“A root is a flower that doesn’t like fame,” said once Khalil Gibran, a saying that seems particularly true of Al Ain. The second largest city of Abu Dhabi emirate is one of United Arab Emirates’ most precious heritage gems. Lesser known to foreign and home tourists, the oasis city is home to 7,000 years old archaeological discoveries and 19th century forts that bear witness of the history of the families inhabiting the area for centuries.
The first houses built in Abu Dhabi emirate in the pre-oil era were called Al Arish, the traditional summer dwellings. They were more of a shelter made of palm tree leaves. Al Arish had two parts: the main area, usually 2×4 metres, used for sitting and sleeping; and a smaller space, about 2×2 metres, used for cooking, storage and rising of animals. The Bedouins considered Al Arish their second home after the tent.
“A UAE off-roader was killed in a UAE desert with a piece of off-road equipment. Who was it? Where was it? And how did they do it? To find out, join the Cluedo trip….”
Of course, no one died, but Jenny Drayton, a marshal with UAE Offroaders club, runs this Sherlock Holmes-style desert driving to have a bit of extra fun and to teach a few sand bashing tips to new off-roaders, such as how to lift a car to fix a flat tyre in the sand without having a jack plate. Participants who managed to work out these tricky tasks were rewarded with clues to solve the murder.
At the time the Louvre museum was opening in Paris, in the 1790s, the first Bani Yas tribe families were leaving the Liwa oasis to settle on the shores of Abu Dhabi island. All these centuries later, the two have entered into a partnership that transcends all cultural barriers. One of the world’s grandest and most popular museums, the Louvre, has agreed to lend Abu Dhabi emirate’s new museum its name for the next 30 years against US$ 525 million.
Soft-spoken, weighing his words, not bending for any gains, Tariq Al Muhairi is the portrait of the 21st century Bedouin. The UAE horse championship winner in 1994, 1995 and 1996, he has won numerous of horse racing, jumping and endurance competitions, at home and abroad, but his people – and the world – know him best as the Emirati Horse Whisperer.
“These are some of my trophies,” smiles Tariq, pointing towards some two dozen cups and trophies displayed in his majlis, which he received for his competition wins and his horse shows. Just outside the glass wall, a few horses are walking by. It is late afternoon, time for a little strolling exercise.
With temperatures dropping south of 30 Celsius border, Al Ain has opened up its forts, palaces and oases to its annual, seasonal celebration of Emirati culture, heritage and traditions. Outdoors concerts, festivals, history exhibitions, falconry shows, talks and workshops on royal dress or centuries old Arab etiquette are all happening in the Green City until April next year.
Here are a few of Traditzia’s favourites!
Qasr Al Muwaiji, Khalifa Bin Zayed St, Al Ain:
Ayallah and Harbiya Performances: two of the most popular Emirati folk shows performed by groups of men, facing each other in two raws, having a poetic “dialogue”, encouraged by a group of musicians playing traditional Emirati instruments.
Every Thursday till April 2018;
‘Yalsa’: workshops on traditional Emirati protocol and etiquette.
Every Thursday till April 2018
Royal ‘Bisht’: workshop showcasing the different patterns that each UAE ruler had on his bisht (traditional overcoat worn by men in the UAE and the Arab Gulf), followed by sewing workshops.
Monthly through April 2018:
19 Oct, 16 Nov, 14 Dec 2017; 18 Jan, 22 Feb, 22 Mar, 26 Apr 2018
Falconer’s Camp: visitors can become falconers for an hour
Every Saturday from Nov 2017 to Feb 2018.
Al Ain Palace Museum, Hessa Bint Mohamed St, Al Mutawaa, Al Ain:
My Heritage, My Responsibility: seasonal outdoors programme highlighting different elements of the UAE hospitality, culture and traditions with performances, workshops and a traditional craft market.
7-8 Dec 2017, 11-12 Jan 2018, 15-16 Feb 2018
‘Ramsa’: weekly community majlis event where the Emirati dialect and customs is being discussed by experts in Emirati heritage.
Every Sunday till April 2018
Handicrafts Workshops: visitors get to learn how to make traditional Emirati Telli (embroidery), Khoos (palm leaf weaving), and Sadu (wool weaving).
Every Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, throughout the year.
Al Jahili Fort, Sultan Bin Zayed Al Awwal St, Al Mutawaa, Al Ain:
Trucial Scouts: Life and Times Exhibition: a journey through a collection of artifacts on loan from the Armed Forces Museum & Military History Center in Abu Dhabi, from the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. These artifacts are testimony to the historic Trucial Scouts that was formed in 1951 by royal order of the British Crown. The primary role of the Scouts was to maintain internal and external security in the Trucial emirates, in addition to protecting the interests of oil companies that were exploring in the region at the time.
2 Nov 2017 – 26 Apr 2018;
National Day Celebration
2 December 2017;
Every Tuesday – year long;
Military Band Performance
Every Thursday from 14 Dec 2017 – Apr 2018;
Police Dog Show
Every Wednesday till April 2018.
Bin Hamoodah Fort, near Qattara Oasis, Al Ain:
The Trombone Trio of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra with pianist Jeroen Bal: When Art Meets Music
Set in the beautiful outdoor Bin Hamoodah Fort in Al Ain on November 9th, The Trombone Trio of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and pianist Jeroen Bal will explore the connection between music and visual arts, therefore creating a unique sensory experience that will take the audience on a harmonious musical journey that is rare of its kind.
In a programme inspired by artworks, the four musicians will perform pieces by Modest Mussorgsky, Anton Bruckner and Franz Schubert, while the fort’s walls will be lit with paintings inspired by the music.
The concert is part of Abu Dhabi Classics, the annual classical music season happening in the capital and across the emirate.
Tickets start at AED 100 (AED 50 for students) and are on sale at www.ticketmaster.ae.
“Tomorrow morning, I will show you Liwa through my eyes”, says Ahmed Ateeq Al Muheirbi, concluding a conversation of tourist attractions in this southwestern region of Abu Dhabi emirate. Most “foreigners” who come to Liwa, do so for its desert attractions, its massive dunes that reach hundreds of meters in height, the Tal Moreb festival, the Liwa Desert Challenge and the Liwa Dates Festival or simply to take a fairytale-like break in the magnificent Qasr Al Sarab resort, built 10 kilometres deep inside the desert. There is little, if any, encounter with local folk.
Strategically located, Al Jahili is the largest of Al Ain forts and one of the oldest historical monuments of UAE, each of its landlords and occupants adding something to the building, hence its unique architecture.
Although not as big in shopping malls, five star hotels and gourmet cafes as Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Al Ain has the charm of an old Arabian city, traditional in lifestyle and rich in heritage. Palm tree orchards spreading as far as the eye can see, boulevards lined with ever-green trees, a flower garden that won international awards, over 70 parks and grassy plains surrounding hot springs are all good reasons for Al Ain’s nickname: the Green City.
For the Bedu, falconry was once a means of survival, of feeding the family, but it also taught patience and understanding of the desert. It has become a passion passed on from generation to generation for centuries.
At 92 years old, Anamar Agar is one of the world’s most elderly falconers. In his heavy woolly hat and traditional attire from his native Turkmenistan, Agar was a popular figure at the last International Falconry Festival that took place in Al Ain, in 2014. Falconers from all over the world are expecting to see him again this December, at the once-in-four-years festival in Abu Dhabi emirate.
The festival, which started as a falconry conference in 1976, was revived in 2011, bringing together falconers from all over the world, not only to discuss biodiversity and sustainable hunting, but also to celebrate one of Arabia’s – and the world’s – oldest heritage: falconry.
Following a decade of planning – 10 years, 8 months and 250 days to be exact – Louvre Abu Dhabi has finally released its opening date: 11th November, 2017. On this day, the museum will reveal over 600 works of art that belong to its permanent collection, as well as loans from 13 major French cultural institutions, including the Louvre Museum, the Musée d’Orsay and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
The opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi marks the latest international cultural franchising deal, where big name museums and galleries lend their brand to overseas institutions. In the case of Louvre, its Abu Dhabi “branch” was the first such deal worldwide. When it was first announced, in 2007, it sparked protests and criticism in France that it sells out French culture (similar to the Guggenheim franchises being labelled ‘McGuggenheims’).