Emirati tourists collaborate with the Austrian community to organize an event celebrating the UAE culture in the village of Bad Hofgastein.
There is a small village tucked away in the beautiful Austrian mountains, an hour away from the city of Salzburg, called Bad Hofgastein. For the past ten years, this small village has been welcoming families from the UAE that venture out into this part of the mountains and fall in love with it. Throughout the years, more and more Emiratis have made their way down to this breathtaking village. The mayor of the village, Fritz Zettinig, has become a personal friend of many of the repeat visitors, and because of this friendship a productive and inspiring cooperation has emerged.
Together for Peace is the slogan of the event organized by a group of Emirati tourists that are frequent visitors of Bad Hofgastein, in collaboration with the local Austrian authorities. It is called the “UAE Day in Austria” and it takes place because of these enthusiastic Emirati tourists and the local community in an effort to create a peaceful cultural exchange, in a time where it is truly needed.
The event took place for the second time on August 6th, 2016 with a much bigger scale than its first time. This year, the Emirati tourists received support from the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, the Red Crescent, the International Humanitarian city in Dubai, and the Liwa Date festival.
The main square of the village where the event took place was decorated with the UAE and Austrian flags, a photo gallery was organized that illustrated the history of the UAE, and in the traditional tent (Bait Al Sha’ar) the Emirati tourists served traditional food and dates donated by the Liwa festival. A small photo booth with the UAE traditional dress was set up for the Austrians to have some fun with, and close by, Emirati mothers sat down and drew subtle henna patterns on the hands of the excited Austrian women. A bicycle marathon also took place for different age groups and genders. The winners of the races all received brand new mountain bikes and medals to honor their participation.
At the end of this eventful day, the representative of the Emirati tourists Mohammed Juma Al Otaiba offered gifts of gratitude to the Austrian police, civil defense, the Austrian Red Cross, and the Bad Hofgastein Department of Tourism who helped make the event possible.
The importance of this event is not simply in the photos taken, the food shared, and the gifts donated, it is in the message it conveys. Being Emirati means most of us have been raised in an environment where we are constantly exposed to people from different countries and cultures. At an early age, we learn to embrace people that have made our country their new homes and also the ones simply passing through. Our local authorities host many events like the Sheikh Zayed Festival, The Qasr AlHosn festival, and The Sharjah Heritage days, to name a few, to introduce our tourists and residents to everything Emirati. They experience our food, our songs, and they learn our history and culture. It’s events and initiatives like these that allow foreigners to feel welcomed in our country, allowing us all to coexist peacefully in the UAE, understanding and accepting one another.
These UAE nationals were inspired by our domestic initiatives and were driven to spread the same message we do on in our country overseas: that it is crucial to understand other cultures and traditions in order to create a peaceful multicultural community. We are in a time of uncertainty, where stereotypes, ridicule, and misconceptions fill our every day lives. We sometimes find ourselves in an uncomfortable situation simply because of the other person’s narrow view of the world. Initiatives that promote cultural understanding and tolerance are how we can resist ignorance and create a more promising future.