Qasr Al Hosn Festival Attracts Nearly 120,000 Visitors in Just 11 Days
Nearly 120,000 people were taken on a journey of Abu Dhabi’s cultural heart when they made their way to the Qasr Al Hosn Festival, which took place in the Capital from February 11th to 21st.
Over the course of the 11-day event, guests revived their memories with their friends and families as they celebrated years of Emirati heritage and identity in a setting which fully narrates the development of Abu Dhabi. They had the rare opportunity to visit Qasr Al Hosn - the symbolic birthplace of Abu Dhabi and a valuable monument of Emirati traditional heritage, and participate in activities of culture and tradition which have helped shape the UAE today.
The Qasr Al Hosn Fort is the symbolic birthplace of the capital of the UAE dating back to the late 17th century, and had for generations housed its ruling family, Al Nahyan, as the city developed over the years. Today, the Fort represents centuries of Emirati history and culture, and the festival, organised by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority is held annually to celebrate the Fort, the UAE’s identity, as well as Abu Dhabi’s traditions and culture.
His Excellency Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, said: “The influx of visitors to the Qasr Al Hosn Festival over the past eleven days reflects the importance of the Fort to the people of Abu Dhabi and the UAE as a symbol of our history. The festival was a unique opportunity for us to celebrate our cultural heritage, and bring it to life in an interactive setting which combines the traditional with the modern. Visitors were able to enjoy a fully immersive experience of the Emirati traditional lifestyle.”
"This festival edition placed great importance on the transfer of Emirati heritage knowledge to the youth. The programme implemented engaged university students in both learning and communicating our traditional practices and crafts. Additionally, the festival hosted a large number of school students who were offered an interactive learning experience to bring them closer to their history. It also played a key role in highlighting the importance of conserving our tangible heritage and ensuring the transfer of our intangible heritage knowledge to the next generation of UAE nationals,” added HE Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan.
Held on the grounds of Qasr Al Hosn, the 2015 festival shed light on the Fort’s conservation process and its former functions, and gave visitors access to the inner Fort, as well as the National Consultative Council. Expert-guided tours of the Fort attracted thousands of visitors interested to learn more about the UAE history and the work being undertaken to conserve Qasr Al Hosn. In addition, the Qasr Al Hosn exhibition depicted the significance of the Fort and its historical context since its inception. Visitors were also given an insight through the oral testimonies of a documentary film into the people who have helped carry the story of a nation from generation to generation.
The four-zoned Festival Area with its different elements and activities reinterpreting the Marine, Desert, Oasis and Island environments was extremely popular as visitors had the chance to enjoy the synergy between the traditional and the modern. Additionally, having re-opened the doors of the Cultural Foundation Building for inspiring activities and live performances, visitors had the chance to revive their memories of this modern heritage building.
Modern heritage was truly celebrated in the Cultural Foundation Building with areas being re-opened to host a series of interactive activities aimed at celebrating the Building’s collective memory and bringing it back to life. The educational workshops alone attracted hundreds of children of all ages, while the Amphitheatre was at full capacity almost every day for the Memory of Emirati song live performances and the ‘Cinema Emaratiya’ programme.
The festival proved also to be a platform to engage with students. Over the 11-day event, school trips included nearly 3,000 students from the Emirate of Abu Dhabi who visited the festival for specially-organised experiential tours and had the opportunity to understand the capital’s cultural development initiatives, and the conservation techniques involved in preserving the Qasr Al Hosn Fort.
Additionally, the Qasr Al Hosn Festival Ambassadors Programme, targeted to engage with the youth and designed to increase awareness of the Emirate’s history, traditions and culture among Abu Dhabi’s younger generation had grown in size to welcome more than 250 registered students keen on playing a role in the preservation of their cultural heritage. After having received extensive training from cultural experts and festival organisers, the ambassadors interacted with visitors and helped narrate the Emirate’s rich culture and history across the various festival areas. Participating Ambassadors represented 10 universities from across the Emirate including: Zayed University, United Arab Emirates University, the Higher Colleges of Technology, Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, Al Hosn University, Emirates College for Advanced Education, Al Ain University of Science and Technology, Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi University, and NYU Abu Dhabi University & College.
The Qasr Al Hosn Festival community engagement was further highlighted this year through the participation of several Abu Dhabi cultural institutions and their exhibition initiatives such as the participation of the National Archives in an exhibition that narrated the history of Abu Dhabi and Qasr Al Hosn, as well as the “Lest We Forget: Structures of Memory in the UAE exhibition commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation which highlighted the importance of the UAE modern heritage. In addition, the National Library showcased cultural heritage publications to better understand the history of the UAE and the participation of twofour54 encouraged interactive public engagement with festival visitors. The Department of Transport in Abu Dhabi (DOT) and the Road and Transport Authority (RTA) have also supported the festival through their specially branded buses. Additionally, both the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital (ADFH) were able to showcase the Emirate’s rich natural heritage and unique biodiversity.