The festival has already begun…

We’re all about boats and shows — and they don’t come much bigger, nor with the same level of poetic visuals as those scenes attached to Abu Dhabi’s Dalma Race Festival. It’s held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region,

Flash sail

The central staging point, as always, is Dalma Island in the emirate’s Al Dhafra region, and the 2023 edition has already set sail, with events and attractions providing nautical fun fit for the whole family. In addition to the racing action, there’s a big haul of additional entertainment on offer, including amazing grazing opportunities, a bustling souk and Emirati heritage activities.

It’s due to wrap up on May 7 with the festival’s traditional highlight of the world’s longest 60ft dhow race, with a combined crew count of 3,000 sailors, spanning 125km of wild surf and stunning island scenery.

These stunning wooden craft, so emblematic of the nation’s seafaring past, will push off from Dalma Island on a voyage that takes the dhows past a network of eight Abu Dhabi islands — Sir Baniyas, Ghasha, Umm Al KurKum, Al Fatayer, Al Bazm, Al Fay, Marawah and Janana with a thrilling checkered flag finish charted for Al-Mughirah Corniche beach (close to the newly opened leisure megaproject).

All at sea

Other aquatic activities include the fishing competition; dominoes contests; carrom tournaments; cycling; running; yes there will be fireworks; theatrical offerings; and folklore shows.

Visitors are also urged to visit the Souq (open 4pm to 10pm), an energetic market place celebrating the rich cultural milieu of Emirati maritime heritage. You’ll find shops and eateries offering classic regional delicacies; the Children’s Village & Theater; competitions and prizes; contests; and traditional crafts amongst other experiences.

Ferry for free

Abu Dhabi Maritime will be operating free ferries between Dalma Island and the port of Jabel Dhanna (in both directions) for the duration of the festival. There will also be an extra evening service to ensure festival-goers can get the most out of their day at the festival.

Talking about the importance of the festival, Sheikh Mohammed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan said: “Here we are once again in a new edition of Dalma Festival and its various maritime events and other activities that will be held across the island. Certainly the festival’s most important event is the historic Dalma 60-foot sailing dhows race, which promotes the legacy of the forefathers and preserves it for the future generations.”

“With each season we proudly witness how our heritage shines brighter than ever in the historic island of Dalma. This also sends an important message to the younger generations on how to preserve heritage and pass it on through the generations.

Images: Provided