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A young woman smiles, a triangular beaded ornament hanging over her forehead, and matching earrings and necklace. Old color photograph.
A woman in a black abaya (robe), her face just out of frame, pours coffee from a shiny, golden samovar into a small patterned cup. Two other steaming savors await use.
A host prepares spiced coffee, essential to Emirati hospitality, for visitors using a brass dalleh or coffee pot.
Photo by Rebecca Fenton
A man sings and plays the oud, a lute-like string instrument, seated on a stage. A red drum kit is on a riser behind him.
Mohammed Hosny of the band NOON performs in Dubai.
Photo courtesy of NOON
Overhead shot of a person filling up whiat paper plate of yellow rice, scooping from a large silver bowl and laying the plates on a large silver platter.
Volunteers plate meals for iftar, the evening fast-breaking meal during the month of Ramadan.
Photo by Ola Allouz (@olaaay)
What brings people from many places together in the UAE?

Long a crossroads of cultures, today the UAE is forging a diverse, inclusive society. Through language, cuisine, crafts, music, and memory, residents carry on tangible and intangible traditions that express identity and create a sense of belonging. Passed on and reinvigorated across generations, these traditions embody crucial values like family ties, hospitality, tolerance, and peace.

Our world sometimes seems more and more fractured. At the 2022 Folklife Festival, we asked, how do we want to live together on this fragile earth? Artists, musicians, and tradition-bearers find ways to nurture links to their communities and environments and engage traditions in living memory. UAE cultures are living and dynamic, influenced by their heritage, surroundings, and ongoing exchanges with people and cultures from around the globe.

At the Festival, visitors took part in a creative dive into family photographs—glimpsing snapshots of UAE history while considering our own family stories through this universal medium of memory. Expanding on the concept and the space of the majlis, or sitting place, we invited visitors into an interactive digital majlis to explore the past, present, and future of this distinctive social practice of gathering to exchange views. We tasted Emirati coffee, which is synonymous with generosity, and learn the ways of hospitality.

Life in the UAE is marked by innovative and unexpected fusions that spring from encounters with world traditions sustained and shared by its residents. Festival kitchen demonstrations included barbecue as a product of both American and Arab traditions and Emirati home cooking characterized by rich spices and generous presentations. Through performances of music and poetry, visitors experienced the deep roots of these art forms as well as their contemporary expressions and global rhythms, reflecting linguistic and cultural diversity.


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