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HISTORY & TRADITIONS - HISTORY


Sultan Al Qasimi: I will exert the necessary efforts to search for answers for researchers’ inquiries about Ahmed Ibn Majid


posted on 07/11/2014

His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, said that he will exert the necessary efforts using his own collection of available valuable historical books in search of answers to the questions still raised by researchers about the seafaring of the Arab and Muslim seaman Ahmed Ibn Majid, as findings of certain research contain false information or prosaic contents, some of which state that Ibn Majid was from Julphar, the latter being a closed Armenian colony with no Arab residents that was fenced to prevent anyone from entry.
Sheikh Sultan was addressing attendees during the conclusion of a panel discussion about the seafaring of Ahmed Ibn Majid, organised by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) in collaboration with the Executive Committee for the Sharjah Islamic Culture Capital 2014 Celebrations, at the Sharjah International Book Fair, before yesterday.
The panel discussion was attended by Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Corporation, Chairman of the Executive Committee for the Sharjah Islamic Culture Capital 2014 Celebrations, Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), Sheikh Khalid bin Essam Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Department of Civil Aviation in Sharjah, Sheikh Salem bin Abdul Rahman Al Qasimi, Director of the Office of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Abdullah Mohammed Al Owais, Chairman of Sharjah Department of Culture and Information, Dr Essam Sharaf, Egyptian former Prime Minister, Dr Mohammed Sabir Arabi, Egyptian former Minister of Culture, Ahmed Abu Al Gheit, Egyptian former Foreign Minister, Dr Amr Abdul Hamid, Advisor Higher Education, Dr Amr Abdel Hamid, Special Advisor to His Highness for Higher Education, Mohammed Diab Al Mousa, an advisor in the Amiri Court, Dr Obaid Saif Al Hajri, Director of the Regional Office of ISESCO in Sharjah, and Ahmed bin Rakad Al Amir, Director of the Sharjah International Book Fair and a number of the SIBF's guests.
Moderated by Dr Yousef Ahmed Al Hassan, the panel was attended, by Dr Abdulaziz bin Othman Al Tuwaijiri, Director General of the ISESCO, Dr Abdullah Yousef Al Ghunaim, Director of Kuwait based Strategic Studies Centre, Dr Hassanein Mohammed Rabea, Chairman of Arab Historians Association, and Dr Hamid MK Al Naimi, Director of the University of Sharjah.
In his speech, Dr Abdulaziz bin Othman Al Tuwaijiri said that celebrating the memory of the Arab seaman Ahmed Ibn Majid shows the keen interest in restoring communication with beacons of Islamic civilisation and commemorating their contributions to be guiding lights of inspiration for coming generations. He added that Ibn Majid left a tremendous legacy of valuable sources for seamanship, cartography, and celestial navigation, as he was a pioneer in this science in Arab Islamic history during his life till the 18th century.
He added that this Arab genius drew the attention of the international knowledge community, educational institutions, universities and study and research centres, and the successive editions of the international congress of maritime history, a leading international maritime gathering that recognised Ibn Majid, studied his works and admitted that Ibn Majid was the first to develop a benchmark for maritime science and the pioneer in developing sea navigation applications. He added that the attention given to Ibn Majid by academic circles is a source of pride with regards to the significant contribution of Islamic civilisation to human progress.
The ISESCO Director General said, "Scholars and researchers from various scientific and academic communities have acknowledged that the books of Ibin Majid and his successor Sulaiman Al Muhari, are important documents that summarise the sailing heritage in the Indian Ocean in the 15th and 16th century not only with regard to Arab Islamic experiences, but also covering the experiences of Persians, Indians, Javanese, and East Africans." In his speech, Dr Abdulaziz Al Tuwaijiri commented on the false accusations mentioned in some historical references claiming that Ibn Majid had helped Vasco Da Gama find his way from Malindi in East Coast of Africa to India in 1498. This claim was refuted by H.H. Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, in a documented letter titled: "Memorandum for Historians on the Innocence of Ibn Majid", in which His Highness provided material evidence to prove that the one who showed Vasco Da Gama the route was an Indian Christian man from Gujarat named Kanji.
Abdullah Al Ghunaim discussed a number of manuscripts which were published about Ahmed Ibn Majid in his book "Arabic Geographical Manuscripts, Bodleian Library Oxford University". He underlined that the legacy of scholar Ahmed Ibn Majid is a shared legacy for all the people of the Arabian Peninsula, as his work helped the economy of Arab Gulf, the Coast of Oman, and the Red Sea. He added that people of these regions were in solidarity and unity to confront the invaders and colonisers.
The famous book of Ahmed Ibn Majid says, "The Book of the Benefits of the Principles of Seamanship is one of the greatest references in oceanography. The writer describes this science as one of the mental sciences, which enables seafarers to reach their destination without deviation or variation. The book describes latitude and longitude, which helps locate the exact location of countries. This requires seafarers to know about celestial navigation and how to monitor stars accurately, measure wind speed and be familiar with directions, and appropriate travel seasons considering the wind speed and the currents from and to the various ports.
Al Ghunaim suggested forming a committee of specialists to collect Ibn Majid's works and to review, evaluate, and analyse previous studies, explore indexes of manuscripts from around the world and collect all works related to Arab navigation, so that to find more works for Ibn Majid and other pioneering seafarers.
Dr Hassanein Mohammed Rabea spoke about various aspects from the life and works of Ahmed Ibn Majid. He said that it is not fair that this great Arab scholar was neglected in major Arab references in the 16th century. Nothing important was mentioned about him to pay homage to his works in the Arab Peninsula manuscripts, which were published in his age. He commented that Ibn Majid was only recognised in the recent years thank to Sheikh Sultan who undertook this noble mission in his book "Memorandum for Historians on the Innocence of Ibn Majid".
Dr Rabea attributed the negligence shown by Arab and Muslim historians to Ibn Majid, his inventions, discoveries and literature, to their preoccupation with the historical blogging of the Crusades and the beginning of Western colonies from East, West and North Africa to India and the neighbouring countries. He added that the Portuguese sailors were affected by Ibn Majid and they called him "the Prince of the Seas". He drew many sea maps during his multiple voyages to East Africa, South East Asia, India and China.
He added that Ibn Majid left rich legacy of science, knowledge, and literature, varying from prose to poetry.
In his speech, Prof Dr. Ahmed Al Naimi said that Ibn Majid was among the first seafarers to know the seasonal wind in the Indian Ocean. "Ibn Majid excelled in geography, astronomy, the study of stars and was extensively quoted by Arab and foreign scholars and historians." He added, "We can say that Arab and Muslim sailors and astronomers were creative in using astronomical devices in marine navigation and used speed of wind and star in their sailing. What we see today of astronomical devices, sea and air navigators are based on the inventions of Muslim scholars in the period from 15th to 19th century." - Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates-international/1395272057724.html

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RAK history recorded in 1,600-page encyclopaedia


posted on 03/11/2014

The Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah now has its first-of-its-kind encyclopaedia that covers 80 years of its history and beyond.
Najeeb Al Shamsi, an Emirati social and economic researcher who also works as the Director-General of the GCC Supreme Council Consultative Authority, said it took him four years to finish the ‘RAK Encyclopaedia'.
"It is a unique comprehensive reference work that covers over 80 years of the history of the northern emirate starting from the thirties of the last century up till the present.” The 1,600-page book covers different sectors and critical fields of the emirate, he added.
"The three-volume masterpiece tracks all the political, economic, social, cultural, arts, media, and sports transformations in the emirate during these years.”
Al Shamsi said his compendium also portrayed and shed light on the profiles of the pioneering personalities in the emirate who exceptionally chipped in the development procession of the emirate at various fields and sectors. "Lacking sources and books that tracked the long history of the emirate was the main challenge, and hence the face-to-face interviews with old Emirati men and woman was a key reference for this databank.”
The emirate actually needs well-equipped documentation institutions run by competent people so that researchers may refer to them for authenticated and verified information and pictures, he said.
"More government department and private institutions are urged to shoulder the historical and national responsibility, and support such important researches and studies.” Al Shamsi said the people quoted were very helpful whereas some others declined to give any details though they did have important and supportive information and pictures.
"The encyclopaedia is sort of showing gratitude and paying a tribute to our beloved emirate of Ras Al Khaimah and its great history, and its people who deserve to be profiled in appreciation to their tireless effort and sincere services.” – Khaleej Times - http://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/inside.asp?xfile=/data/nationgeneral/2014/November/nationgeneral_November16.xml§ion=nationgeneral

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TCA Abu Dhabi organises First GCC Heritage and Oral History Forum


posted on 10/09/2014

Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, TCA Abu Dhabi, is to host the First GCC Heritage and Oral History Forum to highlight the importance of oral history in preserving the U.A.E.'s cultural heritage, from 14t – 16th September.
Forum delegates will explore the storyteller's role in safeguarding elements of intangible cultural heritage and developing current fieldwork techniques of collecting data through stories told by the elderly and other heritage custodians.
The Forum is expected to proposing the setting up of a unified GCC strategy to promote the role of oral history in collecting inventory and will seek to outline the challenges faced by field researchers and stakeholders while highlighting the experiences of some Arab countries in leveraging oral history as a valuable resource.
"This initiative by our Intangible Heritage Department will help develop field research methods and enhance researchers' skills in identifying and collecting date from accurate, reliable sources namely storytellers who are our human treasures," said Dr. Nasser Al Humairi, Director of TCA Abu Dhabi's Intangible Heritage Department.
TCA Abu Dhabi has invited a number of GCC history and heritage university departments, institutions and other entities, as well as academics, experts, researchers, sociologists and historians to the Forum and a dedicated panel has studied and chosen papers to be submitted to the gathering. – Emirates News Agency, WAM –
http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395269375563.html

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Abu Dhabi’s past a picture of natural beauty


posted on 02/08/2014

It may seem strange, but six to eight million years ago Abu Dhabi was a land with rivers flowing through it that supported vast areas of lush grasslands.
"In Al Gharbia, we have a sequence of sands and clays that were deposited mainly by a river system,” said Dr Faisal Bibi, a palaeontologist at the Museum für Naturkunde's Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science in Berlin.
"This ancient river system has been called the Baynunah River. Within those Baynunah sediments, we can find the remains of animals [and plants] that existed in the area at the time the river was active. The region had large, year-round freshwater flowing through it. This water would have sustained belts of vegetation around it, ranging from trees to grasslands.”
Dr Bibi says that the climate in the region can change yet again in the future, with factors such as global warming also playing a role.
"While we can't predict the future, we know from studying the past that climate change occurred many times, sometimes in cycles. There may have been several periods of desertification going back millions of years. River systems such as the Baynunah might have come and gone several times.”
"However, with the current human-induced global warming crisis, conditions may get even drier in the near future.”
Abu Dhabi has been the scene of several fossil finds over the last few years, with the digs commissioned and undertaken by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA). The discoveries and studies have allowed experts to gain new insights into the region's history.
Most recently, the fossilised remains of a monkey dating back 6 to 8.5 million years were discovered in Abu Dhabi's Al Gharbia region.
Dr Bibi who has been conducting research and fieldwork in Abu Dhabi, discussed some of the finds in the region that may appear surprising to many.
"We have sabre-toothed lions, different hyenas, two or three different species of giraffes, a small hippopotamus, several antelopes and gazelles, at least two different types of crocodiles, freshwater turtles, several kinds of freshwater fish, a big tortoise, swamp rats and different rodents, some birds including a large ostrich-like species, a type of horse that had 3 toes instead of 1, two or three species of elephants, and a guenon monkey.”
According to Dr Bibi, the wildlife in Abu Dhabi millions of years ago would represent something similar to Africa's current day Savannah grasslands.
Dr Bibi also notes that new species are constantly being discovered through the fossil records, with the newly discovered monkey being one such example.
"Every time we search, we find something new. A new record, a new piece of information, or even a new species. With every find, we are closing gaps in our knowledge of ancient life on the Arabian peninsula.”
The next challenge Dr Bibi mentions is finding out exactly what happened when the climate in the region began to change, and how and when the animals became extinct or how they adapted and evolved.
"We often wonder what happened to the ecosystem supported by the Baynunah River. Unfortunately we haven't yet found any fossils in the Arabian Peninsula that can tell us what life was like just after Baynunah times. So far, we only have this single window into the past at around 7 million years ago. We don't yet know what happened to many of the species we found, or exactly how they might have continued to evolve, or how and when they would have gone extinct.” – Gulf News - http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/general/abu-dhabi-s-past-a-picture-of-natural-beauty-1.1366227

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A historical tale of two mosques


posted on 15/06/2014

Centuries-old mosques hosting daily prayers are a major tourist attraction.
Ever wondered about the mosque which adorns your Dh5 note? Called Salem Al Mutawa, it is one of the two oldest mosques in the U.A.E. and lies west to the city of Khor Fakkan. The other mosque — believed to be the oldest in the U.A.E. — called Al Bidaya dates back to 1446 and is located in a small village in Fujairah.
The prayer hall has a small mihrab (the niche in the wall that indicates the direction of the Qiblah), a simple pulpit, arches and openings. A central pillar divides the internal space into four squares of similar dimensions. The pillar supports all four domes that can be seen from the exterior.
Inside the prayer hall, a number of small decorative windows allow light and air to stream into the mosque. There are also cube-shaped spaces carved into the thick walls where copies of the Quran and other religious books are stored.
The centuries-old mosque continues to host daily prayers and is a major tourist attraction in Fujairah. It has been renovated as a tourist landmark in collaboration with the Historical Buildings section at the Dubai Municipality. People throng the mosque irrespective of their religion or nationality because of its unique shape. The mosque is named after the village it is located in.
Says Dr Faleh Handhal, a researcher in the history and heritage of the U.A.E.: "The village is one of the biggest in the emirate of Fujairah and there are other villages around Al Bidaya — Al Jibail, Haqbal, Al Fai and Al Hara. The mosque was (earlier) known as Ottoman mosque due to its architectural design, and there are similar mosques in the Sultanate of Oman and Qatar.”
Researcher Nasser Hussein Al Aboodi wrote about the building materials of the mosque and analysed the building's shape and spiral domes. "The mosque was built with only one dome on its roof, which now lies above the Minbar and Mihrab (the north-western side of the mosque). It is the original dome and the biggest and the tallest. The other domes were added to the structure later.” – Khaleej Times – Read more: http://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/inside.asp?xfile=/data/nationgeneral/2014/June/nationgeneral_June124.xml§ion=nationgeneral

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#MyDubai sparks people's imagination


posted on 07/01/2014

The #MyDubai campaign has gained momentum on various social media channels since its launch on Sunday. Several people tweeted and posted pictures expressing their sentiments.
Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, launched this initiative through his Twitter account (@HamdanMohammed) to create an autobiography of Dubai through pictures and videos.
After posting tweets and a video introducing the initiative, Shaikh Hamdan followed it up with a picture of the Burj Khalifa on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.
It was shared by 74,000 people on Instagram and on Twitter, the picture has been retweeted 429 times; 301 tweeps have marked it as a favourite.
Some tweeps who were present at the official launch of the initiative posted pictures of the #MyDubai display at the Burj Al Arab.
Hala Kazim using the twitter handle @HalaKazim wrote: "I was honoured to be a part of the first people to see the launch of #mydubai at the Burj Al Arab.”
The project has received over 29,000 posts on Instagram, along with tweets and Facebook comments.
Many wrote about their life and experiences in Dubai. Nirmal Rao tweeted from‏@nirmal82: "#MyDubai safe and secure country to live! Hats off to the Rulers!”
Another tweep using the handle @mataralmehairi posted: "#MyDubai: Dubai is art of paint (mix of sea,desert,modern) but can't be painted by anybody except Shk Mohammed's brush”
Twitter account user @KOJAK said: "#MyDubai is the BEST city in the WORLD.” Another user @its_3ax posted: "#MyDubai is the Pearl of the Gulf and its a city of peace, security and stability.”
Khalid abdulrahman using‏@khaled_ae expressed his love for Dubai on his Twitter account. He wrote: "I'm in a constant love with this city, its ever changing dynamics always inspires me to think out of the box. #MyDubai.”
Some tweeps used the hashtag to write about events around Dubai. @SerialHBreaker wrote: "Where the world would come to u, just attended Chicago Broadway musical in Dubai #MyDubai.”
Asma Merchant‏@PurpleChashM tweeted: "D3 — Rainy day in #MyDubai :D #100happydays.” She posted a picture along with her tweet.
Facebook user Futtaim Al commented: "#MyDubai #UAE #Proud ....Thank you baba khalifa , Thank you baba mohammed .... A big thank you from our little emaraties of the family.”
Government support
Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), the government body responsible for promoting the emirate's leisure and business tourism offering around the world, has also joined the #MyDubai initiative.
DTCM will select outstanding posts and display the best photographs and videos on its social media channels. It will also share photographs and videos of the department's work promoting the city around the world. Their Facebook page is titled ‘Definitely Dubai' and they're also on Twitter and Instagram as @definitelydubai.
It showcased 10 images posted with the #MyDubai hashtag since Sunday's announcement, each of which highlights why Dubai is one of the world's leading tourism destinations. – Gulf News
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Hamdan bin Mohammed launches initiative to write world's first autobiography of a city through social media


posted on 06/01/2014

H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, yesterday launched a year-long initiative to create an autobiography of Dubai through social media.
Open for all of the Emirate's residents and visitors, the initiative encourages people to capture the real life dynamics of Dubai and share the most compelling moments they experience. People are invited to contribute by using the hashtag #MyDubai, and will be able to introduce the unique values and culture of the Emirate to the world through social media, which has become one of the most important channels through which the world observes Dubai.
Commenting on the launch of the project, Sheikh Hamdan said the #MyDubai initiative will tell the real and human stories of the city through photographs and videos. Using his twitter account, Sheikh Hamdan said that the main goal of the project was to show the world the beautiful lives, unique identity and true culture of the city that lie beneath the urban and technological advancements.
The images will showcase the life of the city's residents and visitors, their experiences and adventures, and highlight the best of their social lives, while informing the world about the UAE's culture and values.
Sheikh Hamdan invited all of the Emirate's residents and visitors to participate in the #MyDubai campaign, by sharing images and videos on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag. A number of activities and events related to the hashtag will be launched throughout the year. Sheikh Hamdan initiated the programme by sharing his personal photo on his Instagram account.
Sheikh Hamdan stated that the passion for the Emirate that exists amongst both UAE nationals and the communities of more than 200 nationalities living in Dubai is an often untold part of Dubai's success, saying, "Our achievements are driven by a positive energy and spirit that is felt by everyone who lives in our Emirate, inspiring creativity and harmony and uniting more than 200 nationalities." Adding to these comments, Sheikh Hamdan said, "In the fabric of Dubai there are more than 2.1 million stories - the individual lives and experiences of all those who call Dubai home. A city's story is created by its people and as we look towards a prosperous future, it's time to join together and show the world how 2.1 million people can create one remarkable story. Together we will create the world's first autobiography of a city." Sheikh Hamdan commented that #MyDubai will provide the opportunity for each resident to become an ambassador for the city, sharing the exciting, diverse and remarkable lives they lead.
It is intended that photographs and video submitted on social media channels will document the experience of living in Dubai. A specialised team will work on the project, curating people's contributions for use across different media platforms, for example at international exhibitions and to inspire art installations, films and books.
A number of initiatives and programmes will be launched throughout the year of #MyDubai, giving further opportunities to take part. – Emirates News Agency, WAM

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Qasr al Hosn Festival to welcome its visitors once again


posted on 09/12/2013

Held under the patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the Qasr Al Hosn Festival will once again celebrate the oldest building in Abu Dhabi, which is now 250 years old.
The Qasr al Hosn festival is a historic and cultural celebration that will open its doors from February 20th to March 1st, 2014, to welcome thousands of visitors following its successful first edition earlier this year.
Held in the grounds of Qasr al Hosn, the festival is an annual celebration of the Qasr al Hosn Fort, the symbolic birthplace of the capital, and centuries of authentic Emirati culture and tradition. It enhances the nation's sense of identity and honours the UAE's founders and visionary leadership.
The festival is held under the mandate of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, which conserves and promotes the heritage and culture of Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, said, "The Qasr al Hosn Festival is an annual token of our appreciation for Abu Dhabi's rich history and culture. Centred around our cherished historical monument, it strengthens appreciation of Emirati heritage and identity.
"Every year, the Qasr al Hosn Festival will highlight and celebrate the significance of the fort and the birth of the nation's capital and its development over more than 250 years." Expanding on the role of TCA, Sheikh Sultan said, "Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority has a holistic vision of culture, which embraces both tangible and intangible heritage. It is committing all its resources to the preservation of architectural and archaeological assets as well as to the development of visual and performing arts, literature and poetry to celebrate the Emirati identity. Qasr al Hosn will become a physical embodiment of this cultural manifesto." For the first time in several years, Qasr al Hosn Festival presents an opportunity for its visitors to explore the ancient fort as it undergoes renovation. The interior foyer will be partially open to festival visitors on guided tours and educational activities for children and youth.
Visitors will witness progress on the ongoing restoration work which is being carried out using international standards of conservation and best practices in the management of World Heritage assets.
Qasr al Hosn Festival will be a platform and an annual milestone, allowing the community to be completely associated to and engaged in the progress of Qasr al Hosn's restoration.
Building on the success of the first festival, visitors will experience both the tangible and intangible heritage of the Emirate through a variety of inspiring activities, designed to reflect over two and a half centuries of Emirati and Abu Dhabi history. These include a world-class show reflecting themes inspired by the UAE history and context, interactive heritage and art workshops, celebrations highlighting Emirati skills and traditions, and historical tours and exhibitions. – Emirates News Agency, WAM

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Going back in time to the pearl era


posted on 26/05/2013

The 60-foot dhow race organised by the Road and Transport Authority (RTA) on Saturday rode the waves of the Gulf waters, offering a glimpse of the nation's rich traditions to tourists and residents alike.
In a boost to sea tourism, the RTA organised Al Gaffal dhow race, initially to be held on May 18, only to be delayed till Saturday.
An RTA ferry stacked with sailing fans departed from the Marina Mall at 8am and headed to Moon Island, en route to which the sailing dhows with their white masts could be seen by all on board. Dr. Yousef Al Ali, CEO of the RTA Public Transport Agency said: "We seek through this initiative to effectively contribute to making this race a success. It reminds us of our great history that is closely attached to the sea life at the Arab Gulf region represented by fishing and diving in search of all kinds of pearls.”
"The authority is always keen on taking part in all sport, social and economic festivities whether they are local, regional or international, organised by different entities at the Emirate of Dubai aiming to promote and boost the standing of the Emirate as a pioneer tourist, commercial and service destination on the regional and world levels,” he added.
The dhow race is symbolic of ancient times when pearl divers would set out with their casting nets to earn their livelihood and set in place Dubai's early trading history.
French national Carole Escaravage, a life coach in Dubai who lives here with her husband Greg Rung, a consultant with a bank, and three young children — Anouk, aged five, Noe, aged six and the youngest Alice, aged two — who got on board for free, were severely seasick despite the handing out of anti-nausea tablets. Carole said despite the water being very rough to begin with, the trip on the ferry beat going to the mall. The kids all fell asleep rocked by the movement on the waves.
But the passenger complaints were mainly along the lines of not being able to tell one dhow from another because announcements on the ferry were not very informative. Some complained that while breakfast was supposed to be at Moon Island, the ferry did not even make the stop.
Despite the seasick cases overboard, most sailing enthusiasts preferred to stay outdoors with their telescopic lenses, in a bid to catch at least the giant white sails of the dhows — reminiscent of shark fins — that the distant horizon was speckled with.
Around 100 boats took part, with approximately 3,000 participants. The race began at the island of Sir Bu Nair, located 65km off the coast of Sharjah, and finished at Mina Seyahi.
Chinese national Nesma Wen came from Abu Dhabi for the race. "I like boats in general,” she said, "I love the water.” She said she had been waiting for an opportunity to witness the race for six years, "enjoyed every bit of it”. – Khaleej Times

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Sultan sheds fresh light on history of Emirates


posted on 23/05/2013

His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, through a phone conversation with the Direct Line programme aired live on Sharjah Radio and TV on Wednesday, has emphasised that the names of Sharjah, Qaiwain and Khaimah have been mentioned in the book and maps of Ptolemy. He pointed out that there was a doubt whether these names already existed in the book or mentioned and added after translating Ptolemy's book in the Abbasid Era.
Sheikh Sultan said that he had conducted an investigation and studies into the maps of Ptolemy, where he found in the Arabian Peninsula a cross and crescent, which refers to that it was issued after Islam.
With regard to Julfar, Sheikh Sultan said, "In 1959, I visited Isfahan, where I saw a bridge composed of several bridges connecting Isfahan and Julfar. There I saw a big church and a golden dome. It is also mentioned that the Mongol tribes occupied this area in Iran, which made the Armenian Christians flee from Persia to that place in Ras Al Khaimah that was named Julfar later.
Sheikh Sultan also talked about the history of Ras Al Khaimah and names of areas in it.
As for the relation of the oceanographer, Ahmed bin Majid with Julfar, Sheikh Sultan said that Ibn Majid arrived in the area before the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, noting that he documented in his writings that Ibn Majid was not the one who brought the Portuguese to India. – The Gulf Today

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Emirates ID launches “Milestones in the History of the UAE” competition on Facebook


posted on 28/03/2013

The Emirates Identity Authority (Emirates ID) has launched a new interactive competition titled "Milestones in the History of the UAE” for its followers on Facebook.
The new application allows Emirates ID's followers on Facebook to contribute to documenting and writing the UAE's history and recording the different social occasions and events, whether private or public, said a statement.
They can do it by accessing the electronic application, selecting the date and writing the event that suits them in addition to uploading the photo that matches the event in the attached encyclopaedia. .
Emirates ID clarified that the six-month new interactive competition allows participants to win valuable prizes in six rounds.
The idea of the application lies in devising a cultural and information-based encyclopaedia featuring the most important events witnessed by the UAE since its formation in 1971 until now. The encyclopaedia can be browsed and read by merely selecting the year or month in which the user is looking for the event.
The mechanism of participation in the competition lies in adding a historical event to the electronic application and sharing it with friends and followers on Facebook or Twitter. This entitles the first place holder to win the round in question, while the top 100 place holders who were not lucky in any round will compete for the grand prize — two nights' stay in a UAE hotel and a trip to one of the UAE's most important historical landmarks.
To participate in the competition, a contestant needs to have an ID card and should agree to join the list of followers of the Emirates ID's page on Facebook.
Emirates ID pointed out that this competition came as part of its efforts to promote the loyalty of citizens and affiliation of residents in line with its strategic plan for social communication emanating from its strategic plan 2010-2013.
Emirates ID clarified that launching this competition was part of its ongoing quest to enhance channels of communication with the society and is based on its keenness on positively interacting with its followers via these channels. – Gulf News

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Qasr al Hosn Festival, simply an overwhelming success


posted on 11/03/2013

As the Qasr al Hosn Festival draws to a close, the over 30,000 visitors who descended on the capital for the occasion have been reflecting on what has been a spectacular 10 day national celebration.
Creating a festival in the historical Qasr al Hosn site is a feat that has never been attempted before and the opportunity to learn more about Abu Dhabi's fascinating past has attracted thousands of visitors to enter via the festival's gates! "The result of the Qasr al Hosn Festival has been wonderful and in short, we have been simply overwhelmed with the positive feedback from the thousands of visitors around the nation who took part in this year's festivities and whose numbers increased by the day. The festival was also very well received by local and international media which compliments the success of the wide range of existing cultural attractions in the UAE capital. Abu Dhabi's historical journey is an incredible one and it was our goal to ensure that this was reflected in the festival's offerings. Adults and children were equally enthralled by the live demonstrations of traditional Emirati crafts and performances," said Faisal Al Sheikh, Qasr al Hosn Festival Director and Director of Events Bureau at Abu Dhabi Tourism '&' Culture Authority.
"Combine the festival attendance with that of the Muntada Qasr al Hosn sessions and the Qasr al Hosn Festival Exhibition and you really begin to appreciate the extent to which the public have engaged with this project. The Qasr al Hosn fort has stood for over 250 years and is the physical embodiment of Emirati culture and tradition. This year's festival was not only a celebration of longevity but rather, it was the chance to learn more about Abu Dhabi's past and collectively feel proud of its achievements. This was illustrated through Franco Dragone's spectacular show "Story of a Fort, Legacy of a Nation" which captivated thousands of viewers over the 10 days. Using a mixture of technology, music and live performance, Franco created a show that told the story of our nation; reflecting the vision of our founders and the incredible journey that led to the realisation of the UAE today. We at the Abu Dhabi Tourism '&' Culture Authority are confident that the legacy left by this year's festival has achieved precisely that," he added. - Emirates News Agency, WAM

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Thousands catch Qasr Al Hosn grand finale


posted on 10/03/2013

Thousands of visitors flocked to the Qasr Al Hosn Festival for a walk through Abu Dhabi's history before the celebrations drew to a close at midnight yesterday.
They wandered the sandy compound to watch the historical exhibitions and live performances, checked out the traditional souq stalls, horses, camels, falcons and salukis, and met the Emirati craftspeople.
The 10-day festival, which began on February 28 and took place next the Qasr Al Hosn, the symbolic birthplace of Abu Dhabi, gave Emiratis, expatriates and tourists a chance to engage in Abu Dhabi's rich cultural past.
Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon, the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority; Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research; and Sheikh Tahnoon bin Mohammed, the Ruler's Representative in the Eastern Region, were among yesterday's visitors.
By 6pm, there were 2,488 visitors, but the numbers surged an hour later to 3,859, according to organisers.
Over the past nine days, 23,288 attended. March 8 registered the highest number of visitors, with 7,296. These figures do not include attendees to the show, The Story of a Fort, Legacy of a Nation by Franco Dragone, which attracted at least 800 people a day.
"It reflects the importance to the nation's history in this iconic celebration of Qasr Al Hosn," Faisal Al Shaikh, the director of the festival, and director of the events bureau at Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.
"The festival is becoming a national destination for traditional and cultural activities as the community came together to celebrate 250 years of Emirati history, culture and tradition."
Sandra Takac, 35, a housewife in Abu Dhabi who is originally from Serbia, said the festival was "nice and well-organised".
She was with husband Alen, 36, and their children Alexander, 5, and Alexandra, 3, at the desert area. They took photos of Alexander who enjoyed his camel ride.
"It's nice to learn about the UAE's history in this way," she said. "It brings us closer to Emirati culture and history."
It was the second visit for Shamma Al Khouri, 18, a student at Zayed University and resident of Abu Dhabi, and her family.
She came with her mother Aisha Darwish, 50, her sisters Mariam, 16, and Osha, 6, and brothers Diab, 9, and Mohammed, 5. They attended the festival the previous day.
"We came here to know more about how our people lived in the past," Shamma said. "We feel proud that people from other countries are here to know our culture, so it will be well-known in the world."
They were at the desert section of the festival, where Mohammed held one of the falcons. They took photos of the camels and stood next to Abu Dhabi police officers wearing their old brown uniforms.
"My grandfather used to work at Qasr Al Hosn," Shamma said. "Every Eid, my mother and other children would visit the fort and the sheikhs would give them 'Eidya' or gifts."
The fort is currently under restoration. Plans are under way to open it as a historical attraction.
Zeinab Al Tourq, a Lebanese housewife and an Abu Dhabi resident for 37 years, snapped a few photos of nephew Mohammed, who is Emirati.
"Today's the last day so we didn't want to miss the festival," she said. "We've been reading about in the newspaper."
Ms Al Tourq said the festival was a good opportunity for Mohammed to know more and understand his heritage, while watching Mohammed hold a falcon.
"His classmates have been talking about it and it's nice that he's here to experience the festival," she said.
A Takatof volunteer took Grant Olivier, 45, an aeronautic engineer from South Africa, and his family to a tour around the sandy compound. He was with his wife, Suzana, 50, and daughter Capria, 14.
"There's a wonderful mix of culture here," said Mrs Olivier. "Before coming here, I'd never heard of Abu Dhabi. We'd like to understand people's culture better and be able to integrate." – The National

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Preserving UAE's fort for the future


posted on 07/03/2013

Qasr Al Hosn was built using coral stone from nearby reefs and mangrove trees – materials that are environmentally protected 250 years later, complicating restoration work at the old fort.
It is a dilemma heritage officials have to deal with while ensuring any work is historically accurate.
"It does pose a problem but not a problem that can't be overcome,” said Mark Kyffin, the architect behind restorations by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.
The fort is to be repaired or sections replaced in line with international conservation standards.
Mr Kyffin and his team have spent six years analysing the design of the fort, and the type and source of materials used. While it may be not be possible to use local sources for some building materials, particularly the coral used for the walls, there are other possibilities.
In certain parts of east Africa, for instance, it is permitted to buy coral stone to help balance the local eco-system. The same rules apply to mangrove poles.
"If we have trouble obtaining them, for whatever reason, it is acceptable under international conservation standards to use a different material as long as it's not trying to masquerade itself as being mangrove or coral,” Mr Kyffin said.
There is as yet no fixed date for restoration work to begin.
Mr Kyffin and his team have used their time to make mock-ups of new sections of the fort that will be built using traditional materials.
The first, which uses coral and mangrove as well as traditional mortar made from sand and seastone, is now on display at the Qasr Al Hosn exhibition, running this week as part of the festival.
"We will be doing a series of mock-ups so we can test them climatically and test different materials to get the right mix, the right texture and the right source of materials,” said Mr Kyffin.
Another goal of the restoration work is to codify some of the key skills involved in traditional building, like the knack of knowing where to place certain coral stones for greatest structural integrity, or coating mangrove poles in a paste of crushed dates and fish to protect against termites.
"We need to replicate those skills and stop them from becoming intangible,” said Mr Kyffin.
Almost every generation has carried out their own renovations at Qasr Al Hosn. The most recent and most extensive work took place in the 1980s, when some sections were fortified with concrete.
Mr Kyffin said that while some more inauthentic renovations would be reversed, other recent alterations may need to remain.
"Some of the 1980s works, which are clearly concrete, may have to be left because removing them will do more harm than good,” he said.
"They're also part of the story of the building. In 100 years the works that have been done in the 1980s will have greater historic value than they do now.”
In addition to the old fort, the tourism authority also manages about 90 historic buildings in the emirate, including several archaeological sites.
Aqeel Ahmed Aqeel, a conservation manager at the authority, said it is giving priority to Al Jahili fort and Mohammed bin Khalifa House in Al Ain, and Maqta fort in Abu Dhabi.
"To maximise our efficiency we have a priority of three or four buildings,” Mr Aqeel said. "But this is not fixed and we need to keep adding different sites.”
Conservation work on the UAE's historic buildings began in earnest in the 1980s as traditional dwellings faced the prospect of demolition, or falling into disrepair.
"People moved out of their old houses and into relatively luxurious villas and apartments,” said Peter Jackson, the architectural adviser to the Ruler's Office in Sharjah.
"They wanted to improve their quality of life.
"There was a time in the 1970s when the old buildings were thought to be inferior.
"It's only because of a few people who understood the huge cultural importance and the urban historical importance of keeping these buildings that people now realise they have enormous value and need to have new uses.” – The National


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Qasr Al Hosn reflects themes of allegiance and belonging to the historic leadership, says Abdullah bin Zayed


posted on 06/03/2013

H. H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister visited Qasr Al Hosn Festival, which runs until March 9th. The event marks the 250th anniversary of the construction of Qasr Al Hosn.
Sheikh Abdullah attended the folklore shows, which highlighted the dominant local traditions and customs of the UAE and are usually performed during the National Day and Eid celebrations.
The UAE Foreign Minister also toured the heritage shows being featured at the festival. They reflect the UAE narrative history from tribal society to young nation state, demonstrating the ancient norms and ways of life of the forefathers who lived in the desert, urban, agricultural and marine environments. The shows embody the uniqueness, originality and determination of the forefathers to survive and succeed in harsh climates and make a better living for themselves and their families.
Sheikh Abdullah expressed his satisfaction about the exhibition noting that it reflected the allegiance, sense of belonging and pride of the UAE's national identity. He was briefed about the heritage and handicrafts items being featured at the festival, especially the boat building, sailing boats, fishing equipment, hunting activities, falcon hunting and saluki dog breeding.
He was also briefed about the jewellery and ornamental work, including Emirati women's traditional attire and henna made by Emirati women.
The festival presents a historic portrait of the Qasr Al Hosn through the living memories of the population, photographs and other artefacts.
"Qasr Al Hosn's heritage treasures reflect the themes of belonging and allegiance to the historic leaders, who set the foundations of this country. The Qasr Al Hosn Festival aims to honour those leaders," said Sheikh Abdullah.
He stressed the important role of media to continually revive this heritage and increase awareness amongst Emiratis about their heritage and identity.
Sheikh Abdullah further underlined that protecting heritage is good for the UAE economy, boosting tourism activities, as well as preserving culture and national identity in an increasingly globalised world. – Emirates News Agency, WAM

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Mohammed bin Zayed visits Qasr al Hosn Festival


posted on 03/03/2013

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces this evening visited the venue of the Qasr Al Hosn Festival which celebrates more than 250 years the fort's history.
The event started on 28th February and will run to 9th March.
In the main courtyard of the Qasr Al Hosn fort, Sheikh Mohammed and sheikhs performed the traditional Al Ayyala dance, while national folk-dancing troupes in national costumes were singing the glories of the Al Nahyans and forefathers and their achievements for the future of the nation.
Later, Sheikh Mohammed toured the traditional souqs and handicraft fairs which highlight all aspects of life in the past, including in the desert, urban communities, agricultural and seafaring communities, which all reflect the glories of the country's unique ancient past and generous giving of the forefathers who wanted to provide the best decent living.
There, he viewed traditional handicrafts and activities such as shipbuilding, sailboat-building, rope-making, hunting tools, falconry, hunting with salukis and camel riding.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and his companions acquainted himself with handicrafts made by Emirati women, including jewellery and accessories, traditional costumes, henna, traditional foods and household items made from palm fronds and animal products, fabrics and mats.
He also watched some traditional performances which reflect the UAE's traditions and arts featured at celebrating national occasions.
He interacted with the exhibitors and viewed the artefacts they showcase. He expressed pleasure at their participation which reflects their pride in their national identity and loyalty to the nation.
He said: "Today we smell the aroma of history to set an example for the coming generations to let them know that the dreams of our leaders and forefathers have been realised and embodied in the present which we live in. They suffered and gave everything and did everything for us so that we have what we have today. What we do today will bear witness to what we did and what we will do for the future of this generous country." - Emirates News Agency, WAM

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Experts shed light on Emirati history, culture at Qasr Al Hosn Festival


posted on 03/03/2013

The Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation is organising ‘Muntada Qasr Al Hosn' at the ongoing Qasr Al Hosn Festival. It will be held over three days.
The last day — March 8 — will serve as a platform for visitors to the festival to engage in discussions and debates on a wide range of topics related to Emirati history and culture. The Qasr Al Hosn Festival is a ten-day-long community event that is designed to celebrate the long and illustrious history of Abu Dhabi, and serves as the ideal backdrop to host the Muntada platform.
Led by world-class speakers and leading experts on Emirati history, the discussions held at Muntada will give accounts of what Qasr Al Hosn means to the people of Abu Dhabi.
Speakers include well-known historians, political scientists, researchers and historic architecture experts such as Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh, Dr Frauke-Heard Bey, Dr Abdullah El Reyes, Dr Jayanti Maitra, Mark Powell Kyffin, Dr Aisha Bilkhair and Jack Burlot. The topics being discussed at the sessions include History and Civilisation; Qasr Al Hosn: The Architecture of the Story of Abu Dhabi; Al Hosn Timeless Treasure and many others.”It is through presentation of enriching and locally-relevant topics at events and forums that Muntada aims to inform and empower the local community,” said Giorgio Ungania, Muntada curator, Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation.
"Muntada Qasr Al Hosn will offer participants and visitors an opportunity to learn about the rich history of Qasr Al Hosn and its relevance to Abu Dhabi.”
Muntada sessions are open to festival visitors from 5.30pm-6.30pm each day. – The Gulf Today

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Mohammed bin Zayed: United Emirates a strong fort


posted on 01/03/2013

Gen. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces has expressed gratitude to the forefathers who worked for the progress and prosperity of the UAE.
In a statement made to Abu Dhabi Al Emarat TV Channel yesterday following the national parade to celebrate 250th anniversary of creation of Qasr Al Hosn in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed said the people of the UAE are one family.
"Our country is a unified and strong fort. On this day, I would like to extend greetings to the people of the UAE. We always celebrate the national day to mark the day the federation was made. Today, we have an anniversary of a history that dates back to 250 years in the capital Abu Dhabi. 400 years ago, the capital was Liwa." Sheikh Mohammed said the day was an opportunity to remember and pay tribute to the forefathers. "We are lucky with what we have today, and the least we should do in gratitude to the builders of our nation is to remember them. Without their rich past, their resolve and their bright faces, we wouldn't be here to celebrate this auspicious day." He added that the UAE had a history 700 years. "We are all one family from Fujairah to Silaa. Our's is a deep-rooted history. We have mosques in the UAE which were built before 1,000 years. As we celebrate a 250 years old event, when our ancestors moved from Liwa to Abu Dhabi, we thank them for giving us such history and by the grace of Allah, we will be passing this history to our children and grandchildren. We pray that may Allah bless President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, grant his mercy and blessings to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and save our country and our people." – Emirates News Agency, WAM

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Thousands join national parade to Qasr Al Hosn


posted on 01/03/2013

Thousands of people converged in the capital on Thursday to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Qasr Al Hosn, the birth place of the Abu Dhabi emirate and the UAE Federation.
The procession of Emirati men and women in traditional attire, headed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai; and General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, started from Al Falah Street near Minhal Palace and ended at the old fort, the landmark of the capital city.
The parade was also attended by several Sheikhs, government officials and residents from across the country who had gathered to express loyalty and strength of the union developed by late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
Al Hosn Fort was first built in 1761 (and then expanded in 1763) by the Nahyan dynasty who migrated from to Abu Dhabi from Liwa.
A major part of the city was choke-a-block with people who had gathered to watch the carnival while all the busy and main streets remained deserted. The main routes of the parade were blocked with tight security.
"I have to go to the other side of the road to my residence, but I'm not allowed. It seems the entire UAE is here in the Capital to express solidarity for the country and admire the iconic, historical landmarks like Al Hosn Palace,” said Rolf Schwartz, an old-time European resident of the Capital.
"The Rulers of the country and the government deserve this kind of support in return for what the people are getting in terms of education, health services, the world's best civic services and jobs assured,” said Mohammed Ameen from Pakistan, another spectator.
He said Emiratis are lucky people to have all these privileges thanks to their Rulers and the government. "I wish I was an Emirati,” he added.
For 30-year-old Ubaid Al Marzouki, an Emirati, it was the biggest parade he had seen. The carnival began from Minal Palace to Al Hosn Palace covering a distance of almost seven kilometres that took over four hours to reach. Close to 10,000 people were part of the carnival.
"If open to all, the whole UAE would have joined the parade and flooded the capital to attend the opening of the first Al Hosn Festival at Al Hosn Palace,” said Aisha Al Balushi, an Emirati student watching the parade at distance.
At the old fort, there were a number of Emirati traditional folkloric groups waiting for Sheikh Mohammed and General Sheikh Mohammed. The two leaders also met and interacted with the organisers of the festival and participants, particularly old Emiratis men and women.
"It is a wonderful experience to be part of the great event. I believe it has to be an annual event where we get very close to our leaders as it happened today,” said Abdullah Al Reyami, another young Emirati.
A theatrical show, which takes the audience on a historical journey, and other attractions will continue until March 9. – Khaleej Times

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Qasr Al Hosn Festival to mark 250 years of Emirati history


posted on 28/02/2013

The Qasr Al Hosn Festival, which begins tomorrow 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 Italian-Belgian director Franco Dragone, according to a report published by The National daily.
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." 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.
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.
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 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.
A traditional souq with 60 stalls has been set up around the fort and visitors will be able to see artisans practising traditional Emirati crafts or try a hand at applying henna, palm weaving and telly - a traditional Arabian Gulf style of macramé.
"The Qasr Al Hosn Festival offers an entirely new way for many proud sons and daughters to engage with Abu Dhabi's rich cultural past," said Faisal Al Sheikh. - Emirates News Agency, WAM

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Qasr Al Hosn Festival: something for both adults and children


posted on 28/02/2013

Abu Dhabi's history will come to life for 10 days at the Qasr Al Hosn Festival celebrating the Fort's 250-year anniversary on Thursday (February 28) at 6pm, showcasing artefacts and artistic displays of the capital's past.
With 600 souqs to visit, Festival guests will be able to purchase hand-crafted items and chat with senior Emiratis who will tell tales of past struggles and achievements. Outside the Fort's walls, Emirati men will perform traditional dances and songs using swords and rifles.
The festival area surrounds the fort and is divided into four main phases: Marine, Abu Dhabi Island, the desert and the oasis which can be accessed through four main entrances opposite Grand Stores and Futooh Al Khair.
For children and adults alike, horse and camel rides will be available as part of the 20 animals participating in the festival. Fifty catering staff will offer visitors free samples of traditional Emirati foods and salads while traditional seating areas provide rest between long walks within the premises.
Walking inside the sandy open space, visitors can catch a glimpse of ancient Emirati fishing boats, former police vehicles and officers' costumes. An art exhibition containing snapshots and videos of the UAE's history will be open to the public throughout the festival's duration. Meanwhile, experts from the Muntada forum by the Shaikha Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, will be speaking to guests in Arabic and English about issues surrounding the fort's past and how the capital's history is expected to shape its future.
Internationally renowned artistic producer and show creator Franco Dragone will showcase Story of a Fort Legacy of a Nation, a 75-minute visual poem on the formation of Abu Dhabi city using 64 projectors, light displays and technological aspects uniquely combined in a 5,600 square metre purpose-built tent.
"We are creating a show based on a historical narrative is one of the many incredibly exciting aspects of this project and we have therefore fused both the world of art and authentic Emirati history in a way which has never been done before,” said Dragone. "We also have experts giving us exact details on costumes so we can be as specific to reality as possible. The show will leave audiences feeling like they are in a dream,” he added.
According to Dragone, the plot revolves around a young Emirati walking past Qasr Al Hosn, not recognising the historic significance of the very spot in which he stands, when suddenly a Shaheen (a majestic falcon) appears in front of his eyes. "In a flutter of a wing, the falcon pulls the boy into a whirlwind of images and feelings, a visual and musical poem through which the boy will discover his roots and the fundamental values that lie at the very heart of Abu Dhabi and its people,” Dragone said. – Gulf News

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Qasr Al Hosn: The start of a nation


posted on 22/02/2013

For more than 250 years, a gleaming white tower has stood guard in the heart of Abu Dhabi.
To protect its people, a robust fort developed around it. Soon, with Abu Dhabi's founding generations living within, a thriving city sprung up in the vicinity.
This is the Qasr Al Hosn, also popularly known as the "White Fort”. Beloved by its people, Qasr Al Hosn today symbolises the evolution of a civilisation, both through its architecture and the significant happenings that it has witnessed.
"Qasr Al Hosn is the physical embodiment of the story of Abu Dhabi because the evolution of the building parallels the development of its people,” Mark Powell Kyffin, an architect at the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), told Gulf News. Kyffin is currently involved in the TCA Abu Dhabi's restoration of Qasr Al Hosn.
According to the TCA Abu Dhabi, the fort was enlarged, repaired and fortified during the rules of Sheikh Tahnoun Bin Shakhbout (1818-33) and Sheikh Khalifa Bin Shakhbout (1833-45).
As Abu Dhabi grew politically and economically during the reigns of Sheikh Saeed Bin Tahnoun (1845-1855) and Sheikh Zayed Bin Khalifa (1855-1909), or Zayed the Great, Qasr Al Hosn became the seat of power.
During this time, Zayed the Great created a plinth or step outside the northwest square tower of the fort to serve as a Majlis. Previously, people had to wait outside the fort, and were called in to meet the ruler.
"This is quite a significant moment in the history of Abu Dhabi. It clearly shows that the ruler is a man of the people,” Kyffin explained.
Following the discovery of oil in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Shakhbout Bin Sultan (1928-66) ordered the improvement and extension of the fort, therefore creating work for thousands of local people.
"At this point, the fort was converted into a palace, marking a big step in its evolution. This stage began in 1939 and finished sometime between 1943 and 1945,” Kyffin said.
Once these works were completed, the original towers were enclosed within an imposing palace.
There were two main entrances to the new palace — one in the north façade for men and the other in the south for women.
"Many young sheikhs and sheikhas are believed to have played in the protected green spaces inside the fort and palace,” Kyffin said.
The architect explained that although Qasr Al Hosn was made of lightish sandy brown materials, the inclusion of crushed sea shells in the mortar caused it to sparkle from a distance.
"This is what originally led to it being called ‘The White Fort'. In the late 1950 and early 1960s, a white limewash was used to paint it, which further accentuated this name,” he added.
One of the watchtowers was also historically used to call for prayer as the fort was orientated towards Makkah.
After the formation of the UAE, Qasr Al Hosn ceased to be used as a palace due to the development of taller buildings around it which compromised its safety and privacy.
So, in the 1980s, the UAE's founding father Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1966-2004) ordered the structure to be converted into a centre for documentation and research. Later on, a building known as the Cultural Foundation was built nearby to house exhibitions and cultural events for the residents of Abu Dhabi.
"It is unique to have a tower that is recognisable as being the start of a nation. Qasr Al Hosn is this building for the UAE, and everything seems to stem from it,” Kyffin added. – Gulf News




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Dreaming of the sea in Dubai


posted on 12/01/2013

They had a dream, a city of merchants, a city built on trade, the sea connecting it to the world.
These were the dreams of the founding fathers of Dubai.
Dreams that began at the spot where the ruling families traditionally lived, believed to be the site of the original BaniYas settlement 130 years ago. A place where the seeds of modern Dubai were first sown.
Just some of these dreams and how they became reality are being recorded in a unique project initiated by global marine terminal operator, DP World. "Dreams of the Sea: The Dubai Maritime History Project” is collecting the stories of those sea dreamers and all those involved in Dubai and the UAE's maritime history into a dedicated bilingual website www.dreamsofthesea.ae - an archive available to all.
The project is being housed at the Heritage Village in Shindagha Historic Area with the opening of an exhibition featuring some of the interviews collected so far, together with photographs with an old film of Dubai. The first-hand accounts include the unique stories of people from all walks of life whose memories of Dubai are intrinsically tied to the sea – from fishermen and pearl divers to business leaders and academics.
There is also a video booth within the exhibition where people can record their own memories and stories to be added to the archive.
The exhibition will run from 14 to 27 January.
People are also urged to get involved by uploading their own stories, photos and videos from the past onto dreamsofthesea.ae website. The more it is used, the more useful it will be to the generation of today and those of tomorrow.
Also as part of the Project, a Dreams of the Sea book in Arabic and English will be available at the beginning of April. It will include the stories, images and anecdotes of scores of people who lived through those formative years.
DP World Chairman Sultan Ahmad bin Sulayem said in a statement: "Over time, we hope that the Dreams of the Sea website will become a living archive, preserving for future generations the rich history and heritage of Dubai and the UAE through the stories of the people who have lived and worked on its shores.”
Professor Fatima Al Saleygh, History and Archaeology, UAE University Al Ain put the meaning of the sea to the people of Dubai in context.
"People here have always looked at the sea as their symbol of life. These symbols of our heritage will never change and nor will our eternal relationship with the Gulf Waters. In Arabic, when we want to say that somebody is a dreamer – we say "they want to create something in the sea” – His Highness Shaikh Mohammad, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said "yes, I am a dreamer – I created something in the sea – the three Palms”.
"So, it turns out that the sea is our treasure, past, present and future. Whenever we need something, we go back to the sea, as if the sea will give us a solution to all our problems in life. Whenever we needed a pearl, we went to the sea. If we wanted to create land and cities, we went to the sea, for oil, we went to the sea, for water, we went to the sea.”
For bin Sulayem, the project brings back fond memories of his childhood by the Creek: "It's here that some of Dubai's most forward-thinking leaders of the 19th and 20th century lived and dreamed of a bright future for their people. Those were the early signs of the big things that followed both in Dubai's life, and mine.”
To understand the evolution of Dubai as a global maritime player and the roots that anchor this bustling commercial hub, one only needs to look at the Creek.
It was here that the city's trading potential was recognised as early as in 1894 when Shaikh Maktoum Bin Hasher Al Maktoum adopted economic policies that were far ahead of their time.
He made Dubai tax free for trade and turned it into the principal commercial port on the coast, drawing dhows and steamers, and enterprising merchants from around the Gulf. At the turn of the 20th century, traders were re-routing goods through Dubai to avoid the high customs elsewhere in the region.
The region's largest market at Deira's Souq had over 350 shops selling commodities from all points of the compass with Dubai's reputation as the City of Merchants built on this free market spirit.
For Ali bin Gulaitha of the Dubai International Marine Club, the Creek was a vital route, connecting Dubai to the world. He said:” Without the Creek, Dubai wouldn't have been like this. When you go to the market nowadays, you find whatever you need. Fruits and vegetables all year round because they come from East and West, North and South, they ship them into Dubai...in those days, we didn't have this luxury.”
He added: "The sea was here before us, and will continue to be here after us. Whatever happens, the sea is there.”
Dubai's historical roots go right back to the dawn of time. Archaeologist Peter Hellyer, Advisor at the Abu Dhabi Media Council notes that it stood at the crossroads of global trade for thousands of years.
"The idea that you have a long tradition of maritime trade for the region is something that is well proven by the archaeological and historical record,” he says. "It's the importance of trading by sea that is fundamental to the economy to the emirates and Dubai today and it's been a fundamental part of the economy of the UAE for 7,000 years.
"There is plenty of evidence here of trade between here and China really from about the 12th century onwards. For instance you find Chinese ceramics imported on coastal sites. You get evidence of the import of Chinese ceramics and also Burmese, Thai and Vietnamese from the 14th century onwards.
"We know they were using them in costume jewellery. There are references from 5,000 years ago of the export of "fish eyes” from the Gulf to Mesopotamia. The logical interpretation of is that "fish eyes” are pearls.
"The Romans used imperial purple for their togas and that comes from a particular sea shell which was exploited in this region.”
Dubai has come a long way over those millennia. The vision and spirit of the founding fathers is something that lies at the heart of this modern society.
Sultan Ahmad bin Sulayem, reflects: "That spirit continues to guide us today. Shaikh Maktoum's successors, Shaikh Saeed and Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, continued this legacy by opening Dubai's skies to airlines, connecting the people to the rest of the world.
"Shaikh Rashid believed that anything is possible in this land of entrepreneurs. He dredged the Creek and bridged it. A deeper, tide-proof Creek brought in the big vessels with their cargoes. Maktoum Bridge allowed the flourishing trade in Deira to spill over into Bur Dubai and beyond. The rest, as we know, is history.
"Dubai's maritime sector turned a corner in 1972 when Port Rashid opened a few months after the UAE was formed, as the region's first modern container facility. Just eight years later Jebel Ali emerged as the world's largest manmade harbour. The port and the free zone that Shaikh Rashid ordered next to it proved to be the growth engines that Dubai's economy was waiting for.”
The sea has always been in Dubai's DNA and will continue to be in the blood of its people. Last word goes to Khalifa Al Marri, veteran boat captain born in 1944: "The sea played a key role in people's lives. It was the source of their livelihood and 90 per cent of locals worked on the sea as fishermen, dhow captains and sailors or divers.”
Dubai's maritime history is a story without end, a story with many more chapters and many more dreams to come. – Gulf News

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About Sharjah: A treasure house of history


posted on 28/07/2012

Centuries-old maps, illustrations and photographs before the establishment of the UAE highlighting the Portuguese forts in the 17th century, detailed watercolours of the British attack on this region in 1819 and many precious personal collections of the Ruler of Sharjah make the Dr Sultan Al Qasimi Centre of Gulf Studies unique.
Set up in April 2007, the centre has six sections: the Hall of the Personal Collection of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah; the Hall of His Personal Photographs; Library; History of the Gulf through Maps; Historical Films Hall; and the Life in the Gulf Hall.
Behind this centre is the fulfilment of the dream of the Sharjah Ruler to provide a place where researchers in this region do not have to travel thousands of miles to other countries for information about the history and lifestyle of the Gulf countries.
In the Map section, more than a hundred maps are on display, many dating back to the 17th and 18th century. Among them are the late Roman road map of the 4th century that survived in the German monastery, the map of French scholar Pascal Gosselin who published in 1808 the juxtaposition of Ptolemy map with Neibuhr map identifying Bani Yas with Asaboi people mentioned by Ptolemy, the great Egyptian astronomer, mathematician and geographer of Greek descent during the 2nd century AD.
The French version of Niebuhr's "Beschreibung von Arabien” published in 1772 specifies the Qasimi Shaikh of Sharjah called "Rashid bin Maton”. Arabs called his territory "Ser” after the place of residence of the Shaikh and its good harbour.
In this hall is also displayed the reconstructed world map by Konrad Miller in 1927 from the map made by Idrisi for King Roger of Sicily in 1154. Known as the Peutinger map, the medieval copy of an ancient Roman map, the reconstructed world map shows clearly the Arabian Peninsula, the first edition of which was printed in 1887.
Going into the Hall of the Ruler's personal collection, 16 of his published books are showcased together with the many medals, gifts from other rulers, kings, heads of states the world over, certificates awarded to him for his various academic achievements, services and contributions to upgrade the standards of education and support to scientific and academic development.
The Sharjah Ruler's personal photo collections have caught those rare important moments when he received his bachelor degree in agricultural engineering from Cairo University in Egypt, Doctor of Philosophy in Political Geography from Durham University, the UK, and Doctor of Philosophy in History with Distinction from Exeter University, the UK. Other images on display show him receiving 16 honorary doctorate degrees in various fields from 16 universities in the world, including Hanyang University of Seoul in Korea, Kanazawa University of Japan, University of Sheffield in the UK, McMaster University in Canada and University of Tubingen in Germany.
In the Historical Films Hall, displays of a collection of documentary films about the Gulf Region in various multimedia formats are seen. The films cover historical, cultural and social aspects of the communities of the region. The library of the centre boasts of 2,300 collections of historical works which relate in great detail to the Arab Gulf, in both Arabic and European languages, and reference books in history and geography for all Gulf countries, including the collection of Portuguese books, "which are a vital tool for any research worker wishing to understand the history of the Gulf from the beginning of the 16th century”.
Hind Al Kilbi, Library Supervisor, says the books and other reference materials in the library represent the collections of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah for 25 long years. "The most unique references in this library are the British books about the Gulf, which talk about the region before the birth of the UAE and the people's lifestyle,” she said.
The library's Archive System will give the researcher instant access to about one-and-a-half million pages of primary source material from European origins from a computer terminal. "All of the material is indexed, and searchable, and pages of interest can be selected for printing.”
Just around the library, visitors can see for themselves fine models of local dhows and ships — the Al Baghla and Al Boom which dominate the history of European trading and political intervention in the Gulf.
In the hall featuring the Life in the Gulf, the geographical sequences begin with the Gulf of Oman and early illustrations, photographic images and handwritten materials and engravings on wood and copper. These records came from Europe, particularly from political representatives, travellers and professional photographers, who captured the rare moments in their lenses. – Khaleej Times

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Oldest, uniquely designed mosque continues to draw faithful


posted on 18/06/2012

The UAE is a young country — barely 40 years old — boasting unparalleled development in each and every sphere that's shaping the nation into a modern civilisation, especially with the construction of the most high tech urban infrastructure on the planet.
On the other hand, there are many interesting sites, oozing with historic meaning and magnificence — indicative of the rich past of a people who even in those early times lived in harmony while they enjoyed religious freedom.
One such site is the small but unique structure of Al Badiyah Mosque nestling at the base of a long range of mountains facing the sea in Fujairah.
This over 500-year-old mosque is one of the many archaeological sites in Fujairah that reveal the glorious past of the people in the area and possess an almost ethereal aesthetic appeal.
Everyday, people passing along the highway adjacent to the seacoast between Khor Fakkan and Dibba cannot fail to miss the spot. Two watch towers on a hillock are the first structures that rivet the attention of people passing by, before the stone structure of the mosque — at a slightly lower level — suddenly comes into view, compelling travellers to stop for a while to bask in its serenity and admire its beauty.
For people stopping by for a longer sojourn, facilities in the area include cold drinking water, an ablution room, restrooms, an office to assist tourists, which also has on display some historical items, all beautifully maintained — along with the site — by the Fujairah Tourism and Antiquities Authority.
According to the official version of the history surrounding the mosque, it was built to benefit visitors to the area. The mosque — once known as Othman mosque — was built of stones and mud-brick walls, covered with multiple coats of whitewashed plaster.
What sets this small mosque apart from other mosques in the region is its architecture that is reflective of the genius of a highly qualified designer. The mosque has a distinctive roof holding four round-shaped domes, each 2 metres wide and with a uniquely styled apex.
The four domes, which are also made of mud-bricks — as is the rest of the mosque — are visible from quite a distance, distinguishing the structure as a typical Muslim prayer site.
"According to a radio carbon analysis, the mosque's origin dates back to as early as 1446 AD,” a signboard reveals.
The site, also famous for being the oldest site of worship in the country, has been well preserved by the Fujairah Department of Archaeology and Heritage in collaboration with the Dubai Municipality, which jointly finished the refurbishing and preservation work in 2003.
Everyday, many people stopping by at the site become ardent admirers, with those passing by the prayer times also performing the rituals.
Even though the main prayer hall can hold only 30-35 worshippers at a time, during weekly holidays, many of the faithful are seen happily using the mosque's surrounding area to perform their prayers — even in scorching heat.
Some visitors have vouched for the mosque providing relief to many seeking divine intervention, with claims of prayers offered in the precincts being answered, a tradition that continues to this day.
Kamal Ahmed, a visitor, says he was unaware of the mosque, especially one being so old. Visiting the place, he added, was a whole new experience for him as he spent a good time at the historical site that lay amid mountains on one side and the bluish green sea on the other.
"Obviously, those who built this mosque hundreds of years ago would be blessed by the numerous faithful, who after so many years of it coming into existence, can still benefit from it. Due to the sincere efforts of the local government to preserve this wonderful site, this marvellous piece of heritage would last for a long time,” he added. – The Gulf Today

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