The long-awaited Sharjah Heritage Days (SHD) raised the curtain Saturday, promising the UAE public a rich and vibrant showcase of the unique customs and traditions of 29 nations around the world.
Over the next three weeks, the 18th edition of SHD will run its course in the heritage area at Heart of Sharjah, introducing UAE residents and visitors of all age groups to the unique historical, cultural, literary, artistic and customary elements that define the sociocultural fabric of the UAE as well as of 29 countries participating in SHD 2021.
Themed ‘Cultural heritage gathers us', this edition of SHD hosts the Republic of Montenegro as Guest of Honour, and the Republic of Kazakhstan as Distinguished Guest.
On the inaugural day, visitors immersed in spectacular sights and sounds of the venue, adorned with the national flags of participating countries, while the main courtyards at Heart of Sharjah came alive with colourful performances of traditional Emirati Ayyala and Andima arts and dances, in addition to folk shows from Belarus, Kazakhstan, India and Lebanon.
An introductory tour of the festival was led by HE Dr. Abdulaziz Al Musallam, Chairman of the Sharjah Institute for Heritage and Chairman of the Higher Committee of Sharjah Heritage Days, during which he highlighted the various activities and offerings of SHD 2021, in the presence of high-level delegations and country representatives, in addition to representatives from the media.
Dr Abdelaziz Al Musallam said: "This year, Sharjah Heritage Days is being held under exceptional circumstances. The festival’s theme ‘Cultural heritage gathers us' seeks to emphasise that heritage is a bridge between peoples and plays an especially vital role in shaping the intellects and experiences of younger generations as they forge their way into the future."
He added: "With each passing edition, we are reassured that Sharjah Heritage Days has realised its mission as we see families, visitors and residents flock to the event to learn about both local and global cultures. Their eager participation in our events and lively discussions turn the festival grounds into a platform for creating lasting memories and discovering commonalities."
"Along with celebrating the unique facets of global cultures, our key goal is to highlight Sharjah's cultural project led by His Highness Shaikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah. The event will also provide an ideal opportunity to cultural institutions in the emirate and the country to connect with their regional and international counterparts and forge partnerships with artists, creatives, artisans and intellectuals, whose expertise can be beneficial to Sharjah's plethora of cultural events," the Chairman concluded.
Other participating nations include Belarus, Macedonia, Bashkortostan, Tajikistan, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Maldives, Yemen, Egypt, Italy, Spain, France, Sudan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Algeria, Syria, Kenya, Tunisia, Netherlands, Mauritania, Iraq, and India, in addition to the Guest of Honour, Montenegro.
Vibrant folk performances from Belarus, Macedonia, Bashkortostan, Tajikistan, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, and Montenegro, will introduce visitors to new cultures while eight Emirati traditional arts and dances – Ayyala, Nuban, Andima, Razif and Rawahh, Harbiya, Liwa, Habban, and Daan – will highlight the heritage and rich culture of the country.
Traditional Arab heritage will be showcased through 22 activities, including seminars and workshops.
The exciting cultural agenda will also feature 67 crafts inspired by the UAE's four diverse natural environments: the mountains, desert, coastal and agriculture.
Of the 80 stores on site, traditional products such as fragrances and incenses and Emirati costumes will be showcased. Cuisines represented at the festival include flavourful Emirati, regional and international dishes.
Meanwhile, the Emirates Handicrafts Centre will showcase 24 handicrafts by the participating women's associations, organise eleven 'Gharss' workshops, 22 local dishes, in addition to competitions on social media platforms titled Glimpses of the UAE heritage.
Residents and visitors in the eastern city of Khorfakkan can participate in a series of cultural programmes, lectures, art performances, workshops, handcraft displays, and competitions throughout the three-week event.
The Higher Committee has announced that 28 precautionary measures are in place to safeguard the health and safety of visitors and participants. Amongst these are two entry and exit gates equipped with thermal detectors, social distancing signs and posters, availability of masks and sanitisers, and daily sterilisation of the various venues.
The World Heritage village will undergo 30-minute sterilisation after each activity. Visitor entry is limited to 3,000 on weekdays and 6,000 during the weekend.