A live re-creation of an Emirati wedding, a food hub dedicated to local cuisine and a retail district featuring Abu Dhabi fashion lines are some of the new additions to this year’s Al Hosn Festival.
Set across the buildings and outdoor spaces of Al Hosn district, the popular cultural celebration runs from this Friday to January 22. Organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi, the family-friendly event will feature an expansive programme, with the aim of providing an insight into what life was like in Abu Dhabi before the discovery of oil.
That story will be told in sights, sounds, smells and tastes through art exhibitions, pop-up stalls by some of the city's most historic restaurants and competitions specialising in Arabic coffee.
Here are 10 things to see and experience at this year’s Al Hosn Festival.
1. Visit Qasr Al Hosn
In addition to the activities and performances surrounding the palace fort, the interior of Qasr Al Hosn will be home to a pair of exhibitions.
Throughout Memories of the Palace, visitors can learn about the history of everyday life spent in the regal venue, from the cultural festivities to colourful anecdotes recorded by early generations.
Meanwhile, the Music and Crafts exhibit captures the atmosphere of the palace through historic field recordings and vintage photographs.
2. Discover the House of Artisans
The popular House of Artisans will once again be a treasure trove for those seeking authentic Emirati arts and crafts.
From installations and local retailers to design workshops, this is the place to learn about Abu Dhabi's rich crafts scene and land a bargain in the process.
3. Sample the best coffee at the Gahwa Championships
Not every gahwa is the same.
Take in the earthy aromas and taste the best of regional coffee from some of the UAE's coffee artisans at a special stand.
The festival will also host a competition to see who makes the best local brew.
4. Sample a taste of Abu Dhabi history
A handful of Abu Dhabi food gems will be honoured with a prized place at the festival.
As part of the Urban Treasures programme launched by the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi, restaurants Lebanese Flower and India Palace as well as the dessert shop Tripoli Sweets will showcase a menu that inspired generations of Abu Dhabi residents.
5. Try the best of Emirati cuisine
For those looking for richer local flavours, the festival has space dedicated to Emirati food outlets creating a range of bite-sized traditional fare.
Some of the storied dishes on offer are harees and thareed, in addition to dry and salted fish with rice. Plates can be purchased through tokens that cost Dh5 each.
6. You are invited to an Emirati wedding
Any long-term resident can tell you that an Emirati wedding is an enriching experience.
Al Hosn Festival will recreate the cultural pomp and deep traditions of the nuptial ceremony at the centre of the festival site daily at 9pm.
Visitors will be encouraged to participate and join in the various different moments to showcase the important role weddings play in Emirati communities.
7. The community spirit of Al Freej
Al Freej is more than just a name for an Emirati village, it also channels a particular way of life with its own customs and traditions.
The festival will recreate the intimate vibe with its own Al Freej that comes with its own market, blacksmith, palm weaving stations and goat pen.
8. Shop at Darb Al Zain
A new addition to the festival, Darb Al Zain is a site dedicated to Emirati fashion, with local retailers selling and showcasing traditional clothes and accessories.
A photo booth will also be on hand to take snaps of your new outfits and a women-only majlis will also be on hand to try your latest items and relax with some gahwa.
9. Local music and dance performances
Emirati music and dance will be in full swing throughout the festival, with concerts by local folk musicians.
Each day will also have troupes performing a range of Emirati dances, including the much-loved Ayyala.
10. The best of regional art
Art lovers should also make time to visit The Cultural Foundation and see a range of ongoing exhibitions.
Highlights include Fahrelnissa and the Institutes: Towards a Sky, an exhibition of abstract work by prominent regional women artists and Two Trees in Harmony by veteran Jordanian artist Fouad Mimi.
Scroll through images of the Cultural Foundation exhibitions below