A dazzling equestrian theatre show is riding into Al Ain. Bartabas: An Equestrian Performance is a touring spectacle featuring horsemen and horses from France's prestigious Versailles Academy of Equestrian Arts.
A fusion of dance, music, poetry and classical dressage, the show will be staged at Al Jahili Fort from March 23 to 28.
Bartabas forms part of an Emirati-French cultural prog-ramme created to celebrate the upcoming opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi. The show is one of the highlights of the year-long programme of cultural events in Al Ain, organised by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Cultural Authority.
It begins this weekend, when visitors can take part in My Old House Bus Tours, during which they will visit old homes, oases, and historical and cultural sites in Al Ain, accompanied by archaeologists and conservators.
Those interested in exploring the musical heritage of the UAE should check out Memories of the Emirati Song, a series of monthly concerts – on February 16, March 2 and April 13 – at which young Emirati performers will play vintage folk and poetic pieces dating from the 1950s to 1970s.
Qasr Al Muwaiji will also host a series of cultural events. The Literary Evenings at Muwaiji – on February 18, March 18 and April 1 – will have some of the country's most esteemed poets and story tellers showcasing their work.
The venue will also host Emirati Melodies on March 9, a concert showcasing the musical heritage of Al Ain.
The UAE’s proud falconry tradition will be on display at Qasr Al Muwaiji from March 16 to 18. The weekend event, Hunting with Falcons, will explore “the setting, events and mood surrounding a falconry trip”.
Art lovers should visit the Al Qattara Arts Centre between March 15 and May 18, while the cultural venue hosts two contemporary exhibitions featuring the works of Emirati artists.
The Al Ain programme also celebrates the UAE’s only Unesco World Heritage site, which includes four locations: the Bronze-Age Hafit tombs, the archaeological settlements at Hili, the prehistoric vestiges at Bida bint Saud, and the six lush oases of Al Ain, including Al Ain Oasis.
The latter site will also host its own diverse series of events. Running from January 26 until April 15, the programme includes a seasonal farmer’s market, arts and crafts workshops, storytelling events, outdoor film screenings and a year-round photography programme.
Abu Dhabi Classics will also be represented in Al Ain, with the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse performing at the UAE University on May 3.
In November, annual art fair Abu Dhabi Art will present a series of art installations displaying contemporary works that interact with the surrounding historical architecture of Al Ain and its community.
In the same month, the Traditional Handicrafts Festival will take over Souq Al Qattara. The event offers an opportunity to explore some of the traditional techniques that were used in the production of fabrics and textiles – a key part of Emirati heritage.
In December, the Abu Dhabi Food Festival will return to various locations in Al Ain. Dates have yet to be announced for the Multaqa discussion series at Al Jahili Fort and Qasr Al Muwaiji, which will also host poetry recitals every month, as well as literary readings on national history.
Also on the cards this year is Collage, a community exhibition that will highlight the use of mixed media, and the Comic Art exhibition, at which artists will be invited to exhibit illustrations, animations and pop art images.
“Today, Al Ain celebrates a vibrant cultural scene, bridging a rich history with diverse forms of contemporary practices, preserving intangible heritage gems,” says Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, the chairman of TCA Abu Dhabi.
“Al Ain is the only city in the UAE to have attained Unesco World Heritage status, and has played a vitally important role in the development of the country.
“The engaging series of activities planned will translate the multiple layers of the city for residents and visitors to explore, understand and enjoy.”
• For details, www.visitalain.ae