Educational archaeological digs and artefacts handling sessions are also taking place next to Qasr Al Hosn.
The red and white colours of the old Abu Dhabi emirate flag, from the days of the Trucial States, is flying once again on a small building in the heart of the capital.
According to a man in an old police uniform guarding the building, this is where the Abu Dhabi’s old police headquarters used to be, very close to Qasr Al Hosn, or the White Fort, Abu Dhabi’s oldest concrete building.
The set up is part of this year’s Qasr Al Hosn festival, taking place from February 21 to March 1, on the grounds of the old fort, and it is where police officers will be telling visitors about the guarding of the palace in the old days.
“There are no stairs inside the Watch Tower to prevent enemies entering it. The guards used to climb to the top on a rope,” explained Peter Sheehan, historic buildings manager at Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (ADTCA).
The Watch Tower is the oldest part of Al Hosn Fort, built in the 1800s. Last year, the building commemorated its 250th anniversary, which was marked by organising the first Qasr Al Hosn festival.
Just as in 2013, this year too the grounds of the fort are turned into a massive heritage village, honouring all aspects of Emirati traditions.
The area is split into four sections — Desert, Marine, Oasis and Abu Dhabi Island, each showcasing exhibits, workshops, demonstrations and performances.
Apart from the police building, the Abu Dhabi Island area also has a Beit Al Zehba, a traditional wedding house where visitors can watch performers prepare for a traditional Abu Dhabi wedding with dancing, music and the adorning of the bride with henna and jewellery.
Educational archaeological digs and artefacts handling sessions are also taking place next to the fort, while behind the old school, set up to emulate how traditional Emirati schools used to look and operate, children are invited to play traditional games.
Demonstrations of sadu (weaving), henna and dukhoun (traditional scent or incense making) will take place daily, along with horse riding, a souq and, new this year, Emirati chefs showing how to prepare local dishes.
The Desert area will have Bedu men showing off their Hatheera skills, the techniques of making traditional Arabic coffee, while others will put on an Yola folk show, reveal the traditional Bedouin etiquette, make horse saddles, teach about kandoora dying and burqa making.
New this year is a partnership with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), which will set up a houbara bustard pen, to hopefully raise awareness about this endangered species, once hunted by Arabs for food.
Falconry, saluki dogs and camels are also part of the desert area.
“I could sit and watch falcons all day! I’m fascinated by them! When they drop from the sky, sometimes at 300 kilometres per hour, to catch their pray, my blood races like I’m racing myself,” said Emirati Mohammed Saif.
For the next 10 days of the festival he can watch falconry demonstrations every afternoon, as his friend is one of the falcon-owners participating in the show.
Fishing and pearling are the focus on the Marine area exhibits, while in the Shasha building there are workshops on paddle making, sail making, dhow building, fishnet making, fish trap making and fish salting.
The Oasis area is all about making a living from date palm trees, with exhibits and demonstrations on palm tree climbing to harvest the dates, palm weaving to make household objects like mats and fans and rope making from palm tree fibres.
EAD is again present here, this time with a Healing Garden, which exhibits desert plants and their medicinal properties in ointments and herbal remedies.
Opened for the first time in years, the Cultural Foundation will host traditional handicrafts, clothing, toys and pottery.
Also opened for the first time in decades, is the inner courtyard of Qasr Al Hosn, where guided tours will explain all about Abu Dhabi’s most iconic, historical building, which is under restoration.
After its VIP opening tonight, the festival will be opened for ladies only on Friday and to the general public from February 22, from 4pm to 11pm.
abu dhabi — Schools in the Capital will close at midday today due to the Qasr Al Hosn Festival, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) announced.
According to Mohammed Salem Al Dhaheri, executive director of school operations at Adec, students will be released from school early due to various activities and programmes that would require closing a number of roads around the celebration area from 12pm till 7pm, thus affecting the traffic flow.
The Adec has instructed schools to inform parents of the early dismissal. It has also coordinated with the Emirates Transport to organise transfer of students to avoid traffic jams and smoothly facilitate their journey back home.