Even though we felt nearly sickeningly full (...) after our posh Afternoon Tea experience, Beenal and I decided we wanted to do some more sightseeing and exploring in the evening, since we were in the middle of the city anyway. So we took on the Qasr Al Hosn Festival!
The Qasr Al Hosn Festival is an annual event held on the grounds of Qasr Al Hosn, to celebrate centuries of Emirati culture and tradition. The Qasr Al Hosn Fort is the first permanent structure built in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and one that housed its royal family, Al Nahyan, for generations; it's Abu Dhabi's most significant historic structure. It was first built in the 1760s as a coral and sea stone watch tower.
It is seen as the symbolic birthplace of the emirate, and the public is only allowed on these grounds during this festival every year, hence this festival is a very popular event, not only with tourists and expats - but also with the locals.
We started out by watching a live show in the Festival Stage, where we learned about the animals of the desert.
The area where the festival is held is huge. Here Beenal is in the Marine part, where we could learn about the life and traditions along the Emirate coastlines of the past. We could see boats being built, learn about oyster opening, pearling traditions, net casting, sail making and much more:
There was traditional houses constructed on the grounds and you could learn about traditional architecture through different workshops and demonstrations. Many different houses were showcasing f.e blacksmiths, pottery, traditional coffee houses, a wedding ceremony, textile dyeing etc.
Another area was made like an oasis where you could learn about farming, gardening and the importance of the palm tree, falconry, rope making, dates etc.
We could also learn more about traditional food, butter making, the special Emirate coffee and so on. Here an Emirate cooking class took place, it looked really interesting:
Many different exhibitions would tell us about the story of Abu Dhabi, and how it grew from a small coastal community into a town, and then into the high-rise global city we have today. We learned why the Fort was built here, and of the important decisions that were made here.
Many different animals were displayed too, camels, salukis, goats, horses and here the desert birds the houbaras:
The Al Ayala, a unique folk art performed in the UAE:
Lots of different food was on offer all over the grounds. We were keen on trying something, but the queues were ridiculously long everywhere so we didn't get to anything unfortunately. There was also authentically designed souks, offering selections of traditional goods.
We didn't participate in any, because you had to book your spot in advance and everything was full; but we still went through the Cultural Foundation Building to have a look at the many workshops that was on offer: pottery painting, doll making, making traditional toy cars, block printing, jewellery making, weaving, paper models and much much more.
What a superb event!!
This festival truly is a unique opportunity to experience the Emirate culture and traditions, through this wide range of activities, and it certainly is helping to strengthen the appreciation of the Emirate heritage. It was a wonderful visit, and I will try to get back together with the kids, if not this year then next year when this festival hopefully returns.