Hundreds of women poured into a temporary exhibition hall to buy clothes, food and jewellery in support of an Emirates Red Crescent charity project.
Though it did not look like much from the outside, the rows of luxury cars parked outside offered a hint to something special within as Emirati women cloaked in abayas disappeared behind the tent’s white doors.
Ataya – which translates to giving in Arabic – has been held annually Abu Dhabi for six years, under the patronage of Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan.
Since its inception, 100 per cent of the proceeds from the exhibition have been donated to various aid organisations both within the UAE and abroad.
This year, Ataya revenues have been allocated to a number of aid projects in the Mauritanian village of Dali Gimba.
The money raised will be used to build houses, schools, health facilities and an ophthalmology centre, since more than half of the population suffer from congenital blindness.
Dozens of local and regional businesses have set up booths for the duration of the five-day exhibition, selling clothes, perfumes, natural herbs, jewellery, furniture and food.
The Nashwa Jewellery booth sells pearl jewellery that promises to heal its wearer’s energy. Visitors to the stall can have a picture of their aura taken to learn what kind of energy they should nourish.
“All pearls bring calm and tranquillity and put you at an ease,” explained Linda Anderson, a life coach specialised in chakras from The Soul Centre in Scotland.
“Pearls are energy,” she said.
For instance, wearing a dark pearl brings wisdom, while lighter toned ones bring self-love and comfort “like a spiritual hug,” she said.
Nashwa Jewellery, which was launched by Nashwa Al Ruwaini, sells jewellery designed using natural untreated pearls from the seawater of Al Mirfaa in Abu Dhabi’s western region.
“I wanted to start a jewellery line that is very socially responsible and very much in line with sustainability,” said Mrs Al Ruwaini.
About month ago, she collaborated with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi on the Lulu Abu Dhabi project – a sustainability initiative to culture pearls.
“Pearls are the only gems that in order for you to get them, you need to preserve the environment for them to come out, so pollution affects pearls,” she said.
The jewellery is designed in a way that allows the pearl to be in direct contact with the skin so they may have a healing effect, she said.
The exhibition was opened by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of State for Tolerance, on Sunday and Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, was later seen wandering the stalls.
As he toured the exhibition, Sheikh Nahyan said Ataya is particularly significant this year because it coincides with the Year of Zayed.
He said he was optimistic that the proceeds would greatly contribute to the development Dali Gimba, where a lack of basic services means its residents suffer extremely difficult living conditions.
“This year Ataya’s cause has moved a step forward by contributing to the development, construction and social stability of the Mauritanian families in this rural village,” Sheikh Nahyan said.
In its first year, Ataya supported a children’s cancer treatment centre in Lebanon. The following year, it donated all its proceeds to 11 autism centres in the UAE.
In 2014, the UAE’s inmates benefited from Ataya’s revenues as the money was given to the Faraj Fund – a fund that helps prisoners pay off their debts.
The year after, the money went towards a maternity and children's hospital for refugees in Kurdistan.
In 2016, Ataya contributed to a number of education projects in Socotra, Afghanistan, Mauritania, Egypt, India and the Philippines.
And last year, the money was donated to people suffering from kidney failure in a number of countries.
Ataya is being held in the celebration area opposite Mushrif Palace until March 15