Mother of the Nation Festival

The incredible carnival of colour and culture in Abu Dhabi Discuss this article

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1 The festival celebrates the inspiring vision of the “Mother” of the UAE
The Mother of the Nation Festival will be back with a bang this month — after proving a huge hit in its Abu Dhabi debut in 2016. The much-anticipated extravaganza, organised by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, is held in celebration of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, affectionately known as the “Mother” of the UAE. The wife of the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first President of the United Arab Emirates, she has been a tireless campaigner for women’s rights for decades. Forward-thinking Sheikha Fatima launched the Women’s Development Association, the first women’s society in the country, back in 1973, followed hot on its heels by the General Women’s Union two years later. Her remarkable dedication to the vital cause has never wavered and she has since played a vital role in establishing the Arab Women Organization (Fund for Refugee Women) alongside the UN High Commission for Refugees, as well as setting up the Family Development Foundation and the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood. The Mother of National Festival pays homage to Sheikha Fatima’s enterprising vision for the UAE — and highlights her enduring role in the development of the nation on the world stage.

2 Where and when is the festival being held?
The culture-packed event will be spread out over more than a kilometre of the city’s stunning Corniche Beach, with exhibitions, performances, installations and food stalls stretching out as far as the eye can see. Fittingly, the terrific ten days of festivities will get underway on Mothering Sunday on March 26. A perfect date to show our appreciation for one of the country’s most iconic figures. There will be plenty to eat, see and try among the more than 100 events on offer, so you will have to make every day count if you want to experience it all.

3 I’m ready to explore – what can I do?
The beautiful Corniche Beach will be split up into four distinct zones, each offering their own unique slice of entertainment and enlightenment for all of the family. You’ll be all smiles after a visit to the Happy Zone, a bright and cheerful space filled with eye-catching art exhibits, thought-provoking workshops, an activity cabana and a music stage to get you in the party mood. The zone features a Tranquil Park, where visitors can escape the crowds and huddle under a tree with books hanging off branches instead of leaves, as well as a Wonder Garden, decorated with colourful sculptures made out of recycled waste, and Courage Mountain, an area featuring a zip-line and climbing wall for kids prepared to throw off their inhibitions and scale new heights. The centrepiece of the zone is the Happiness stage. This is a spot to turn even the deepest of frowns upside down. The stage will be set to spread infectious joy and laughter through a series of art, dance and music performances featuring home-grown performers with one mission in mind; to make you smile!

4 Now I’m in the zone, can I soak up some more culture?
Once you’ve found your happy place, you can pop over to the Souq Zone, to immerse yourself in a brilliant blend of Arabian traditions and bustling markets. Interactive historical displays take pride of place alongside a bright and shiny contemporary shopping district showcasing some of the most creative and unique products to be found in the UAE. If it’s a blast from the past you are after, then you can buy into the country’s rich heritage, dropping by the assortment of local, traditional shops before casting your eye over intricate dhow paintings and looking in on the jewellery-making area.

5 Now we are making progress. Where should I head next?
For a truly illuminating experience, check out the Progress Zone, which symbolises Her Highness’s bright vision for the future through arty installations — such as lit-up seesaws and a maze of mirrors — and a light projection on a dhow in the water. There is also a planetarium set up for star-gazers, an interactive area with talks from female entrepreneurs, information about sustainable living and fashion, poetry sessions and a chance to create geometric lanterns before learning the basics of electric circuits. The centrepiece of the zone is the Progress Stage, where rising music stars can step into the spotlight. This zone epitomises the nation’s progress, with an eye on the advancements that are still to come.

6 The festival is a hub of activity, so where can I go to take a breather?
With a non-stop parade of performances, interactive workshops and dazzling displays, you might well need a moment or two to reflect. The Mother of the Nation Pavilion is a place to find inspiration in the values of HH Sheikha Fatima, whose long list of achievements are highlighted in an installation featuring prints and physical exhibits from her illustrious life.

7 That’s plenty of food for thought, but what about grabbing a bite to eat?
It’s not just a hunger for knowledge that is satisfied. You will find a mouth-watering array of restaurants, food trucks and stalls, dishing up cuisine from all corners of the globe. Whether you want a cosy sit-down affair or just want a quick refuel, your needs will be catered for throughout the ten-day programme.

8 After all that food is there anywhere I can go to burn off some calories?
If you’ve swapped hunger pangs for feelings of foodie guilt, you can explore ways of getting back to fighting fit. The Progress Zone is home to a Wellness and Active Life section that includes dedicated areas on the beach where the calorie-conscious can get trim and toned with like-minded festival-goers. If it’s inner-harmony you are after, tend to your mind, body and soul with a yoga session. Open-air beginner classes will be led by an instructor. It’s time to limber up!

9 How will I keep the kids entertained?
That’s an easy one! The festival aims to provide education and entertainment for all ages. Bringing the whole family along is not only pretty cheap (youngsters aged five to 12 get in for Dhs10, kids under five are free), but also very rewarding. If you want to put beaming smiles on those young faces, the Happy Zone should be your first port of call. The dedicated Interactive Activations bring play-time to life with a brilliant bunch of activities that will keep any child actively engaged. Fancy going on a tour of the Wonder Garden in a Jeep? Check. How about watching gifted graffiti artists spray-paint a masterpiece? You can find it here. Throw in a puppet show, a musical sing-along, sleight-of-hand from a top magician, bubble-making and a chance to craft works of art out of sand and you have a sure-fire kids hit on your hands.

10 Are there any other interactive sessions to look out for?
You can create a perfect symphony, brush up on your skateboarding skills and let your child loose with glow-in-the-dark graffiti — all in one space. A purpose-built recreational skate park will allow enthusiasts to master their 360-degree turns and aerial flips on a board or gear up for glory on their BMX. The Bambajam is also sure to be met with a chorus of approval. The communal music experience will see participants work together to create a symphony in 30 minutes, using eco-friendly bamboo instruments. Meanwhile, budding artists can “glow” with the flow at the Water Light Graffiti Experience. The giant LED wall is the target and a sponge, brush, water gun and water atomizer are your tools of choice.

11 What is on the main stage?
There is everything from music and movies to theatre and fireworks (with a difference). The Arabic Orchestra will be music to the ears of festival-goers eager to support emerging talent. There will also be daily live shows from local performers and theatrical performances, films shown on a giant screen and fire-blowers in action. If all that is not dazzling enough, an innovative digital pyrotechnic display, operated by Pixel Pyros, will see computer-generated rockets launched by audience members using motion-sensors and then projected onto a big screen. Get set for the mother of all parties.
Dhs20 (adults), Dhs10 (kids aged five--12), free (kids under five). Sun Mar 26-Tue Apr 4. Sun-Wed 4pm-11pm, Thu-Sat 2pm-midnight. Abu Dhabi Corniche, (056 7928 555). Buy tickets online at

In numbers
The Mother of the Nation Festival

The festival is returning to Abu Dhabi for a second year after a hugely successful debut event.

The cultural bonanza will see a host of activities held over ten days — so there’s no excuse not to join in the fun.

The eagerly-awaited festival will have more than 100 workshops, performances and events to enjoy.

The first ever Mother of the Nation Festival attracted over 133,000 people to the emirate.

By Christopher Maxwell
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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