Le Méridien hotel in Abu Dhabi is organising a ‘Village festival’ on the 28th of March, starting at 1pm. The theme of the festival is Africa: its diverse culture, traditions and cuisine. (Directions here).
For those who are new to the city and might not know many people as yet, this Internations group is planning on going, and new faces are always welcome.
African delicacies will be on sale at the many food stalls, with particular focus on Ethiopian, Moroccan and South African cuisine: couscous and bastilla, Injera bread, Azifa, Alecha, Malva pudding, as well as a barbecue and a specially brewed coffee.
There will be live music, by the band Dubai Drums, the in-house South African band Trio del Sol, and DJ Badu (also on facebook).
Various activities will include children’s face painting and a bouncy castle, and the chance for all to get a makeover thanks to expert hairstylists ready to create beautiful braids.
There will also be a raffle, and the winning ticket will win two return flights to Nairobi, in Kenya.
I am getting ready for blissful neck pain, as the Red Bull Air Race Championship arrives to Abu Dhabi!
This world championships starts in Abu Dhabi and continues in other 7 cities, with races held from February to November.
Competitors fly individually through the obstacle course, and the top nine fastest pilots earn points: at the end of the whole championship, the person with the most points is crowned the winner. Easier said than done!
Usually this race is over 2 days, the first of qualifications and the second of knock-out finals.
This weekend, the 28th February and 1st of March, the sky over our beloved Corniche will be full of champions of the air, keen to showcase their acrobatic prowess.
Some of the best daredevils in the world will use the fastest, most agile and lightweight racing planes, trying to navigate a low-level aerial track made up of 25-metres-high air-filled pylons. Average speed is usually up to 370 Km/h!
Flying through the racecourse requires agility and incredible pilot precision, as the course has high-G turns and challenging corners, making for an amazing show to watch from the ground.
Apart from the flying acrobatics, another highlight of the weekend will also be the concert on February 28th, which will feature Arab popstar Nancy Ajram (whose hits include Akhasmak Ah and Aah W Noss) and Lebanese songwriter Ramy Ayach (whose hits include Khallini Maak and Ya Msahar Heini), supported by Egyptian pop rockers Wust El Balad (whose hits include Qol Lelmaleha and Arabeily2 ).
Tickets are available in Virgin megastores around the city, in special-made booths on the Corniche, and on the Redbull Air Race official website.
The concert will be free to all those who already have a ticket for the Red Bull Air Race, or can be purchased separately for 150 AED.
1PM – 6PM – Challengers Race and Masters Qualifying
8PM – 12AM – Concert (Doors open at 6PM)
1PM- 6PM – Masters Race
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!!
Nearly a month ago (wow, time really flies!) I posted about the Masdar Street Festival, held in occasion of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.
We had never been before so we were curious to find out how it was. Well, I do hope you managed to pop by, because it was actually very good.
The place was buzzing with people, live music, plenty of food stalls and art&craft stalls, and lots of interesting info about eco-friendly technology.
Here are my personal highlights of the day.
The life-sized wind tower and solar panel walking around were really cute and fun, a good idea for the kids, who loved them. (I did too!)
The live music was great, as a kick-ass band rocked it out on the big stage near one of the entrances: the lead singer literally turned heads with his amazing voice.
Singer-songwriter Abbo was sitting in the ‘secret garden’, a romantic green setting full of little tables, benches and cushions, just next to the library (and to a handy selection of ice cream carts and food stalls!), serenading us all with his beautiful tunes
Many stalls were selling gourmet food, both to eat straight away or to bring home. From delicious dates to organic bread, from the eco-themed cupcakes by Hey Sugar to pop corn and ice cream, from pizza to Lebanese food, there was something for everyone.
The restaurants inside Masdar city were also open, and obviously super-busy. We ate sushi and it was just delicious!
There were many activities for children, such as planting a flower and decorate the vase to bring it home, build a windmill, dancing with the clowns and so much more. You could even try to light a light-bulb with a bicycle if you wanted!
The lovely stalls of sustainable arts and crafts sold everything from fair-trade furniture to beautiful panama hats.
My favourite stall belonged to Bhawna Sehra and her hand-poured candles made out of natural Palm wax. (Official website – Facebook) With so many amazing scents, I could not resist and I had to buy one!
You could choose herbal perfumes (such as basil or rosemary), floral scents (such as palmarosa, lavender and neroli), minty ones (and that is the one I chose!), cedarwood, lemon, orange and much more.
I did not know that, but apparently palm wax creates amazing and unique crystalline patterns upon cooling and it is also the most eco-friendly wax available: palms enhance bio-diversity, soil fertility, use very little water, are GMO free (not genetically modified) and pest resistant. Palm wax production is clean and uses no harmful solvents, and it is 100% natural and vegan. Also, in a country where there are so many palms around, it is really amazing to be able to bring a bit of the local nature inside our home! I love my new candle!
Even if we were not allowed to ride in the robot-cars on the way in (there were too many people so we had to take a shuttle bus), we managed to end the day riding them back to the car park, which was fun.
It has been a lovely day out and we already look forward to next year!
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.
The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) is the largest gathering on sustainability held in the Middle East, and this year will run between the 18th and the 25th of January. (More info on their official website).
One of the highlights of the week-long gatherings will be the Festival at Masdar City, which is free and open to all.
Masdar city is not far from the Al Raha, Yas or Saadiyat areas (10-15 minutes by car) and it is one of the most sustainable communities in the world, and – since our recent visit – one of our favourite places in Abu Dhabi.
I say only one word: robot-cars. OK, that’s two words, but still: robot cars! (blog post to follow).
From 11am to 9pm, on the 24th and 25th of January, Masdar City will be hosting a street festival featuring various zones, each with a custom theme and offering a variety of activities, aimed at inspiring more sustainable habits.
The traffic-free city (every road is a pedestrian road!) will be bustling with eco stores selling organic produce, a variety of workshops for children and teenagers, food stalls, music and entertainment for all ages, and exhibitors showcasing home solutions for sustainable living.
Interactive activities for children will include flower planting, windmill building, eco-craft workshop, a ‘little inventor’ competition, and even a secret garden. A children book-swap will also take place, to encourage reading and recycling.
There will be dedicated areas where to safely recycle batteries and electrical goods, as well as experts at hand to give tips to reduce energy consumption (and energy bills).
We have never been before, but it does sound fun! I want to build a windmill!! (And, of course, ride again in a robot-car!)
During ADSW, apparently, aside of the ones for the media, tours of Masdar city will be available to general public throughout the day on the 20th, 21st, and 22nd of January. (source)
Topics of discussion scheduled for this year’s ADSW include water, renewable energy and ecowaste.
Most of the events are open only to government officials, students, trade sector professionals or media, but some can be attended by the general public, previous registration. (The complete list of events can be found here and here).
During the Sustainability Week, Abu Dhabi will host several summits and conferences, such as the 7th World Future Energy Summit (WFES) a trade show featuring areas such as the Sustainable Living Expo (SLE), which includes a real-sized home and a model hotel suite showcasing water and energy efficient products; the 2nd International Water Summit (IWS), a platform aiming to promote water sustainability in arid regions, and the 1st EcoWASTE exhibition, held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, a place where new projects and cutting-edge new technologies will be presented.
We have only one planet, so it is great to have a chance to find out more about how to make it last. See you at Masdar City!