Inside Zeman Awwal, a new cultural space in Mall of the Emirates celebrating UAE heritage

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Inside Zeman Awwal, a new cultural space in Mall of the Emirates celebrating UAE heritage
© Provided by The National A traditional Emirati wedding reenactment at Zeman Awwal, the new cultural space at Mall of the Emirates. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

A permanent cultural space, celebrating local heritage and giving Emirati artists the chance to present their work, has been launched at the Mall of the Emirates.

Dubbed Zeman Awwal, it comprises nine distinct areas showcasing Emirati art, fashion, poetry, film and food.

“We are launching Zeman Awwal in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the UAE, the Golden Jubilee,” Hussain Moosa, director of the Mall of the Emirates at Majid Al Futtaim, tells The National. “This is an inspirational space. It offers visitors a perspective of our great past and also our thriving future.”

Inside Zeman Awwal, a new cultural space in Mall of the Emirates celebrating UAE heritage
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Inside Zeman Awwal, a new cultural space in Mall of the Emirates celebrating UAE heritage
© Provided by The National A display of 10 traditional dresses from the collection of The Zay Initiative at Zeman Awwal. All photos Khushnum Bhandari / The National

The space opens with a display of 10 traditional dresses from the collection of The Zay Initiative, an establishment that aims to preserve and archive traditional Arab clothing.

The zig-zagging hallway then leads visitors to a large circular hall, which has a model of the ghaf tree at its centre. The national tree of the UAE, the ghaf is known for its ability to withstand droughts, remaining evergreen despite the desert climate.

Artworks by emerging and established Emirati talents are displayed in the Artist Exhibition section. The works, which comprise paintings, illustrations and photographs, take inspiration from local culture and are available for purchase.

Inside Zeman Awwal, a new cultural space in Mall of the Emirates celebrating UAE heritage
© Provided by The National Artworks by emerging and established Emirati talents are displayed and for sale

Contemporary digital artworks by international artists are also being exhibited at the space. The pieces blend Arab and pop culture motifs, adopting the vivid colour palette of Pop Art.

Zeman Awwal also features a cinema space. Decked out with plush seats alluding to traditional Arab decor, the Cinema Al Majlis will screen a selection of Emirati films and series. The space will be showing the History of the Emirates, a three-part documentary series covering more than 100,000 years of UAE history; Saruq Al Hadid, a documentary on the eponymous archaeological site in Dubai, in which a large cache of artefacts dating back to the Iron Age were discovered; and the newly released Emirati action film Al Kameen, which tells the story of a group of Emirati soldiers rushing to save their compatriots from a rebel ambush in Yemen.

Zeman Awwal also features sections depicting local customs during weddings, excursions to the desert and the sea. Through captioned installations as well as actor enactments, the three spaces show visitors the ceremony of a bridal procession, the resourcefulness needed to withstand the desert climate and the preparations sailors have to go through before embarking on a fishing journey.

Inside Zeman Awwal, a new cultural space in Mall of the Emirates celebrating UAE heritage
© Provided by The National The history of fishing in the UAE as showcased in the space

The space features a variety of souqs, selling everything from carpets and leather products to spices, fabrics and souvenirs.

Craft workshops will also be held intermittently, teaching visitors artisan skills that are passed from generation to generation, including Sadu and palm frond weaving.

A poetry section will exhibit works by famous Emirati poets, including Aref Al Khaja and Ali Al Sayegh. A poem by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, is also presented on one wall, besides a diptych of screens showing scenes from Dubai’s past and present.

Moosa says Zeman Awwal aims to provide the mall’s visitors an authentic look at various aspects of Emirati culture. “The space title means the old days, the old golden days,” he says. “And in a sense we wanted to show our great past.

“Through the launch of Zeman Awwal, visitors will be truly immersed in experiences curated to honour the essence of the UAE, which are not only entertaining but educational as well. Zeman Awwal represents the best of the past and the promise of the future of UAE, offering lasting memories for all.”

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