Qasr Al Hosn Festival
I love living in the Emirates, but the thing in Dubai is that you really don’t experience a lot of local culture. Actually, you don’t even see that many locals around here. Your best shot at learning something about the Emirati culture is to attend the events by Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, which I highly recommend, but I have not found much more besides that.
So, when I found out about the Qasr Al Hosn Festival, an annual event celebrating Emirati heritage in Abu Dhabi, I just had to see it. I must admit, when I first checked the amazing photos and videos they had posted on their Instagram, I was a bit skeptical. I mean, nowadays, anyone can come up with a clever marketing campaign, but it does not always mean quality content. But let me tell you, the Festival was exactly as awesome as shown in their social media!
The thing that first impressed me was the amount of Emirati families attending the Festival! I would say the locals made up 95% of the visitors, which shows how proud they are of their heritage. I think it is nice that despite of the crazy development the region has been through over the last 60 years, they still appreciate where they come from.
You can imagine how powerful the visual of masses of local men in kanduras and local women in abayas is. But can you imagine masses of little boys in white kanduras and girls in colourful khaleegi thobes running around!? (For cuteness, check the end of the post!) It was not just a regular outing to them, it was a celebration. And, there were a lot of ways to celebrate! Like rolling themselves off the piles of sand, or digging holes the size of themselves! Kids will be kids, they don’t need much to be entertained 😀
But actually, there is so much more to the Qasr Al Hosn Festival than the sandpits! The festival grounds cover all aspects of traditional life – the desert, the oasis, the villages at the coast. They even have their own school and a police force!
You can try climbing up a palm, watch a saluki (a desert hound) do tricks, decorate your hands with henna, attempt to weave a straw mat, learn how to dye fabrics with natural components, smell different types of bukhoor (inscence), take a camel ride, attend an archaeology workshop, eat chebabs (Emirati pancakes), browse through a souk (and try to resist buying yet another khaleegi-thobe 😉 ), hug a baby goat, listen to poetry recitations, take an Emirati cooking class, and so much more! And for kids, there is a special crafts’ centre where they can do all sorts of crafts ranging from ceramics and doll-making to building toy cars!
And if you get tired of walking around, you can just grab a cup of karak tea (sweet milk tea), sit down and just observe people around you. The Festival also seems a place where young locals come and check each other out 😉 All in all, there is so much to see and do that we spent almost three hours there without even noticing the time passing!
And, of course, to my great joy, there was a lot of music and dance! During my visit I was lucky to see two of the traditional dances. Al-yawlah is where the men show their skill by spinning and throwing a rifle, and dancing at the same time. They are good at what they do, but I am still glad dummy guns are used mostly 🙂 Check out the video below, and pay attention to how good some of the boys are!
The other dance I saw is Al-Ardah, which is basically a battle dance. The men form two lines, and dance with cans and swords. They also chant, being accompanied by drums and tambourines.
And I left the sweetest dance video to the last. Just watch this and tell me it isn’t the cutest thing ever!?