I know, I know… I have already written a post about the Qasr al Hosn festival, however after seeing it live I had to write another one to say: it is really amazing, and totally worth going to!!
There is so much going on at this festival that it is hard to decide from what to start. The place is really huge, so it needs at least three or four hours to be explored. The entry to the grounds costs only 10 AED.
And if you are new to the city and don’t have anyone to go with, this internations group is planning to go to see the Cavalia show on the 28th of February.
The festival is divided in four main areas: Desert, Oasis, Marine, and Abu Dhabi island, each with their own activities, plus the fort, the Cultural Foundation building and the tent where the Cavalia show is performed.
A lake has been created in the Marina area, and a waves machine makes it look like you are walking on the ocean side: it was one of our favourite areas.
Souks with local crafts and foods, story-telling corners and a really wide range of workshops make this really a unique day out. We enjoyed it so much that we are planning to go back next weekend!
We learned how to weave a basket, how to make fishing nets, how to paint a mask, and even how to cook Emirati food, just to mention a few of the activities available.
The workshop calendar is really huge: henna painting, artefact handling, horse riding, paddle making, boat making, traditional handicrafts – like sadu weaving, khoos or telli, traditional clothing and accessories making – like burqa making, scents discovery, creating traditional toys and dolls, pottery making… and if you go for the oyster shucking you can even hope to find a pearl!
Animal lovers can also see camels, turtles, horses, falcons, saluki dogs, goats, and a bird show, and even try their hand at camel milking!!
Most importantly, for the first time in several years, the Qasr al Hosn fort itself is open to visitors.
Qasr al Hosn dates back to the 18th Century, when it was first built in coral and sea stone, both for defence and to check on coastal trades. Starting as one single watchtower, walls, towers and residential quarters have then been added in following centuries, creating the structure we see today.
Before visiting the fort, there is a very interesting video explaining its story and the story of the people that lived in it.
Guided tours of the fort are available during the festival, starting from outside the main tower from 4:15pm, approximately every 10 minutes until 10:30pm.
Every tour takes approximately 30 minutes, and is available in both English and Arabic: the works of renovation on this beautiful structure are still under way, but thanks to amazing life-sized projections on the walls, we were able to see how it looked through the centuries. It is hard to explain it, but these 3d projections really look magical, turning time back and forth at the blink of an eye. Our guide was great, really knowledgeable and passionate about the fort, and we really enjoyed our tour.
Next to the fort, another building has great historical importance: virtually untouched since the 60s, the Council Chamber houses rooms where many historical UAE decisions were taken, including talks about the union. We were able to see a video of HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan talking to other diplomats, and it was really interesting.
All around the grounds, traditional sports and dances are performed, and we also had the chance to enjoy traditional music, such as the talented rababa players.
The amphitheatre houses a range of films about the UAE and a marathon of poetry readings.
The timetable for these events is the following:
Every day, from the 21st Feb to 1st March:
4pm – Documentary (57min) – Story of a Fort, Legacy of a Nation.
5pm – Documentary (28min) – Abu Dhabi 1962-64
5:30pm – Animated film (7min) – Ostora.
5:40pm – Documentary (53min) – Farewell Arabia.
7:30 – 9:30 pm – Poetry performances.
10pm – Documentary (57min) – Story of a Fort, Legacy of a Nation.
The Cultural Foundation also houses a library, which showcases rare books and a reading area, and an exhibition and interactive area about Gahwa, traditional Emirati coffee.
Cirque du Soleil co-founder Normand Latourelle especially adapted his show Cavalia to be performed at the festival.
It is an equestrian stage show, perfect for those who love horses and acrobats: the stage also gets filled with water at some point, making for a lot of splashes and beautiful visuals.
50 highly-trained horses and over 30 crew members, including acrobats and a live band playing music throughout the show, make for a really unique show, performed here for the first time in the UAE.
See below for some snapshots from the show:
The Cavalia show is not included in the entry fee: the show’s tickets are going fast and are almost sold out, so it is better to hurry up if interested. (Available on Ticketmaster).
Five talks will also take place, revealing interesting facts about Qasr al Hosn, the famous visitors it hosted, and its structural changes overtime. Each talk will last one hour and will always be from 7pm to 8pm. Here is the complete schedule:
Saturday 22 Feb: Qasr al Hosn: the oldest political symbol.
Monday 24 Feb: Qasr al Hosn: guests throughout history.
Tuesday 25 Feb: Qasr al Hosn: Its current and future socio-political significance.
Wednesday 26 Feb: Qasr al Hosn: construction and development stages.
Friday 28 Feb: Qasr al Hosn: core of building Abu Dhabi.
Conservation workshops will also take place Monday 24 Feb and Wednesday 26 Feb, from 2:30 pm to 4pm.
We loved this festival and we can’t wait to go back next weekend to see all what we did not manage to see this time!!
Qasr Al Hosn, which is said to be the oldest building in Abu Dhabi, is a fort dating back to the 18th century, located not far from the Corniche.
Currently undergoing extensive refurbishments, this beautiful landmark will be open for visits in occasion of the Qasr Al Hosn Festival, which will run from the 20th of February to the 1st of March 2014. (But on the 21st of February is open only to women and children).
The 2014 festival will be divided in four areas related to different aspects of the history and culture of Abu Dhabi: Desert, Oasis, Marine and Abu Dhabi Island. Interactive shows, workshops, traditional performances, guided tours, children activities and celebrations will showcase Emirati heritage and traditions.
More info on the official facebook page, or the official website.
One of the highlights of this year’s festival will be the show Cavalia at Qasr Al Hosn, an equestrian stage show created by the co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, Normand Latourelle. (Official website; Tickets available here). The show, presented for the first time in a specially adapted version to be staged at the fort, will feature more than 40 highly trained horses, performing alongside dancers and musicians.
This year’s festival will celebrate more than 250 years of UAE history and it is the first opportunity in several years to visit this landmark and see the results of the undergoing works of conservation: visitors will be able to access the interior foyer of the fort, as well as the historic National Consultative Council Chamber, which is located next to the fort’s walls, and the Cultural Foundation building, which will host live performances, poetry recitals and a series of films produced by emerging UAE artists, as well as a space dedicated to Arabic coffee, called Gahwa: in this space visitors will learn about the local coffee rituals and history and will be able to taste or buy various types of traditional Gahwa.