The 17th annual Sir Bu Nair Festival, organised by Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority, under the theme "The Sea is our Life", was held at Sharjah's Sir Bu Nair Island Nature Reserve, from 19-20 May, with Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Corporation, Sharjah Media Centre, and the Higher Organising Committee for the festival, attending the opening ceremony.
The two-day festival included a variety of tourism, cultural, artistic, sporting and heritage activities; with a number of Sharjah Government agencies participating. These included: Sharjah Police General Headquarters, the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, Sharjah International Marine Sports Club, Sharjah Institute for Heritage, Sharjah Media Centre, Sharjah Media Corporation, the Sharjah Environment Company "Bee'ah", Sharjah Museums Department, Emirates Marine Environmental Group, and Khansaheb.
Sheikh Sultan, said, "Sir Bu Nair Festival contributes to enhancing the position of Sharjah as a tourist and heritage destination and supports the emirate's environmental and conservation efforts. These efforts are in line with the directives of H.H. Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the UAE Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, for preserving the emirate's biodiversity and strengthening successive generational ties towards both the environment and Emirati heritage".
He stressed that the festival has significant heritage value as it highlights the legacy of the country's ancestors and their symbiotic relationship with marine life and the sea's many treasures. The festival also has considerable environmental value as it highlights the abundance of rich, naturally diverse ecosystems, in the Emirate of Sharjah and the UAE as a whole.
In addition to the awareness the festival raises on environmental and heritage issues, visitors are able to engage in a variety of sporting, artistic and cultural activities, making it an event that is truly open to and enjoyed by all.
Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA), said, "Sir Bu Nair Festival aims to highlight the efforts being made in the Emirate of Sharjah towards preserving its cultural and environmental heritage. In addition, the festival promotes the touristic and environmental importance of Sir Bu Nair Island Nature Reserve and its importance as an ecotourism destination for leisure activities. The festival also raises awareness about the importance of adhering to conservation regulations and encourages visitors to participate in biodiversity activities."
"Sir Bu Nair Island Reserve boasts a plentiful array of ecological, historical and cultural wealth and HH Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the UAE Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, has publicly stated his avid interest in the island's progress and development as an ecotourism destination. By signing up to a number of global agreements and treaties that support the protection and conservation of its wildlife, the island has also received international recognition. A key feature of the island being the 300 sea turtle nests that can be found along its beaches every year," added Al Suwaidi.
"At the EPAA, we are committed to providing the island with the necessary protection against any violations to its ecosystem. On the sidelines of the festival this year, a number of green sea turtles were released with GPS satellite tracking devices so that we can study their behaviour and migratory patterns. This is part of a joint study we are conducting in collaboration with many local and international organisations," she concluded.
The coral reef around the island offers a natural ecosystem for thousands of species of marine organisms. According to official records, the reef contains 40 coral species and 94 species of coral reef fish in the waters around the island. There is also a rich presence of migratory and non-migratory birds which regard Sir Bu Nair Island as a safe shelter for living and breeding.
Activities during the festival included fishing and a traditional diving competition, organised in collaboration with Sharjah International Marine Sports Club (SIMSC). Tours were also organised for the visitors, accompanied by employees from Sharjah Media Corporation. Many of the visitors expressed their admiration for the island's natural beauty; qualities that have already made Sir Bu Nair Island Reserve a popular destination for UAE residents and tourists.
Additional activities included a tour of the heritage village, which showcased pieces of marine heritage, handicraft shows, traditional food, and cultural performances. This was organised in collaboration with the Sharjah Institute for Heritage. Visitors were also treated to a rowing boat race, organised by SIMSC and were shown a heritage documentary film titled "Sound of the Sea".
Emirates Marine Environmental Group and Sharjah Police General Headquarters also held a heritage competition. Co-organisers and participants in the competition were honoured during the festival's closing ceremony.