x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Qasr Al Hosn Festival celebrates 250 years of Emirati history

Set to take place from February 28 to March 9, the 10-day event will highlight the country’s rich culture and the capital’s oldest landmark.

Qasr Al Hosn has been nominated as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Rosemary Behan / The National
Qasr Al Hosn has been nominated as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Rosemary Behan / The National

The forthcoming Qasr Al Hosn Festival will mark 250 years of Emirati history and culture through world-class acts, historical exhibitions, an interactive zone and a series of educational talks.

Set to take place from February 28 to March 9 and then become an annual event, it also includes the specially designed show Story of a Fort, Legacy of a Nation by Franco Dragone, best known for directing Le Rêve and the critically acclaimed House of Dancing Water.

As the birthplace of the capital, Qasr Al Hosn has played a fundamental role in Abu Dhabi’s past while safeguarding its future, says Faisal Al Sheikh, the festival director and events manager at Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture -Authority.

“Qasr Al Hosn is of immense historical and cultural importance. Standing for more than two and a half centuries, the fort is the symbolic birthplace of Abu Dhabi,” says Al Sheikh. “This festival is an opportunity for the entire community to come together and celebrate Emirati history, culture and tradition.

“The fort was once a ‘gate of glory’. Celebrating the UAE’s history through this great festival will take us back to our roots and reminds us of our artistic and intellectual legacy.”

From Cirque Du Soleil to Abu Dhabi

To help retell some of Abu Dhabi’s most fascinating stories, the organisers commissioned Franco Dragone to create a memorable experience.

The result is Story of a Fort, Legacy of a Nation, which aims to bring the history of the Emirati -people to life, blending music, performances and spectacular special effects.

Robert Juarez, the chief marketing officer of Franco Dragone Entertainment Group, says: “The story follows a young Emirati boy who stumbles across Qasr Al Hosn and encounters a falcon, which asks him if he knows the story of the fort. It is from there that the whole -journey -begins,” explains Juarez.

Having worked with Cirque Du Soleil for 15 years, Franco -Dragone’s main objective is to push back the limits of art shows, says Juarez.

Story of a Fort, Legacy of a Nation will be staged in a 5,600-square-metre tent that rivals the Circus Phoenix in Paris, which is said to be the biggest in the world. More than 70 performers from 25 countries will participate in the production, which runs for 75 minutes. The cast, which includes professional dancers, acrobats and gymnasts, will be joined by a select group of -Emirati -performers.

“During these 75 minutes, you will learn the deep history, hidden secrets and stories behind the fort,” says Al Sheikh.

The Qasr Al Hosn experience

Visitors are encouraged to “walk through Abu Dhabi’s history” while experiencing four key themes: the Sea Corner, the Desert, the Oasis and Abu Dhabi Island. An exhibition, which includes a collection of videos and a selection of cultural -artefacts, sheds light on the fort’s historical significance as well as the leadership’s role in emphasising sovereignty and influence within the region.

Muntada Qasr Al Hosn, a three-day forum that will be hosted by the Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, will be offered in both English and Arabic. Presented by a panel of experts, the topics include the issues surrounding the fort, the nation and its people, and how the UAE’s history will shape its future.

The mighty fort

The story of the citadel is said to have begun around 1760, when the leader of the Bani Yas tribes, Sheikh Dhiyab bin Isa, built a watchtower to guard their water source. The tower was later turned into a fort by his son Sheikh Shakhbut bin Dhiyab. When Abu Dhabi rose in status, and also because of political shifts, Sheikh Shakhbut moved his residence from Liwa Oasis to Qasr Al Hosn.

The fort is currently under restoration. Plans are underway to open it as a historical attraction.

- Tickets will be available from Sunday via the festival website. For a full programme of events, visit www.QasrAlHosnFestival.ae