Relive Bedouin days at Abu Dhabi's Al Dhafra Festival

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - ALL THINGS EMIRATI: Camels, local dances bring the desert to life at the 13th Al Dhafra Festival in Abu Dhabi, which runs until December 25.

The festival is being organised by the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee in Abu Dhabi.

Camels, falcons, horses, salukis, dates and herders in the middle of a desert coupled with traditional music, soulful poetry, dances and more make up the 13th edition of Al Dhafra Festival,  the greatest celebration of Bedouin lifestyle.

The current edition has proved to be the biggest ever till date with a wide range of programmes rolled out at the venue. The total prize amount has been increased to Dh60 million, with Dh25 million for camel race and Dh8 million for various heritage events.

The festival is being organised by the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee in Abu Dhabi.

Eisa Saif Al Mazrouei, vice-chairman of the organising committee, said the events at the festival reflected the legacy of the UAE's  founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, in preserving the country's culture and heritage.

Mohamed bin Aaded Al Mahyari, festival director of camel race, pointed out that there are new rounds at the event this time. He said the festival is a haven for camel owners to find the purest Arabian breeds.

There are competitions with participants from various tribes in the fray. Falconry contests, competitions of Arabian salukis, purebred Arabian horse races, sheep beauty contest, and classic cars are some which roll back years.

At the traditional souq, there are best dates and dates packaging, handicraft and cooking competitions. Besides, workshops for children to prepare coffee, sweets and toys make for a family outing.

The festival has attracted crowds of residents and tourists.

Sharjah resident Suad Al Sharbini enjoyed the best of the fest with her kids. "This is a place for children of different nationalities and ages to spend school holiday. This event makes children aware of their national identity. Also, it's an integrated place for fun and entertainment."

Um Abdullah Al Mazrouei, a visitor, said the festival helped recollect memories of what her grandmother told her about Emirati customs. "You learn how Emiratis make preparations to receive guests. One also witnesses events which reflect the generosity and hospitality of the community."

Rashid Najah from Saudi Arabia is at the festival with his family.

"This is a unique event. You understand the richness of the UAE's heritage through activities presented here. This is recreational and educational for everyone. There are daily shows and enriching events," he said. "Moreover, this is a picturesque location. You have best of the nature and wildlife, from deer to giraffes, peacocks and rare birds."

Another visitor, Mehra Al Hammadi, said the workshops held for children will help them become aware of the rich Emirati heritage and inculcate traditional values in them.

The festival runs in Madinat Zayed in Al Dhafra region till December 25.

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Ashwani Kumar

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