ABU DHABI // The inaugural Moroccan Heritage Week kicked off in the capital on Friday with a visit by King Mohammed VI of Morocco.
Displays of traditional Moroccan music, arts, fashion, cuisine and handicrafts at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre are now open to the public until next Friday.
At the festivities for VIPs on Friday, the king was accompanied by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Mohammed, the Ruler’s Representative in the Eastern Region, and Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, National Security Adviser and Deputy Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council.
The VIPs also visited the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, which put on displays of Moroccan equestrian sports that date back to the 15th century.
Hundreds of people cheered as groups of riders in elaborate costumes rode in line, brandishing muskets known as moukahla.
A synchronised firing of guns, which sounded like a loud single shot, was at the heart of the performance.
The performance, a traditional exhibition of horsemanship in the Maghreb during cultural festivals, is known as fantasia. The actual traditional term is lab el baroud, or the gunpowder play.
The fantasia will be held daily during the Moroccan Heritage Week at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club from 3.30pm until 6pm.
Sheikh Hazza thanked King Mohammed for inaugurating the event, which “allows Emiratis and residents in the country to learn about the rich culture” of Morocco.
“The Moroccan king’s attendance and the opening of the heritage week coincides with the celebrations of the 44th National Day, and this reflects the deep Emirati-Moroccan relations,” he said.
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, said the good bilateral relations dated back to the friendship of Sheikh Zayed, the late Founding President of the UAE, and King Hassan II of Morocco.
“To hold the Moroccan Heritage Week in the country as we are living these days of happiness and of belonging, as well as commemorating [our martyrs] and celebrating National Day, strengthens our ties,” said Sheikh Nahyan.
“It is an honour to have the Moroccan king present and sharing this joy with us.”
He said that many comparisons could be drawn between the traditions of both countries.
Noura Al Kaabi, an FNC member, said the heritage week signified the strong bilateral relations. She said it was “proof of how deep the relationship is between the brotherly countries”.
“It supports the historical and brotherly relations in all aspects, including politics, economics, media, science, tourism and culture.”
She also noted that the Moroccan Heritage Week coincided with the UAE’s 44th National Day celebrations.
Meanwhile, Hamad Ahmad Al Rahoumi, a fellow FNC member, said Morocco was a culturally rich country whose roots ran deep in history.
“Holding Morocco Heritage Week on UAE soil is an important step in strengthening collaboration between the two nations,” he said, adding that it was an opportunity to acquaint UAE residents with Moroccan culture.
The Moroccan Heritage Week, which the Ministry of Presidential Affairs oversees, aims to support relations between the two countries.