5 things to do at Qasr Al Hosn Festival
Mention Qasr Al Hosn and many people will still greet you with confusion. Yet situated right in the heart of the city, Qasr Al Hosn is the symbolic birthplace of the UAE and those in the know will recognise it as the place that housed the Al Nahyan Ruling Family for generations, as well as home to the National Council and Cultural Foundation Building. Dating as far back as 1761 when Sheikh Dhiyab Bin Isa of the Baniyas Tribe first ordered a watchtower to be built after the discovery of freshwater on Abu Dhabi Island, a settlement slowly grew in the surrounding area, forming the basis for the city that we know today as Abu Dhabi. The Qasr Al Hosn Festival provides entry to this historic site which is still undergoing an extensive conservation restoration programme, and more than just to get a good nosy around, cultural shows, exhibitions, activities and much more are all on offer. Divided into five zones, the festival has so much to explore, but as a good place to start, here’s our pick of the five things not to miss this year.
Pearling in the Marine Zone
Explore the Marine Zone to experience what life on the island used to be like for the fishermen and pearl divers of the community. Listen to stories or traditional sea chanting, enjoy sail making demonstrations and even learn how to shuck your own oyster. And if you’re lucky enough to find a pearl, for an extra fee you can even take it home to keep.
The Cultural Foundation
As well as the conservation programme being well underway on the Qasr Al Hosn building itself, the Cultural Foundation Building is also in the process of its own loving and painstaking restoration. Visitors to this year’s festival can take a ‘hard hat’ tour of the building to see the ongoing progress, take part in a number of interactive workshops for all ages and visit exhibitions displaying highlights from key collections including the National Archives and much more.
Qasr Al Hosn Fort and National Council
Sadly, owing to the meticulous restoration process, tours are not available inside the Fort and Palace buildings this year however, visitors can still marvel at the structure and learn about the archaeological and architectural past and present of the building through a specially devised light show portraying the story of Abu Dhabi and the evolution of the building. For those interested in the rule of the country and where it all began, night time tours will begin in the National Consultative Council.
The Festival Stage will play host to three daily shows with Bab Al Khair, an Arabic comedy, The Sky Show where visitors will be treated to an interactive experience with birds from Al Ain Zoo and The Night Safari that follows the adventures of two friends into the desert and the native animals of the UAE they meet along the way.
Relax and enjoy
Find a seat in any of the five zones of the festival, grab an Arabic coffee, Lgeimat (it’s a bit like a doughnut!) or any of the other local delights on offer and just sit back and enjoy the entertainment all around, soaking up the atmosphere in this incredible place that is the symbolic birthplace of the city.
When: from 4pm daily (except Feb 3, from 8pm), festival runs from February 3 until February 13
Where: Qasr Al Hosn, located between Hamdan St and Zayed the First St
Price: Dhs10 entry fee per person includes two activity passes