The Heritage Village is a brainchild of the Hamdan bin Mohammed Heritage Center that adds a new dimension to the Global Village.
IGNORING A sudden downpour that has created puddles difficult to navigate and a sharp nip in the air, Hanifa Qureshi has come to the Global Village from Abu Dhabi chasing a hope. As her elder daughter Maria pushes her wheelchair, manoeuvring through the crowds and slush, and the younger, Sophia, struggles to keep an umbrella over the heads of all three, the 64-year-old matriarch scans the passing stalls anxiously to check if they are close to their destination.
It’s a person rather than a pavilion that the trio is searching for. They want to meet Fatima Essa, one of the top-notch practitioners of traditional herbal medicine. In an initiative that adds value to the festival, Essa is available for chats with visitors, offering health tips. Hanifa Qureshi suffers from severe gout and friends who have consulted Essa with satisfying results have urged her to try out a traditional cure.
Fatima Essa sits in a traditional hut in an area known as the Heritage Village. Though the Global Village, Dubai’s unique annual tourism and cultural event, was launched in 1997, the Heritage Village is a new initiative started this year. It is the brainchild of the Hamdan bin Mohammed Heritage Center that was founded by Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, in April 2013 to promote the Emirati national heritage, especially among the youth.
“The Global Village has pavilions representing different countries,” says Sumaya Saeed Khalfan, marketing and corporate communication director at the centre. “We wanted to put up something that would showcase traditional life in the UAE as well as the region. There is a heritage village in Deira; we thought we would build another one at the Global Village.
“One of the most important parts of a nation’s heritage is its people. So the Heritage Village brings you people who represent traditional arts and skills. We don’t want visitors to only hear of heritage or traditional lifestyle. We want them to experience it from people who know it firsthand.”
The little clusters in the Heritage Village represent different kinds of traditional architecture. They were all built when the event started. Visitors admire the Saffa house, the hardy residence built of stone for mountain areas. A little farther is the Bait Al Sha’ar, the Bedouin shelter made of sheep’s wool. Three authentic Bedouins sit chatting at the shelter and visitors can walk in and share a cuppa with them.
Another exhibit is the Kirin tent, built from palm leaves and supported by poles. Once found near the coast, now it could be a permanent exhibit to remind visitors of the resourcefulness of the traditional way of life.
Besides the traditional architecture, artefacts and people, Heritage Village is also showcasing the fauna associated with the Arab way of life. Two Arabian horses stand patiently nearby. In the next enclosure a billy goat rears up on its hind legs, trying to cadge treats from passersby.
But the most arresting animals are the two camels rigged up in an eye-catching gear. These are no ordinary beasts but celebrities in their own rights.
Ghaiman and Dhafar have now become legends, taking part in Yemeni Odysseus Ahmed Al Qasimi’s epic 40,000 km trip to Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia.
Al Qasimi has brought them back to Dubai as a thanksgiving gift for Shaikh Hamdan since the Hamdan bin Mohammed Heritage Center sponsored his last trip to Africa.
Perhaps the most eloquent tribute to the Emirati’s pride in his country is the replica of the Union House, the history-making site where on December 2, 1971 the treaty to establish the Arab world’s first federation of states, the United Arab Emirates, was signed.
“The Union House was the place where the UAE dream came true,” says Khalfan. “We wanted to show people that part of our history.”
Though a replica, the “Union House” at the Heritage Village will remain a centre of nationalist activities as long as the Global Village continues. On November 6, the UAE Flag Day was celebrated here, National Day on December 2, and on January 4 the special occasion when His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum became the Ruler of Dubai eight years ago.