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[Published: Monday June 15 2015]

By Adil Sarroukh and Saad Guerraoui -

CASABLANCA, 15 June. - (ANA) - The United Arab Emirates (UAE) celebrated its deeply-rooted heritage with Moroccans during both Tan-Tan Moussem Festival and Lekoussem Falconry Festival, in southern Morocco, making Morocco one of its most important cultural destinations.
For the second year in a row as a guest of honour.The UAE took part in the 11th edition of the Tan-Tan Moussem Festival, which was inscribed on the UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2005.
Fatimatou Zaama, president of the integrated Development Association of Sahrawi Women, lauded the UAE’s role in the development of the festival.
" The UAE’s second participation is a gargantuan gain for the festival. We have clearly felt the UAE’s cultural and economic impact on the Moussem,” said Zaama.
The Gulf emirate was represented by the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority and the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee – Abu Dhabi which had showcased some of the country’s inherent heritage, including Sadu (traditional weaving), Al Khous (weaving from palm fronds), authentic Emirati Telly (embroidery), traditional cooking and games and folklore.
“Tan-Tan Festival reflects the different values of the Moroccan Sahrawi culture and heritage whose roots come from the deeply-rooted Arab and Islamic culture,” said Abdullah Al Qubaisi, Director of Project Management at the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee – Abu Dhabi.
“There are differences in some practices. But the unity in values eliminates all of them,” said Qubaisi, adding that these practices can be exploited between the nations for peace and unity rather than disharmony.
The UAE brought its expertise to Tan-Tan by helping the festival add more activities such as a contest for the milkiest camel, Mzayna (camel beauty contest) and a camel race.
The Gulf emirate’s Poetry Academy organised a book exhibition at Tan-Tan’s cultural complex besides a solo painting exhibition by Emirati impressionist Bodour Al Ali depicting a mix of Moroccan and Emirati symbols of the desert.
“This year, my exhibition was unexpectedly very successful maybe because of the portrait of the Moroccan king Mohammed VI among the 24 oil paintings,” said Al Ali.
“The 14 paintings that were displayed at the Emirati tent reflect our country’s Bedouin culture and heritage and other symbols of their daily life,” she added while the other ten were exhibited at the cultural complex.
Tunisia guest of honour
Tunisia was the guest of honour of the 11th edition of the festival which was held from 23-27 May in Tan Tan, Morocco.
Originally, the Moussem was a place of annual gathering of Morocco’s nomadic Sahrawi tribes from Morocco around a famous well.  The gathering, which lasted several days, sought to share the cultural riches while celebrating weddings and organising camel shows and fantasias (horsemanship).
University lecturers and researchers were among the Tunisian delegation which attended the festival for the first time.
Tunisia’s Habib Ben Salha, the head of the Institute of Maghreb and Mediterranean Studies for Intercultural Communication, said the festival was a great opportunity for Tunisians to discover and interact with the culture and heritage of both UAE Bedouins and Moroccan Sahrawis and exchange ideas and experience.
“Sahrawi heritage may make the future of tourism in the Maghreb region because it is a sustainable tourism that is not affected by any external factor,” said Ben Salha who is a university lecturer.
“Whenever there is negative media coverage of news affecting the region without going deep into the real values of peace and hospitality of our communities,” he added.

Lekouassem Falconry Festival improving yearly

The third edition of Lekouassem Falconry Festival, held from 29-31 May in Lekouassem municipality, 45 km away from the Moroccan city of El Jadida, made a quantum leap thanks to the various activities that attracted huge crowds.
The UAE and Qatar, which was the guest of honour, took part in the festival in a bid to boost falconry in the North African kingdom.
Obaid Khalfan Al Mazrouei, director of Al Dhafra Festival's Heritage Competitions, said that the UAE’s participation is part of its continuous efforts to help Morocco revive its centuries-old heritage.
“We have brought the knowledge and expertise that we have acquired in the UAE in a bid to disseminate it to Lekouassem falconers and help them revive falconry,” said Mazrouei.
“We seek to make this festival a social venue for the residents of Lekouassem village and cooperate with our Moroccan brothers to make it an international event that will be able to attract falconers from all over the world,” Mazrouei noted.
The UAE is one of the world’s leading countries in falconry, which was registered as an inscription on the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in November 2010 after years of unabated international efforts led by the Gulf Arab country through coordination and cooperation with eleven Arab and foreign countries, including Morocco.
Mohammed El Ghazouani, president of the Association of Lekouassem Ouled Fraj Falconers, highlighted the UAE’s efforts in believing in the Festival and reviving Morocco’s falconry heritage after it was on the brink of extinction.
Ghazouani, who comes from a family of falconers in Lekouassem, said that the Festival’s objective was to “draw tourists to the region and acquaint them with our precious heritage” that has been passed from one generation to another throughout ten centuries.
Falconry has declined throughout the years in Morocco due the mass rural exodus into the cities and the lack of regulations on hunting prey, which makes it harder for falconers to go after them.
However, this UNESCO-listed heritage is now under the spotlight thanks to the Gulf states’ keen interest in helping Morocco revive it.
Qatar, which was the guest of honour of this year’s edition, hailed the improvement of the Festival which allowed visitors to learn more about falconry in the Gulf Arab region.
Ali bin Khatim al-Mehshadi, president of Al Gannas Society said the aim of Qatar’s participation was the rapprochement with Moroccan falconers in order to share this heritage of their forefathers.
“We took part in other falconry events across Morocco, including Larache and Tetouan. We are here to support our Moroccan brothers in their festivals,” Mehshadi said. - (ANA)

AB/ANA/ 15 June 2015 - - -


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