Ask Ali: what Haq Laila means and lessons about the past and present of the UAE

In this week's Ask Ali we learn about the meaning of Haq Laila and where to go in Abu Dhabi to learn more about the history of the UAE.

Dear Ali: What is Haq Laila? Is it related to Islam? What does it represent and is it part of the UAE’s culture? AA, Abu Dhabi

Dear AA: Haq Al Laila or Haq Laila is more of a cultural and society occasion and varies from one area to another in the Gulf because it’s celebrated in all GCC countries.

Since we originally depended on the Hijri calendar, which is a lunar calendar, we tie this occasion with the middle of Shaaban, which is the month that we are in now before the arrival of our Holy Month of Ramadan.

This occasion is celebrated in a very “sweet” way, pardon the pun. It’s about kids and sweets – many see it like “trick or treat”. The children of each family will carry specially woven and tailored, beautifully coloured bags. They wake up early in the night and start visiting houses in the neighbourhood. They knock on each door while singing different songs, and as they chant, the householder opens the door and wishes them good occasion and gives them sweets and chocolates.

The authentic Emirati name for this action and occasion is Aatoona Haq Laila, which means “give us for this blessed night”.

It’s believed this is the night God changed the direction to pray from Jerusalem to Mecca. Some say it’s a blessed night because it comes after Rajab and prior to Ramadan, both of which are considered very blessed months. Others would see it as the night a lot of our sins are washed away.

Whatever the meaning, Haq Al Laila is special, and the kids are essential in this event because they give hope for a better tomorrow. Everyone is invited to participate, not just Emiratis.

Dear Ali: I wanted to ask you where I can take my kids to learn about UAE history in Abu Dhabi. I don’t want it to be boring. Maybe a venue where there will be some kids’ (5 to 7 years old) activities as well, please. NJ, Abu Dhabi

Dear NJ: I have few places in mind, and I will pick out the best of them, considering the ages of your children. Abu Dhabi has several places where kids can learn about our history in an interactive and entertaining way.

One of those places is an amazing UAE history time-travel journey at the Khalifa Park museum – it’s two-in-one, with historical activities and a water splash park, too. The time travel starts as you enter the museum, where you ride in automated cars that will take you into the past of the UAE – from prehistoric times to when people started to settle in this land.

Everything is recreated in a very artistic way: Bedouins, farmers and fishermen are seen in their traditional environments.

As the car moves along, you will hear from the narrator a story of the people who lived during those times. You will visit the classroom of the first school and witness the first days of the discovery of oil. At the end of the time tunnel, it’s on to the modern UAE where you will learn about all of the country’s significant achievements.

Doesn’t it sound like a great way to learn about our history? I believe this journey is awesome, and it makes the learning process as entertaining as it is impressive and educational.

If this isn’t enough to keep the kids entertained, the museum also has a huge aquarium that is a model of the Arabian Gulf. All types of species that inhabit our sea are here, including the sea turtle, porcupine fish and sharks. I am sure you and your kids will enjoy this venue and park. Khalifa Park is located near the start of Abu Dhabi island on Sheikh Zayed Road.

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit to ask him a question.

Published: May 19, 2016 04:00 AM


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