Storytelling plays vital role in Emirati society - GulfToday

Storytelling plays vital role in Emirati society

1001-Nights

The performance took the audience on a magical journey to the legendary world of Arabian Nights.

Sharjah has always been unique to the UAE and the region – in the way it has approached and pursued development, educated and led people, and most importantly, in the way it is facilitating sociocultural and economic development to offer citizens, residents and tourists modern, world-class experiences embedded in its authentic Emirati heritage and Islamic identity.

Storytelling, for instance, is as old as language itself. Used as a form of social cohesion, a record of tribal victories, a means of education, and a form of entertainment, oral storytelling has a significant place in Emirati and Arab societies.

Even though the ‘1001 Nights: The Last Chapter’ production, which inaugurated Sharjah as the world’s 2019 Unesco World Book Capital, concluded its last showing yesterday (Saturday), Queen Scheherazade’s master storytelling has left the audience thinking about a lot.

The final scene of the production not only encapsulates the overarching message this spectacular stage adaptation of One Thousand and One Nights wants their audience to take home, but asserts Sharjah’s cultural ambitions for the year ahead.  When the queen’s children return with their respective treasures – a pot of ink, a feather and a book, their mother passes her baton of creativity and storytelling to them, saying “Dear children, it’s now your turn to fill the pages with everything you’ve learned. With everything you’ve lived, with everything you’ve seen.”

“In the 1001 Nights, there has never been a last chapter. Scheherazade will be with you, as long as there are storytellers, writers… and readers too.”

As Unesco World Book Capital 2019, Sharjah will be dedicating an entire year to concertedly build on all the efforts it has put in over the past 40-plus years, to put culture, arts, and education at the core of development efforts. Through its vibrant 365-day itinerary of book-themed events, the emirate will be guiding children and the youth on how to be leaders of the future and guardians of the past.

Sheikh Sultan Bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Head of the inauguration ceremony committee of the ‘Sharjah World Book Capital 2019’, said: “1001 Nights: The Last Chapter is a new milestone in the history of creative shows produced not only in the UAE but also the Gulf region. It took the audience on a magical journey to the legendary world of Arabian Nights… This performance has cemented Sharjah’s position as a leading creative force with the vision to present such a wonderful testament to culture.”

He explained that the production reflected the vision of the emirate and the directives of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, who believes that books are a key tool to facilitate cross-cultural communication with other civilisations of the world. It is instrumental to building strong relationships with people around the world based on understanding and mutual respect, love and appreciation.

Sheikh Sultan Bin Ahmed Al Qasimi added: “Scheherazade’s message at the end of the show represents Sharjah’s message to the whole world, especially to the younger generations. Our mission is to encourage writing and reading to become a main catalyst of creativity.”

All in all, the emirate has made a bold statement of intent with the massive Al Majaz Amphitheatre production, developed by Multiple International in partnership with 7 Fingers and Artists in Motion. 

Along with being the first-of-its-kind stage adaptation of the fabled One Thousand and One Nights, the stage production has used the world’s most modern technologies being used by the live entertainment industry to bring back the charm of storytelling, a practice as old as human heritage itself.

The epic Sharjah original is surely leaving us with a yearning for more magical stories like itself. It is also a beautiful reminder to the UAE and the world that no matter the level of advancement humans reach, seen in our explorations into outer space, self-driving taxis, or artificial intelligence applications for mass consumption, our intangible heritage seen in the form of storytelling and other oral traditions remains the crown jewel of modern society.

Most importantly, we see that we do not need to choose one over the other. Sharjah shows us we can have both heritage and modernity to create something bigger and more meaningful for the future generations to be proud of.