The third Qasr Al Hosn Festival returns to the UAE capital on February 11. A celebration of Emirati history and cultural heritage, the festival which will be on till February 21, will look into Abu Dhabi's past, focusing on the city's 16th century Al Hosn Fort (Qasr Al Hosn) and the 20th century Cultural Foundation.
"With Qasr Al Hosn Festival, we are not just celebrating monuments; we are celebrating the people who have carried the story of a nation, generation to generation. We are looking to illustrate the importance of conserving the Fort as a symbol of great significance in Emirati history, protecting our national identity and heritage through passing down our most valued traditions,” stated Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA), which organises the festival.
As in the previous two years, the festival grounds will be split into different zones — coastal living, desert, oasis and Abu Dhabi island — each zone with its own typical live heritage demonstrations, exhibits and shops.
The international, Vegas-style shows that used to steal much of the festival's limelight in the past two years have been scrapped so that greater focus will be on Qasr Al Hosn itself.
In 2013, the first year of the festival, Abu Dhabi and Qasr Al Hosn celebrated their 250th anniversary. The story of the citadel, and that of the fort began around 1760, when Sheikh Dhiyab bin Isa of the Bani Yas tribe built a watch tower on the island to protect a newly found, and dug water well.
Two years ago, the fort was under renovation and, although the festival was on its grounds, its walls were closed to visitors. In 2014, for the first time in decades, guided tours were allowed in the inner courtyard of Qasr Al Hosn during the festival only and, this February, the family wing and administration offices of the fort will be further opened for visitors on supervised tours.
"The tour this year will offer two different experiences, the pragmatic administration rooms and the family wing, where we found wall decorations of peacocks, plants and Arabian Oryx,” said Mark Kyffin, head of architecture at TCA.
"Initially, we thought these decorations were made in the 1990s, but we now believe they are actually from the original times of the palace, in the 1940s, although more tests are needed to confirm,” he told Khaleej Times.
Qasr Al Hosn, which started as a watchtower in 1760, had various additions throughout the centuries, the most important being the fort walls in 1795 - 1980 and the royal palace in 1939-1945.
Along with guided tours this year, the adjacent National Consultative Council Chamber, where meetings were held planning the union of the seven emirates, is also opened to visitors.
Poetry, rababa and oud recitals will also take place in the fort's courtyard and a Qasr Al Hosn exhibition will end the tours, showcasing life in Abu Dhabi in the old days, as well as conservation efforts to restore the fort.
The other big focus this year will be on the Cultural Foundation, another iconic building of Abu Dhabi, built in 1981, right next to Qasr Al Hosn, home to many art and cultural events, including the first and only art cinema and one of the first theatre halls in the city until few years ago, when it closed for renovation, as well.
During the festival, the Cultural Foundation will host arts and crafts workshops, traditional music and poetry performances in its outdoor amphitheatre and two exhibitions, one about the building itself and one about Abu Dhabi's residents' memories of the Cultural Foundation.
Source: Khaleej Times