dhabi s fascinating past attracted over 30,000 of visitors last year.
One of the highlights of the festival will be the feature show �Cavalia at Qasr Al Hosn’, an equestrian stage show created by Cirque du Soleil co-founder Normand Latourelle. The show has been specially adapted to be staged as part of the Qasr Al Hosn festival. The multi-disciplinary production – featuring more than 40 highly-trained horses performing alongside performers and musicians – will make its regional debut at Qasr Al Hosn Festival.
Throughout the celebrations, a team of Emirati “Ambassadors” from different educational institutions around the UAE will be on site to guide visitors through the various elements of the festival public programme and provide information.
Following the success of last year’s event and the feedback received by the community, Qasr Al Hosn Festival expects to welcome thousands of visitors.
There is also a school programme running alongside the festival, and is expected to welcome 480 pupils from Grade 3 till Grade 9 every day.