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A peek into traditional Emirati way of life

posted on 20/04/2007: 3344 views

The fifth edition of the Sharjah Cultural and Heritage Days, located at the Heritage Area in old Sharjah, brought alive traditional UAE customs for visitors and residents who were keen on learning more about the country's heritage and history.

Held under the slogan, "Diving Deep into Culture", the 16-day event runs until April 26, and coincided with the celebration of the World Heritage Day on April 18.

Organised by the Heritage Division of the Sharjah Information and Culture Department, in collaboration with the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, the Sharjah Heritage Days offers an insight into wedding rituals, colourful parades, Arabic poetic sessions and sea songs recited by young UAE nationals.

Old women could be seen cooking traditional Emirati breads and sweets, in polka-dotted dresses under abayas, with the traditional and often colourful burqa covering half of their faces. Emiratis and expatriates enjoyed the khameer bread and luqaymat dumplings as children participated in traditional yola dances and rode on camels and horses.

Handicraft and costumes

Emiratis from the cities, villages and mountains gathered to share information on their traditions and way of life with visitors, setting up model homes, farms and wedding scenes for enthusiastic onlookers.

Visitors were in for a treat as local handicrafts and traditional costumes, like the female jallabiyya in colourful designs, sirwal, shailah and abaya, were up for sale at reasonable prices.

A Ras Al Khaimah resident, Robert Cook, from Canada, said he had come to Sharjah for the Sharjah Biennial and decided to stop by the festival. "While we were there we heard a lot of music and thought that it would be fun to look at what was happening."

Rajan, an Indian, said it was important for Sharjah to host such events because it was a learning experience for his children. "The children have the space to run around and have fun, but they also learn about the country's history."

"[The festival] gives you a better idea of what the UAE is all about, and I am really impressed with what I have seen.

"There is more to life here than shops and these displays of irrigation and wells help everyone understand the history and way of life in the UAE," said Beverly McKay.

"The furniture and handicrafts were very interesting, as well as the food. What surprised me was that they were selling [something like the Indian bread] dosa," said Deepika A., who was visiting with her two children.

Visitors crowd around stalls

Hundreds of visitors crowded around the stalls at Sharjah's heritage festival, often queuing to buy their favourite frankincense, perfume or Emirati bread, but the crowd around one shop stood out more than the rest.

Ahmad, an Egyptian vendor, had one of the popular stalls - he is selling the rifle used in the traditional Emirati dance, the yola.

Having recently grown in popularity following the introduction of dance competitions by Emirati television, the yola is a traditional dance in which men show off their rifle-spinning techniques while they move, occasionally throwing it in the air and catching it.

The rifles Ahmad was selling came in red and green with an Emirati flag printed on the butt. "They are toy rifles, of course."

Hilal's mother, who had brought her two sons to buy their first Dh15 yola rifles, said the real ones were "heavy and dangerous".

"This is my very first yola rifle," said Hilal with a smile. "Before, I would do the yola at home with sticks or anything I could find. I have even brought my one-year-old brother to buy his first one." (Gulf News)


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