Fishing lessons, traditional UAE games: 5 things to do at Abu Dhabi's Maritime Heritage Festival

The event opened its doors on February 17 and runs until February 26


Ismail Sebugwaawo

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Top Stories

Supplied photos
Supplied photos

Published: Tue 21 Feb 2023, 1:26 PM

Abu Dhabi’s latest heritage event, the Maritime Heritage Festival, opened its doors on February 17.

Organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), the event celebrates traditional Emirati coastal life, recreating a historic shoreline trading community where visitors can witness ancient skills such as dhow-building. The ten-day event features a thrilling blend of tales from the past, historical re-enactments, children’s workshops, exclusive merchandise, souqs, traditional games, and local cuisine.

The festival is divided into various areas, including a Fishing Village and a Trading Village. Here is a breakdown of the top activities taking place during the festival, which runs until February 26, 2023.

1. Fishing Village

The Fishing Village features several fish-focused activities, including a fisherman’s market where visitors can learn how fish used to be caught and auctioned back in the early days. There is a daily auction where visitors learn about fish salting and spicing, and the characteristics that made fish more or less expensive to businesses and retailers.

The highlight is the chance to taste the catch at its freshest state at a live cooking station kiosk, where visitors can buy their choice of seafood and have it grilled or fried on the spot.

In addition, there are fishing crafts where skilled artisans make fishing tools, a falcon majlis with a live show where spectators get the opportunity to pose with falcons for pictures, and a historical re-enactment of the challenges faced by the ancestors while taking on the sea.

2. Trading Village

At the Trading Village, visitors can attend a pearling exhibition and experience first-hand the world of pearl harvest and trade. They have the chance to meet and discuss topics of interest with prominent experts, including Abu Dhabi’s iconic pearl sailor Al Tawwash.

Visitors can also explore the UAE's historic fashions and embroideries on all kinds of attire, and shop for bolts of fabric in the floating market, learn about traditional medicine and the old ways of treating sickness, see how traditional crafts such as burqa, henna and butter were made.

3. Al Seefah (by the beach)

A number of fun activities take place at the festival’s beach area - Al Seefah. The Emirates Heritage Club is organising the Maritime Heritage Festival Rowing Tournament, with five 40ft races over four days. The teams will compete in a race from Al Mina to the Traditional Games Arena. The winner will be awarded the championship title at the final ceremony.

From the Emirates Heritage Club, visitors will be able to watch the majestic display of beautiful dhows as they sail to Al Seefah and parade in front of the shoreline.

There is even a ship-building activity by the shore, where a group of local boat-builders are setting the base of a typical wooden racing sailboat to highlight the craftsmanship as practised by coastal communities in the past. The live demonstration includes building dhows, paddles, and sails as well.

4. Traditional games arena and traditional performances

A traditional games tournament for school children will allow them to compete in a range of sports and games played in the UAE for generations, from 4pm-7pm every day – and from 7pm members of the public can participate in the fun too! There will also be traditional performances by Emirati performers, giving audiences a taste of popular dance, music and poetry forms.

Across the festival site, you will find a daily programme of both traditional and contemporary music, as well as other performing arts that are part of the UAE's maritime culture. Expect anything from a beachfront Al-Ayyala performance to interactive audio-visual storytelling, Jalsat performances – and even flash mobs.

5. Souqs

Dive into the heart of Emirati trading in the souqs across the site, in the Trading and Fishing villages, and along the Promenade. Look out for a traditional dukkan with childhood snacks that have become rare to find in modern supermarkets, traditional accessories and garments, ouds and perfumes, traditional dolls, as well as modern designs by the House of Artisans.

Getting there and ticket details

The Maritime Heritage Festival is located at Abu Dhabi Corniche, A’l Bahar. Visitors are encouraged to be dropped off or to carpool because parking spaces are limited on site, however, they could park at the opposite side of A’l Bahar, and cross the street through the pedestrian underground tunnel.

The festival is open from 4pm to 11pm Sunday to Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, the event runs until midnight.

Tickets are available for purchase online. They are priced at Dh30 for adults and Dh15 for children (ages 5 to 12). Children under 5 and people of determination enter for free.


More news from Lifestyle