Abu Dhabi’s Mother of the Nation Festival welcomes all this weekend

We round up the top-draw activities at the start of a family focused event inspired by the example of Sheikha Fatima.

Jen Lewin’s interactive The Pool will be featured at the Mother of the Nation Festival. Photo by Aaron Rogosin
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The spirit of Mother’s Day is set to continue with the inaugural Mother of the Nation Festival in Abu Dhabi.

A tribute to Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, known as the Mother of the UAE, the event aims to highlight her leadership qualities, charity work and enduring legacy, in addition to being a celebration of mothers everywhere.

Sheikha Fatima “continues to inspire, empower and cultivate the Emirates’ citizens who, in turn, care for each other and the environment around them”, says Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority’s festival organiser Hind Al Khoori. “The festival creates a lively, entertaining and interactive atmosphere that welcomes families and individuals from across the UAE to gather and reflect on the importance of all mothers, who go above and beyond the call of duty to nurture our growth.”

From Thursday, March 24 until April 2, Abu Dhabi’s Corniche will house several zones packed with activities, musical performances and food stalls serving healthy bites. Here are some of the key attractions.

Activity cabanas

Abu Dhabi’s Corniche now has beach huts, or “activity hubs”, offering festivalgoers the chance to sample new skills. Try dune bashing on a miniature scale, with remote controlled cars in a sand pit, dabble in some archery or go foot-to-foot against your kids in a football shoot-out. There’s also Batak, an electronic game designed to test your reaction skills. Extreme yo-yo performers can demonstrate how to yo-yo like a pro.

Urban space

Abu Dhabi’s adrenalin junkies can see parkour performers and extreme stuntmen in action. At the Challenge Tower, try a tummy-churning free-fall jump from a 12-metre launch-pad – with an inflatable base at the bottom. There’s also a 35-metre zip-line a chance to play at tightrope-walking on a slack line and a climbing wall. Music will be provided by DJ and MC, who will perform with a giant boombox sound system.

Movement installations

Dazzle the senses in an inflatable walk-in sculpture made of translucent PVC. These monumental structures were designed by UK company Architects of Air to generate a sense of wonder at the beauty of light and colour as you walk through.

For more multisensory fun, the Pool by New York artist Jen Lewin features multiple interactive illuminated circular pads that generate swirling lights and colours as you step over them.

The souq

The old port of Abu Dhabi will be reimagined – with a modern touch. Browse cosmetics, fashion, jewellery, perfume and home decor from 50 local and international boutique vendors. But despite its name, the Souq offers more than just a chance to shop.

Visitors will also be able to step back through time and see how the UAE developed through seven display units. UAE Through the Lens features pictures of the country’s landmarks, alongside a display of the sorts of cameras that have captured them over the years. In another display, imagine what it must have been like to be a student in one of the first Emirati classrooms. You can enter the world of pearl diving through an artificial wall of water with an opening to poke your head through, revealing oysters on an ocean floor.

Five classic cars, including a Mercedes owned by Sheikh Zayed, will also be on display.


Traditional Emirati pastimes are revived through a series of interactive workshops. Visitors can help to build traditional and contemporary houses using sand or decorate traditional oud burner clay pots. There’s a workshop on crafting jewellery under the guidance of traditional Emirati silversmiths, and artists will be painting a reproduction dhow.

For the kids

Kids can play games in the sand playground that’s modelled on an old shipyard, solve the puzzle on a 3-D interactive puzzle wall, inspired by traditional Arabic mashrabiya designs, or leap about on trampolines made from traditional fabric prints.

Main stage

Performances by more than 20 local musicians, two orchestras and a live show will keep the crowds entertained between activities.

The heritage show Shama W Al Serdal is a mix of animation on a big screen and a live play, which shines a spotlight on the vital role women played in the history of pearl diving.

Also performing are The Emirates Youth Orchestra and the Arabic choir Nassum Al Saba. Jazz heads will enjoy Zazous, which covers tracks from the heyday of swing music in the 1930s and 40s.

Conservation zone

Designed to bring families closer to the UAE’s natural landscape, the section has activities such as Eco Safari, a six-minute long mini-jeep driving experience designed to take kids on an eco- journey. Under the Dome is a series of performances and cinema screenings to experience while swaying from hammocks and hanging chairs.

Artistic designs

• Thirteen exhibitions showing a range of artworks and photographs in a pavilion celebrating the role women have played in building the UAE. Don’t miss archival images of women from the 1950s and 1960s.

• A dedicated outdoor zone for adults and children will offer activities spread across different sections, such as Unity, Balance, Contrast, Pattern and Rhythm. Balance, for example, has a children’s playground set up with rope bridges and a slack line.

• Abu Dhabi husband-and-wife artist duo Maysoon Masalha and Bassam Al Selawi, who specialise in shadow sculptures, will show their work, while artists working with chalk will create 3-D art on the pavements around the zone.

• Sessions for visitors include pouring paint onto canvases, making tapestries with thread and painting on giant animal cut-outs dotted along the pathways.

• Pop-up kiosks will sell handmade goods such as bags and accessories, as well as art prints from both established and up-and-coming local artists.

Healthy treats

• The Beach Dining Zone in the Corniche’s West Plaza will be lined with shipping containers doubling as pop-booths by popular Abu Dhabi restaurants.

• Baristas will participate in latte-art competitions and host workshops for visitors, while coffee vendors will stage demonstration on how to roast beans at home.

• The Beach Juice Bar will feature interactive mocktail presentations, where bartenders will experiment with new flavours.

• The Urban Garden will showcase organic produce grown in various parts of the UAE, with on-site workshops on how to plant a garden in your backyard. There will also be an Arabic grill station that will serve up premium cuts and veggies.

The info

The festival runs from 4pm until midnight daily, with a park-and-ride service available between the East Plaza and Nation Towers car park. Entry tickets are Dh20 adults, Dh10 for five to 12 years; under fives go free. All activities are free after entry. The festival runs until April 2. Visit www.motn.ae.


Additional reporting by Anna Seaman and Stacie Overton Johnson