So what bright and shiny new gift will your kids be excitedly unwrapping this festive season? The chances are that many youngsters across the capital will spend their Christmas morning with eyes glued to a TV screen and hands gripped around a joypad as they try out the latest blockbuster computer game.
Yet, hard it is it may be to believe, children across the world – including right here in the UAE – used to be happy to make their own entertainment.
An exhibition now up and running at Al Qattara Arts Centre in Al Ain is celebrating those simpler times, when the joyful sound of children’s laughter rung out as traditional games and pastimes were played.
The Emirati Traditional Games exhibition will display eye-catching work from six talented UAE artists inspired by the games Emirati children created themselves from resources and materials at hand.
The exhibition showcases six of the most popular local games from times gone by, looked at with a fresh artistic perspective.
Artists Ayman Zedani, Areeb Masood, Roudha Al Shamsi, Ayesha Al Mheiri, Michael Rice and Maryam Al Suwaidi have each selected one game and adapted a work that blends their unique technical skills with the traditional game themes.
Pakistani jewellery and accessories designer Masood has crafted an artwork based on Habil Al Zaibal, a game involving a two or three metre-long rope, tied around a board fastened and mounted on the ground or fixed to a large pebble.
Al Shamsi, meanwhile, is paying creative homage to Al Dusays, a hide-and-seek game which can be played by
as many as 20 people at a time.
UAE-based Irish artist Rice’s work depicts Al Karabi, a game in which teamwork is absolutely crucial, with success depending on a player’s ability to maintain their balance.
Sumayya Al Suwaidi, community events manager at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, says the exhibition is paying tribute to the ‘creativity and imagination’ of Emirati children in the past.
Al Suwaidi adds: “Through this exhibition, we seek to introduce a new perspective on traditional Emirati games and traditions that celebrate intimacy and compassion in close-knit communities and children.
“These games represent an aspect of Emirati culture that was integral to how young people began socialising in the past, and is a testament to their creativity and imagination, which we commemorate with this exhibition.
“The exhibition aligns with the Department’s efforts to raise awareness and preserve Emirati heritage by linking it to the present generation.”
It’s all fun and games in Al Ain – so come along to explore the UAE’s rich heritage and play the old-fashioned way.
Open Sun-Thu 9am-8pm (closed on Fri). Until Jan 7. Al Qattara Arts Centre, Al Ain (03 711 8225).