If you haven’t been before, you’re not entirely sure what to expect from the RAK Fine Arts Festival. But it's worth a visit: Once you enter the site at the historic 17th century pearling village of Al Jazirah Al Hamra, you’re surrounded by history, arts and culture.
Two self-guided walking tours are shared with you on entry (which is free!) that uses coloured markers around the site of the old village to take you on a journey of art installations, film screenings, photography and much more.
Each ‘bayt’ (house) showcases a different theme where artists from all over the world are highlighted - including one where up-and-coming young artists’ work are given the spotlight. Five documentaries are shown around the festival in little rooms within the bayts, where interviews with former Al Jazirah Al Hamra residents speak about life in the village decades ago. It’s an insight into what life was like during those times - the emirate’s cultural heritage is preserved while expats get a peek into what a traditional pearling village was all about.
And then there’s the art itself. We loved a number of installations: An exhibition titled ‘Travel in Covid’ showcases the impact of the pandemic, while Emirati artists such as Yousef Al Zaabi and Abdullah Lutfi are given prominence. Well-known photographer Mario Cardenas also has his work featured on-site.
We also popped in to a gahwa workshop, part of a line-up of many sessions designed to give attendees a deeper understanding of a variety of facets of culture, art and food of the Emirates. In this workshop, we were led on a journey of making roasting coffee beans, the different types of dallahs (traditional coffee pots) we can find, and the importance of coffee in Arab hospitality. We learned about the etiquette of serving coffee, how to politely refuse having any more, and so much more.
While you’re wandering about, if you’re peckish, drop in to Top Notch - The Villa within one of the bayts where you can sip speciality coffee in an outdoor courtyard surrounded by some cool art.
The Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival runs until 31 March 2022 at Al Jazirah Al Hamra.