“The festival represents glimpses of H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak’s unparalleled vision, far-reaching care and the definitive values she worked to instil in our society. H.E. Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak
The Abu Dhabi Corniche came alive for ten days over the last two weeks as home to the inaugural Mother of the National Festival. Touted as the UAE’s biggest national, social and cultural event of its kind, the festival honoured the legacy of H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, wife of the late Father of the Nation Sheikh Zayed and her work in society as chairwoman of many women and family related organisations.
The other half and I popped down to the outdoor festival one evening to experience for ourselves the huge event which stretched along over a kilometre of shoreline at the Corniche, divided into five distinct zones the Souq, Beach Dining, Arts, Conservation and Active and an additional area known as The Pavilion.The festival, organised by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, was designed to celebrate, nurture and cultivate the history of UAE traditions as well as showcasing new and contemporary innovations such as present-day shops and eateries in the Souk and Dining areas, modern art in the Art zone and adrenaline sports like zip-lining in the Active zone. On the evening we visited, the festival was jam packed with people from all walks of life and nationalities enjoying the activities with family and friends.
The Souq and Beach Dining areas embraced the current trend of pop-up shops and cafes in shipping containers. The fifty shops ranged from the ultra trendy home accessories retailer The Bowery Company and fashion brand West LA Boutique to traditional Arabic rugs and clothing, jewellery and homeware, each vendor displaying their wares in the white glass-fronted metal boxes joined together by wooden walkways. Several classic cars including the late Sheikh Zayed’s Mercedes were displayed around this area too.
The Beach Dining area was much the same idea just split up across a wider area offering every type of international cuisine known to man served from the large multi-coloured shipping crates, smaller stalls and food trucks. It was interesting to see the more healthy options reasonably quiet while the fast food type places offering burgers and fries were rammed and had queues. Good to see Dubai brands like Pinza Pizza, Spill the Bean and Raw Coffee Company supporting an event in the capital along with some of my local favourites No. 57 Cafe, Nolu’s Cafe and Leopards of London pulling in the crowds. We tried our first organic Acai bowl from AcaiXpress which was definitely an acquired taste but super healthy so I’m told. Entertainment while you dined was provided by various live music acts on a small central stage area. The Art area was a garden lined with creative activities mainly for children and framed by a market of smaller retailers offering goods for sale from artisan arts and crafts to local style clothing, accessories, souvenirs and scattered food kiosks. All the artwork displayed and created at the festival was a tribute to Sheikha Fatima herself along with musical performances, sculptures, 3D chalk art, calligraphy, light performances and a popular Shadow Puppet Theatre. The Active area had a challenge tower that offered zip and slack lines, a large climbing wall with queues of people waiting to scale to great heights and a daredevil Bag Jump into a giant inflatable cushion. Along with nineteen different activities there were performers presenting shows and daily sports education workshops.
The final zone was about conservation offering visitors an insight into the local environment and promoting awareness for its future protection. A Disney-esque Eco Safari with mini jeeps toured around the natural land and surrounding seas of the UAE. Different interactive activities were available across the duration of the event including thirty live shows that featured the more unusual recycled-waste illusionist show.
The centerpiece of the festival was the futurist looking Pavilion, a reflective place documenting Sheikha Fatima’s personal history that was designed exclusively for the Mother of the Nation Festival. The Pavilion also honoured the role that women have played in the building of the UAE whilst maintaining culture, family traditions and values and supporting the nation’s continued growth.
All areas of the festival were busy with a good atmosphere, overall the event seemed well organised and I was particularly impressed with the design and layout of the Souq and Dining areas. Lots of shopping, dining artistic and cultural activities all in one place that celebrated the UAE, it’s incredible fast paced development and honouring Sheikha Fatima’s aspirations for the nation, a welcome attraction to the capital’s annual events calendar .
The Mother of The Nation Festival
All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2016. All rights reserved. Additional photos used courtesy of www.motn.ae