If you want to immerse yourself in Emirati traditions then Al Ain is the place to be.
The Garden City is one of the most historic places in the UAE and is a UNECSO World Heritage Site, with locations including the Al Ain Oasis and the archaeological areas of Bida bint Saud, Jebel Hafeet tombs and Hili Archaeological Park all classed as sites of great cultural importance.
Also recognised by UNESCO as being of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity are the traditional Al Azi recitals and Al Ayyala dances.
Between now and June 2020, the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi has organised a series of cultural events and workshops that will be held across the Garden City’s cultural sites, including Jahili Fort (built in the 1890s and a former home of the Al Nahyan family) and Qasr Al Muwaiji (the birthplace of Sheikh Khalifa bin Sultan Al Nahyan).
Here are all the great events you can check out in Al Ain.
My Old House programme
From November 17 to 24, there will be daily tours of Colonel Juma bin Rahma Al Darmaki’s house, one of the oldest homes in the Hili district. This programme will continue to run, taking you on guided tours of historic homes, exploring the architectural features and personal stories of their former residents.
Events at Qasr Al Muwaiji
Learn about old Emirati ways of life at Qasr Al Muwaiji’s Characters from the 20th Century, which stages silent artistic performances depicting everyday scenes from the 1900s. On November 19 and December 10, there will be a Royal Bisht workshop, looking into the history of the royal garment often worn by UAE rulers, and what the different patterns on the textile signify. The garment-makers will then take visitors through practical sewing lessons.
Qasr Al Muwaiji was home to generations of the Al Nahyan family, and saw the birth of Sheikh Khalifa in 1948. The UNESCO World Heritage Site functioned not only as a home and an oasis in the desert but also as a place of rule and a focus for the community. The architectural gem now offers its visitors a variety of historical and traditional experiences associated with the venue, including oral narrations of the significant moments of Sheikh Khalifa’s life from his early childhood, leadership and vast national achievements.
The recently restored property also provides an insight into Abu Dhabi’s ruling family history and features interactive activities and performances celebrating the spirit of this significant cultural site.
Al Ain Palace Museum will host Cultural Connection, focusing on performing arts from around the world.
Expect to see centuries-old Emirati dances such as Al Azi and Al Ayyala, which have been included in the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Performed by men, Al Azi is a traditional poetry recital without music. A poet leads the chorus, reciting lines of poetry, proverbs and sayings. Al Ayyala also involves poetic chanting, with two rows of performers moving in unison to drum music. In both performances, men often carry sticks that represent spears or swords.
Other performances include the "Dabke", a lively dance from the Levant countries accompanied by drums, Russian folk dances, traditional Indian, African and Chinese dances and more.
The dates will be announced soon.
Al Ain Palace (or Qasr Al Ain) is one of the best-reinstated forts in Abu Dhabi and showcases the everyday life in a ruler's fort when the late Sheikh Zayed and his family lived there, before 1966. The Bedouin-style architecture dates back to 1937 and the palace was converted into a museum in 1998. It celebrates the rich history of the country and preserves its links to the present and the future.
The contrast of modern design elements with traditional Emirati influences can be seen throughout the museum. The palace’s courtyards were built and restored using locally sourced and environmentally friendly building materials including clay, adobe and plaster stones, as well as palm tree elements for roofing rooms, ceilings, doors and windows.
For more information on these events and more on the Al Ain Cultural Programme, click here.