It was quite by chance that we stumbled upon the Wikipedia page for Yas Waterworld, one of a number of water parks in the UAE. What set this account apart, however, is the fact Yas is described as an "Emirati-themed waterpark" (the only one in the world, as it turns out).
Our curiosity got the better of us and so we set out to find out for ourselves. Here are some motifs and elements we discovered were hidden in plain sight throughout the park that have their roots in the culture and heritage of the Emirates. Look out for them on your next visit, and like us, you won't be able to unsee them.
The architecture has traditional Emirati elements
Once you notice it, it’s evident that Yas Waterworld was designed to reflect traditional Emirati architecture. Case in point, the castle-like exterior design and village-like interior space, filled with historical Emirati elements such as minarets, souks, dhows, craggy rock outcrops and wind towers.
The story behind it is based on Emirati culture
For those who haven't visited the water park, the rides are based on a story developed exclusively for it, The Legend of The Lost Pearl. As the tale goes, Dana, a brave young Emirati girl voyages across the desert with bandits in pursuit, to bring back a legendary pearl that can grant prosperity to her village. The tale is inspired by Emirati culture, and pays tribute to its pearl-diving history.
From that stemmed the Emirati fantasy theme with a cast of characters, bandit forts and a giant pearl held over the waterpark on a crag of rock.
All the characters have an Emirati connect
Dana – the name of the hero of Yas Waterworld’s story – means “the most valuable and beautiful pearl" in Arabic, again reflecting the traditional pearl-diving profession. The other characters at Yas Waterworld also carry Emirati names such as Nasser, Salma and Sultan, and are found dressed in traditional clothing. Even the animals highlighted – such as Hamlool the Camel, Shaheen the Falcon and Dhabi the deer – are important animals in the UAE.
The rides pay tribute to Emirati culture
If the above weren't enough, all the rides and attractions at the park fit into the thematic story. Cinesplash, the water cinema, tells the story of The Legend of the Lost Pearl through special effects and takes guests on a journey to the UAE's pearl-diving past.
Hamlool Hump, meanwhile, is a speed slide inspired by the build of a camel.
Even the names of the rides are inspired by the UAE. Liwa Loop, the free fall drop water slide, was named after the oasis area in Abu Dhabi, while Falcon’s Falaj, a six-person raft ride that descends from a giant falcon’s nest, is named after the UAE's national bird.
Other rides and areas such as Sebag (meaning "race"), Amwaj ("waves"), and Yehal ("children") get their names from words commonly used in the local dialect.
Traditional food and beverage outlets
Finally, those wanting to dine after a long day of splashing about can check out outlets with local names – think Dana’s Diner, Salma’s Snack Shack and Amwaj Beach Bar – and treats. Head to Gahwat Nasser for some Arabic coffee, camel-milk chocolates, fresh dates and heritage gift boxes.