Fireworks and laser shows: Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival opens on November 20

Popular event championing Emirati culture will welcome visitors subject to strict safety measures

AL WATHBA, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES- The entrance of  Sheikh Zayed Heritage.  Leslie Pableo for The National

The Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival opens to the public on November 20 with strict Covid-19 guidelines in place.

People will be able to enjoy the three-month celebration of Emirati culture in person subject to safety rules.

Masks and physical distancing are mandatory while staff will have to take Covid-19 tests.

The pandemic has forced the cancellation of the March of the Union event, where thousands of tribesmen gather on National Day, along with some of the daily traditional dancing displays.

But most other activities – including the fireworks and laser shows – will go ahead as scheduled.

The festival is held outdoors and in open space, so we are even more confident about the safety of guests at the festival

Organisers on Sunday said the safety of staff and the public is paramount.

“The usual precautionary measures that the National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority has applied in malls will be applied,” said Rashid Al Niyadi, a member of the festival committee.

“The festival is held outdoors and in open space, so we are even more confident about the safety of guests.”

The annual festival is named after Founding President Sheikh Zayed and champions the rich culture of the UAE, drawing hundreds of thousands if not more during the event.

Visitors can learn about pearl diving, the importance of the date palm and Bedouin heritage.

It also features international pavilions displaying arts and crafts from the Middle East and beyond.

The festival has the capacity to allow between 50,000 and 80,000 visitors a day and slightly more on weekends.

“During the weekend and on New Year’s Eve we will be adding more space to allow more people to enter,” Mr Al Niyadi said.

But some signature performances are being paused this year.

“The [Emirati] traditional performances will be cancelled this year because they involve a lot of proximity,” he said.

The March of the Union is off because "it will be difficult to maintain social distancing", Mr Al Niyadi said.

However, other signature performances and activities, which have yet to be revealed, have been put in place.

“And we will have ... celebrations for New Year’s Eve, including a 40-minute fireworks show."

The festival’s attractions include a section for children, where they can play real-life jobs and participate in a variety of workshops and activities.

An international circus will be performing daily as well.

Raffle draws, traditional food competitions, a modified classic cars exhibition, Arabian horses shows and fountain and laser shows are also part of the festival.

The festival's signature fountain has been modified to perform more sophisticated shows, Mr Al Niyadi said.

Thirty countries will be participating in the festival this year as part of the international section.

"We have educated the cleaning staff in their native languages on Covid-19 safety standards that must be maintained, to make sure they are fully aware of what needs to be done," Mr Al Niyadi said.

There is a Dh5 entry fee and people can pay at the front door or book online.

The festival runs from November 20 until February 20 in Al Wathba and its doors are open from 4pm to 11pm. On weekends the venue opens until midnight.

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