x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Expats keen to learn about UAE culture

Majority of passers-by at Qasr Al Hosn fort keen to be educated on the story of their adopted homeland.

Behann Safare speaks to The National about the Qasr al Hosn Festival in Abu Dhabi.
Behann Safare speaks to The National about the Qasr al Hosn Festival in Abu Dhabi.

ABU DHABI // As Emirati history is celebrated across the city, expatriates who now call this desert land home have spoken of the importance of learning about the nation's culture and heritage.

Qasr Al Hosn fort - the oldest building in Abu Dhabi - now stands in the heart of the bustling centre of the city and has seen people from all nations come and go.

This week was no exception as men and women from the capital's expatriate population walked past the landmark as they went about their daily lives.

While most people knew of the fort's existence, many expressed a desire to find out more and spoke about the importance of making the effort to learn the history of the area.

Madan Adhikari, from Nepal, is planning to go to the Qasr Al Hosn Festival. The 10-day event, which runs until March 9, has been designed to reflect more than 250 years of Emirati and Abu Dhabi history.

"It's important to know the culture and history of Abu Dhabi. I have been here almost five years and I want to know it," said the 28-year-old project administrator.

"People who live here should know about the UAE and what happened in the beginning."

Jordanian Amjad Elabed knew about the significance of the fort and agreed it was important for expats to learn about the culture of their new home.

"When you know more about the culture, you respect it more, so there is a lot less chance you will offend people or do anything that you are not supposed to," said the engineer, who works near the historic site.

Mary Jane Viloria, from the Philippines, found it emotional when she learnt about the history of the UAE at an event celebrating National Day in 2011.

"I attended a ceremony and it touched my heart. They started from the beginning and showed the history to the present. I felt uplifted. I feel the nationalism, also," said the 36-year-old tailor, who has been in Abu Dhabi for three years.

Another Filipina, Bernadette Camarce, walks past the landmark fort every day on her way to work as an assistant accountant.

She said she could not see into the site because of the billboards surrounding it, but she wanted to find out more.

"It's important to know the history of the UAE. I want to know everything about the UAE so when some people ask me 'what's this?' and 'what's that?' I am able to answer them," said Ms Camarce, who has been a resident of the emirate for almost six years.

Construction worker Behann Safare has been living in Abu Dhabi for 25 years and was aware of the importance of the site.

"It's very beautiful. I walk past here a lot," said the 42-year-old Iranian, who likes to walk around the city and try to learn about its past.

"I like the emirate, I like this country, I like the people and I like this Government," he added.

Rao Adnan Khalid, 26, an accountant from Pakistan, said he knew the name of the fort but nothing more.

"There is a billboard [surrounding it] so how can I come to know about what's inside? There is a festival going on and I would like to go," he said. "Of course I would like to go inside - it would be interesting to see."

The fort was originally designed to guard a water source and was lived in by the royal family for generations, hence the name Qasr Al Hosn (which means palace-fort).

Currently under restoration, the plan is to open it soon as a historic attraction.

ecleland@thenational.ae

For a video on Qasr Al Hosn, visit thenational.ae/multimedia