Dubai eyes cultural district to lure high-end tourists

Art museum, two hotels and opera house to be built in Downtown Dubai mega-project

Dubai announced plans on Wednesday to follow neighbour Abu Dhabi in establishing a cultural district which will include a museum, two art hotels and an opera house.

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, also UAE vice president and prime minister, announced the launch of the Dubai Modern Art Museum and Opera House District to be located in Emaar's flagship Downtown Dubai.

The Dubai Modern Art Museum and Opera House District aims to build on Dubai's 50 art galleries and festivals such as Art Dubai in attracting high-end cultural tourists, state news agency WAM reported.

Sheikh Mohammed said: "The cultural accomplishments of a nation define its character and individuality. Having demonstrated our credentials in hosting world-class cultural events, UAE has established itself as a thriving destination for culture and the arts.

"We will continue to strengthen the infrastructure framework for promoting cultural initiatives, through projects such as the Dubai Modern Art Museum and Opera House District.

"This will not only encourage our talented local artists but also facilitate global cultural exchange."

Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties, added: "With Dubai Modern Art Museum and Opera House District, we are further building on the support that Emaar extends to arts and culture.

"It will be Dubai's definitive entertainment destination that stimulates creativity, supports the arts sector, and also offers visitors their choice of hospitality and leisure."

He said the Dubai Modern Art Museum and Opera House District would include an Opera House, modern art museum, galleries and design studios, as well as two new art hotels and several residential apartments and design studios.

In Abu Dhabi, the $27bn Saadiyat Island is set to have local branches of New York University and the Louvre and Guggenheim Museums, among other prominent projects.

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Posted by: Jack

I thought the original plan was to have the Museum of Modern Art and the various art galleries all based in Culture Village (hence the name!).
Do anyone know why the location has now changed and what plans there now are for Culture Village?

Posted by: Chris Lester

If they wish Abu Dhabi and Dubai could become the capitals of the incredibly beautiful Arabic calligraphy. Arabic, Farsi, Ottoman Turkish, Urdu, Pashto, Sindhi, Malay or Jawi which uses Arabic alphabet for writing the Malay language, and Arabi Malayalam which is a system of writing Malayalam language in Arabic script; all these languages use Arabic calligraphy which is associated with abstract arabesque motifs on the walls and ceilings of mosques. Many contemporary artists in the Islamic world, Asia as well as Europe draw on the rich heritage of Arabic calligraphy to use calligraphic inscriptions or abstractions in their work.
How I wish the beautiful cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai were adorned with Arabic calligraphy all year round, that would be a true feast for the eyes and balm for the souls of residents and tourists. This is some food for thought.

Posted by: John

The sad fact is Dubai has a cultural district, the Bastakia and surrounds along The Creek, but a tourist would stand out like a sore thumb. The Bastakia, the market, the Dubai Museum and the real life living museum of The Creek are the hidden gems of Dubai. The restored house of Sheikh Rashid, the old wind towers and the little alleys are where Dubai's true culture and heritage lie, not in some grandiose Emaar shopping centre-type district. To eat a fresh samoosa in the market at dawn, down a fresh squeezed mango juice at the Abra station and have a walk to the end of walkway is one of the morning delights of Dubai. Less is more, for sure. I have been walking this route for decades, even before it was gentrified, and it is the soul reason for returning to Dubai.

Posted by: sonnydubai

I personally think Dubai should stick to what it does best - provide a safe holiday for families from all over the world with good shopping, desert safaris, water parks etc. The people who want to visits art galleries and cultural events tend to be upmarket. Therefore they can afford to travel to the original (and best) galleries which are based in London, New York, Paris and the like. Why compete with places which have 100s of years of history? - Offer something different, like Ski Dubai, which is a huge success.

Posted by: prad

@sonnydubai - You have a point, stick to the tried and tested. But pretty soon, it will all grow pretty old...repeat tourism is something that Dubai would need to target if it wants to remain relevant. For that, it needs to innovate, something that it has succeeded in the past.

Sure, the UAE doesnt have 100s of years of evolution to fall back on...but who's to stop artists from emerging. As for opera, I hope the performances are in Arabic as well as other languages. I'm sure you dont get too many non-Spanish operas in Spain. The idea is to focus on what is local - if the rich want to enjoy English operas, they will certainly go to London.

And why locate the cultural attractions in New Dubai, when Old Dubai (Bur Dubai) pulls in much of the cultural tourism ? The rich are used to being around skyscrapers and world class hotels, why bore them with Downtown Dubai ?

Posted by: James MacCarthy

Another important factor is that Dubai and Abu Dhabi lack originality because they mimic major art capitals of the world such Paris, London, Milan, New York. The UAE should become a major Arabian culture capital and it should reflect its Arabian heritage as much as Paris will ever diffuse its distinct fragrant French aura and London its rich English culture. Dubai and Abu Dhabi will never be considered art capitals if all they do is promote European arts and culture.

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