Calligraphy and coffee: Emirati culture on display on Washington's National Mall

About 100 Emiratis have flown to the US capital to help present their country

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The UAE is the featured country at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as it returns to Washington after two years of online programming.

Held on the National Mall in the US capital, the festival has been bringing hundreds of thousands of visitors to learn about different cultures and traditions from around the world since 1967.

"A wonderful part of the folk life festival is the one-to-one human engagement," said Michelle Bambling, co-curator of the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival UAE section. "The way people choose to present what they're sharing and the conversations that result through that interaction."

Almost 100 UAE citizens and residents have flown in to help present their country.

Under the larger theme of "United Arab Emirates: Living Landscape, Living Memory", the curation follows the ideas of Place, Creativity and Belonging. A courtyard house recreated by students from Zayed University helps represents place, perfume-making and calligraphy fall under creativity, and family photos and vintage records demonstrate belonging.

There are also food demonstrations and the chance for visitors to try luqaimat, Emirati coffee, beef kofta and other foods from the UAE.

As visitors walk from booth to booth, they can ask participants questions about their work or try their own hand at artworks and crafts. Musicians also walk around the festival and talks are held throughout the day.

The interactive nature of the festival allows for special connections. Emirati weavers and invited a group of Fijian weavers to join them in showing visitors their techniques and the two groups of women sang together.

"We are honoured to tell the foreigners about the UAE's heritage," said Mariam Al Hameli, one of the Emirati weavers. "We are very happy and excited because of everyone who has come to get to know our culture and heritage."

Next to the UAE exhibit is the second theme, called 'Earth Optimism', which aims to bring hope and action to conservation and environmental work.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival runs for its second session from June 30 to July 4. It is free to enter.

Updated: June 30, 2022, 3:42 AM