Abu Dhabi's Al Hosn Festival: what to see and do

The eight-day event will host live demonstrations of Emirati craftsmanship, immersive art installations and musical performances

Artist collective XPOZE will present their immersive installation 'The Bean Bag' at the Al Hosn Festival. Courtesy Al Hosn
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Abu Dhabi’s newest cultural event, Al Hosn Festival, begins on Thursday, December 12.

Spanning eight days, the programme boasts a line-up of performances, art installations, traditional crafts, film screenings, culinary experiences and retail pop-ups, and will take place across various sites in downtown Abu Dhabi and Al Hosn area, including Qasr Al Hosn, the Cultural Foundation and House of Artisans.

Organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), the inaugural event reimagines Abu Dhabi's heritage, celebrating traditional Emirati craftsmanship and culture alongside contemporary art and performances.

Here are a few things to visit and experience at Al Hosn Festival.

Qasr Al Hosn

Qasr Al Hosn, built in the 1790s, has an extraordinary history. It was built as a fort and was also the seat government and home to the ruling family until the 1960s. The site underwent a decade-long conservation and renovation before reopening in 2018.

As part of the festival, Qasr Al Hosn will host a series of activities centred on the emirate’s history and traditions.

A traditional Emirati performance presented at Qasr Al Hosn. Courtesy Al Hosn

Inside the space, actors will present The Living Museum — re-enactments of scenes from traditional daily life in Qasr Al Hosn designed to make visitors feel as though they have stepped into the past. The activities include falconry, the meeting of delegates, cooking and dining, wedding ceremonies, and preparations for the seasonal movement between Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. A community of fishermen, artisans and hunters will also demonstrate how they earned their livelihood, and a souq will showcase products such as perfumes, spices and textiles.

Traditional Emirati dances such as the Al Ayyala and Naashat will also be performed.

Visitors can also learn about the palace’s original inhabitants including Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who ordered the construction of the tower during his reign, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Sheikha Salama bint Butti.

Outside the building, there will also be live demonstrations of cultural practices, including Al Sadu, a type of weaving originating from the Bedouin used in the making blankets, tents, carpets and belts.

House of Artisans

While Qasr Al Hosn presents cultural practices, the programme at House of Artisans will share them through workshops, where participants can learn crafting techniques and weaving skills hands-on. Instructors will share the basics of Al Sadu weaving, and participants can create their own bookmark, create traditional dolls and spin raw wool.

The historic Al Hosn area, which comprises Qasr Al Hosn, Cultural Foundation and House of Artisans, is the site of a new series of family-friendly events on alternating weekends until April 2020. Courtesy Al Hosn

Moving from traditional to modern, The Sneaker Station by Bespoke DXB highlights footwear innovation through design workshops and customisation tips for sneakers made from Emirati handmade materials.

As part of this project, Dominic Chambrone, also known as “The Show Surgeon”, will reveal his new shoe design which fuses modern techniques with Emirati craft. He will also host two workshops on how to craft shoes using camel leather, Al Saudi and Talli weaving, a decorative textile handicraft similar to lace.

A series of competitions on Emirati craft and culinary skills will also be held at the venue. The Emirati Culinary Challenge includes chefs of differing expertise who will battle it out to make traditional and contemporary Emirati dishes. Contestants will face various rounds of challenges throughout the duration of the festival.

Al Hosn Landscape: Installation art and retail market

The stretch between Qasr Al Hosn and the newly renovated Cultural Foundation in the Al Hosn complex is the site of three new site-specific art commissions by Emirati artist Mohammed Kazem, Korean artist Jeongmoon Choi and artist collective Xpoze.

Al Hosn Landscape will also feature a retail market with products made by unique local and international brands. These include Aljoud Lootah, Kinto, Montroi, Bespoke DXB and Taschen.

The outdoor area will also host musical performances and DJ sets from Daneel Sayegh, Noura Al Mazrouei, Raz Moussa, Karrouhat and DJ Badir, among others. Meanwhile, Cinema Akil will screen short and feature films, including The Never Ending Story, My Neighbour Totoro, The Sound of Music and Nearby Sky.

Cultural Foundation

The Cultural Foundation, which recently reopened after a major renovation that began in 2009, will host a series of performances inside its new 900-seat theatre. On the first day of the festival, Jordanian rock band JadaL will be performing their original tracks.

Argentinian dance company Che Malambo enthralls audiences with percussive dance and music performances. Courtesy Al Hosn

On December 13 and 14, all-male dance company Che Malambo from Argentina will perform their signature upbeat choreography, which features percussive dance and music. The company has performed around the world, completing a year-long 32-city tour in 2016.

Japanese art group Maywa Denki will present their unique sound using original music instruments on December 15.

Workshops and kids programmes will be available at the Children’s Library.

Eight-day passes for Al Hosn Festival are priced at Dh50 for children (ages 5 to 12) and Dh100 for adults. More information on alhosn.ae