At the Heritage House in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, Dubai, Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, the chairman of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, quietly browsed through the Rivers of the World exhibition.
He was studying artwork created by students from around the world, taking part in England's Thames Festival Trust project, which encourages the study and appreciation of rivers through art. Each year, more than 2,000 students participate in the art and education initiative.
In Dubai, six schools created 60 works, telling the story of the Dubai Creek for the exhibition. It also includes works from Argentina, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Korea, Ireland and London to be displayed until the end of January.
The latest phase of the project began in London in September in collaboration with the British Council's Connecting Classrooms initiative, Dubai Culture and Arts Foundation, Al Serkal Cultural Foundation, Sharjah Art Foundation and HSBC.
The students spent the last year studying the history, culture and environment of their local rivers and took part in workshops led by the local artists Khalid Mezaina and Maie Atabani.
Ahmad Bin Eisa Alserkal, the managing director of Al Serkal Cultural Foundation, said the presence of Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum was instrumental in promoting and encouraging art in the community, particularly for beginners who wish to seek art as a career path.
When the exhibition opened in London, a small number of the artworks were chosen to be placed by the Thames to attract passersby to the main exhibit.
The idea of art as just a hobby is changing, says the Emirati artist Mezaina. "People are starting to see art as more than just a casual pastime, it is now seen more as a career path. Working with the students was great because when you are that age, you're really creative and they were able to branch out," says Mezaina. "The UAE's exhibit is very strong and has a good combination of art mediums."
• The Rivers of the World exhibition runs until January 31 at the Heritage House in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (Al Bastakiya)
* Maey El Shoush