x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE expatriates discover hidden delights of old Abu Dhabi within the walls

'It is tremendously important for us to learn about UAE's culture and history,' says one family.

Spectators watch traditional Emirati song and dance performances at the festival this week. Sammy Dallal / The National
Spectators watch traditional Emirati song and dance performances at the festival this week. Sammy Dallal / The National

ABU DHABI // Although he has only lived in Abu Dhabi for four and a half years, Daniel Hughes places great value in learning about and exposing his children to the culture of his adoptive country.

"It is tremendously important for us to learn about the UAE's culture and history and its people and get involved as much as we can," said Daniel, 35, a navigation adviser from Australia.

So he and his wife Rachael, 38, jumped at the chance to take their four children to the Qasr Al Hosn Festival.

"Many of my children's friends are Emirati," Daniel said. "The UAE is so young as a country but it has a much deeper history.

"Emiratis have a lot of things to be proud of."

The couple and their sons Lachlan, 11, and Jonathan, 9, and daughters Alesha, 5 and Grace, 1, stayed for about four hours during which they watched an open theatre performance.

"I knew Qasr Al Hosn was here but did not know the history behind it until now," Daniel said. "We learned how water was discovered in the area and a fort was built to protect it.

"We learned how the fishermen survived on dates and coffee on four-month trips and the conditions they had to go through."

Visitors wandered the grounds and had a glimpse of the lifestyle of pearl divers and fishermen, explored the souqs with traditional handicrafts, tasted Emirati food and watched women make bakhour (incense), chami (cheese), yoghurt and butter.

"I'm disappointed that we can't enter the fort," said Caroline, 38, from Luxembourg, who this week visited the festival with her two daughters, aged 4 and 5.

"We only know more about the new Abu Dhabi and not the old Abu Dhabi."

The children enjoyed the camels, falcons, salukis and horses, and had their hands painted with henna.

"We were here when the UAE celebrated its 40th National Day and now 250 years of UAE history," Caroline said.

"It's a moment of many changes and it's a nice opportunity for us."

Mona El Bjairmi, 34, a Lebanese national born in Abu Dhabi, watched Franco Dragone's Story of a Fort, Legacy of a Nation with her husband, Wissam Abdullah, 44, and children Said, 11, and Sara, 8.

"We are living in this country and not many know about Qasr Al Hosn as one of the attractions," Mona said.

"I'd like my children to refresh their memory about what they learnt from school and what I tell them about the UAE and its history."

rruiz@thenational.ae