Things to Do

8 Cool Things You Can Learn to Do at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Brush up on your falconry and perfume-making skills this week.

Falconer Ayesha Al Mansoori from the UAE. Photo by Vidhyaa Chandramohan, courtesy of the Smithsonian.

After two years of virtual events, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival will return to the National Mall from Wednesday, June 22 to Monday, June 27 and Thursday, June 30 to Monday,  July 4. The festival will explore cultural traditions of the United Arab Emirates, offer ways to get involved in sustainability and conservation efforts, and showcase films from around the world to celebrate linguistic diversity.

There will be workshops, demonstrations, and performances throughout the festival (here’s the full schedule, plus the festival’s accessibility map). Here are eight cool things you can learn about:

Make your own fragrance.

Blend your own scents with perfumers Mona and Hiba Haddad, who will teach you how to make traditional bridal perfume from their own family recipe. This workshop will also teach you traditional Arab techniques for creating perfume, such as bukhoor incense, made from woodchips soaked in fragrant oils.

Discover the symbolism woven into henna designs.

Henna artist Umm Saeed will show you her own homemade henna—the dye is harvested from her own trees—and explain the meaning behind traditional designs.

Strive for a zero-waste world.

Leaders in the zero-waste movement discuss ways cities, the fashion industry, and college campuses are working to reduce waste.

Find out what it takes to train a falcon.

The falcon is the United Arab Emirates’ national bird, and falconry has been practiced in the country for more than 2,000 years. Watch falconer Ayesha Al Mansoori demonstrate how to train and hunt with the birds.

Learn how to cook slabs of meat underground.

Abu Dhabi-based chef Mommin Al Rawahi will demonstrate his great-grandfather’s recipe for shuwa, an Omani delicacy made by cooking slabs of marinated lamb or goat underground.

Try making sustainable fabric.

Join artisans from non-profit Around the World in 80 Fabrics to learn more about sustainable fashion and try your hand at making different fabrics— everything from bark cloth to yak felting.

Explore the Smithsonian’s gardens.

The Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism program maintains flower, herb, and vegetable gardens. Help water and weed the gardens and get tips for starting your own patch.

Shape your own clay vessel.

Want to make your own cup, incense burner, or lantern? Artist Sarah Al Holsani will show traditional Emirati techniques for air-drying clay.

Grace Deng
Editorial Fellow