Al Dhafra Water Festival offers family fun and excitement

Emirati girls wearing traditional outfit pose near Mirfa beach, outside Abu Dhabi. (AFP)

2017/04/16 Issue: 102 Page: 24

The Arab Weekly
Faith Salama

Mirfa - The desert jewel and the diva of the Arabian Peninsula will soon be making its usual annual splash.

For lovers of marine sports, breathtaking landscapes and na­ture in its finest form, Al Dhafra Re­gion has much to offer, including a water festival organised by the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee, taking place April 20-29 in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Centred in the city of Mirfa, the Al Dhafra Water Festival offers fam­ily fun through competitions and other activities.

Director of the festival Obaid Khalfan al-Mazrouei said “exten­sive preparations are taking place ahead of the ninth edition”.

He noted that the festival’s name was changed from “Al Gharbia Wa­tersports Festival” to Al Dhafra Water Festival, in accordance with a decree by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

The decree changed the names of the Eastern Region in Abu Dhabi to Al Ain Region while the Western Region is Al Dhafra Region.

“A strategic geographical posi­tion and a rich historical heritage have allowed Al Dhafra to produce an exceptional blend of original­ity and modernity. The region is widely recognised as a rich heritage site that boasts exclusive histori­cal treasures and thrilling natural landscapes,” Mazrouei said.

The Higher Organising Com­mittee is betting on an innovative preparation and a creative organi­sation as it highlights the genuine aspects of local Emirati culture. Visitors are invited to discover the customs and traditions of locals while exploring the Emirati envi­ronment and its various character­istics.

The festival, which takes place on Mirfa’s 20,000 sq.-metre beach, includes competitions ranging from traditional Emirati boat rac­ing to kite surfing and parasailing as well as parachute sailing, swim­ming, volleyball and beach foot­ball. There are many exceptional heritage activities closely related to the marine environment. About 4,000 participants from 20 coun­tries are expected to take part.

This year’s Al Dhafra Water Festi­val coincides with the organisation of the inaugural 60ft Dhow Dalma Race. Organised by the Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club, the Dalma Race will be awarding prizes with a total value of nearly $7 million.

In addition to sporting events, the festival features a variety of other activities, including a tradi­tional market, offering visitors an opportunity to discover the histo­ry, tradition and customs of locals.

The children’s village features games, marine sports, entertain­ment as well as cultural and herit­age activities. Competitions and workshops are organised to devel­op the skills of children and boost memory.

The activities of the ninth edi­tion are expected to shed light on the significance of Al Dhafra as a tourist attraction. Al Dhafra Water Festival attracts around 60,000 visitors annually.

The festival in previous years has provided an opportunity for locals to explore new cultures, customs and traditions by way of interac­tion with other nationalities.

Al Dhafra is becoming one of the UAE’s most popular tourism expe­riences as it caters to all tastes. It is widely known as a home to a di­verse range of wildlife and is a hot­spot for hunting with falcons.

The region covers an area of 40,000 and comprises sev­en townships. It is home to the Sir Bani Yas Island resorts, Qasr Al Sarab desert resort, the Liwa desert and several other towns, villages and scattered islands.

Some of the towns are in the heart of the desert, namely Mahad­her Liwa, Madinat Zayed, Baynou­nah and Ghayathi. Others — Mirfa, Al Ruwais and Al Sila’a — overlook the Arabian Gulf.

Along hundreds of kilometres of coastline, the fishing, herding and farming settlements can be traced back 8,000 years.

Among the renowned islands in Al Dhafra is Dalma, a historic pearl-diving hub. The island has been in­habited for more than 7,000 years and visitors can travel there by ferry from Jebel Dhanna.

Abu al Abyad, the largest of about 200 islands along the coast of the UAE, is a typical offshore island where attractions are often related to the pearl fishing industry.

Sir Bani Yas Island, which was established as a nature reserve by the late founder of the UAE Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, is one of the largest islands in UAE and more than half of it is dedicated to wildlife conservation.

Faith Salama is a Lebanese journalist.

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