Mother of the Nation returns to Abu Dhabi jam-packed with food and fun

Here are some highlights you need to check out during the nine-day festival in the capital

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The annual Mother of the Nation festival began on Friday in Abu Dhabi, welcoming visitors to its colourful pop-ups filled with family fun and a whole lot of food.

It is billed as one of the biggest entertainment festivals in the region and the sixth event will run for nine days until December 18. There are plenty of activities and food concepts lined up along a decorated portion of the Corniche.

There's something for everyone at the festival, which returns with six thematic zones: Inspire Space, Food Hub, Amusement Park, Thrill Zone, Shopping District and Live Arena.

Scroll through the gallery above for a peek at this year's Mother of the Nation festival

Here's a look at what you can expect from this year's Mother of the Nation event.

The Inspire Zone houses one of the biggest pop-ups, the Anima digital art installation by Anderson Tegon from Italy.

The installation takes visitors to an expansive dark hall, with interactive lights that follow their movements.

"Like life, everything that people do [inside the hall] will have consequences," says Tegon, who also recently opened an office in Dubai to formally expand his art in the region.

It also has a social media museum.

At the Inspire Space features one of my favourite spots of the festival, the lively corner of Australian food concepts Knafeh Bakery and Bar Biscotti.

The staff call themselves the "Bearded Bakers" — bearded guys who sing and dance to Arabic tunes while baking a scrumptious kunafa — and they have plenty of positive energy.

The Thrill Zone is another exciting space that includes arcade and virtual reality games for all ages, including a VR-designed multiplayer game developed in Canada. Arcade games and billiards can be found inside the Pixel Haus. There is also a haunted house, as well as a heist-themed family escape room.

Other exciting districts include the Amusement Park, with classic carnival-style rides such as a carousel. After some tiring games and activities, head over to the food hub for some quick bites and refreshing drinks. The burgers at London's Patty and Bun are a must-try.

The pop-ups to try

Among the highlights this year is the participation of international brands, the majority of which are debuting in the Middle East, such as London's beloved cupcake spot Peggy Porschen in the Shopping District.

The chic bakery has brought its pastel pink shop to Abu Dhabi for the first time, a move deemed long overdue by its owner Peggy Porschen herself.

"We've been in London for a few years now, and we have quite a good following of customers from the Middle East. I've been approached many times to comer over here," she tells The National on Thursday.

Although only a pop-up for now, Porschen said they are "currently in talks with several parties" to launch its first international outpost in the UAE.

The salted caramel cupcake is definitely a must-try. Other flavours will be available at the MOTN pop-up, including one that is especially made for the Abu Dhabi festival.

There are other fashion vendors that are selling a variety of products including Mariam Al Marar, who owns abaya brand Swan Cloak, which is participating at MOTN for the first time.

"I have a home-based business, so people typically just visit me at home, but now my sister pushed me to put myself out there and I like it," she said. Al Marar designs the abayas, with a strong focus on the "perfect fit".

Hers is one of many local businesses in the shopping district, which is definitely worth a visit to browse some cool items.

Another brand showcasing in Abu Dhabi for the first time is streetwear and vintage store Dukes Cupboard, located at the Inspire Space.

Originally from London, the brand sells products such as Supreme and Calvin Klein, as well as Chicago Bulls merchandise and more vintage apparel.

"We've done pop-ups in New York, Amsterdam and Paris, but first time in the Middle East," co-owner Milo Harley tells The National.

"We have lots of customers in our London shop from this part of the world, who seem to be interested in vintage and streetwear. We were keen to come out here when the opportunity popped up," he said.

When and where is MOTN happening?

The festival began on Friday and will run until December 18. It takes place on the Abu Dhabi Corniche.

Do I need to buy a ticket to attend?

Entry tickets start from Dh30, which provides all-day access to the free zones and attractions.

An additional Dh85 can provide access to the Cocomelon interactive exhibition, as well as several attractions within the amusement park and the Thrill Zone.

Another add-on bundle is for the immersive light experience at the MOTN Funhouse, featuring the Anima digital art installation. It costs Dh140.

Concerts have separate ticketing, with prices starting at Dh110.

More information is available at

Updated: December 09, 2022, 4:40 PM