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A heaped plate of culture and wishing Barbie a happy 50th

News has reached us that tickets to the March 29 peace concert by the Lebanese soprano Majida el Roumi, a UN goodwill ambassador, at the Emirates Palace hotel, have already sold out, as has the Pearl seating category for both performances of the Bolshoi Ballet's Giselle, to be held on March 25 and 26.

News has reached us that tickets to the March 29 peace concert by the Lebanese soprano Majida el Roumi, a UN goodwill ambassador, at the Emirates Palace hotel, have already sold out, as has the Pearl seating category for both performances of the Bolshoi Ballet's Giselle, to be held on March 25 and 26. We panicked, fearing we might miss out on purchasing our tickets to Andrea Bocelli's first performance in the Arab world, but organisers put our minds at ease.

"Due to an overwhelming demand for tickets, we have increased the capacity of the Andrea Bocelli show," said John Lickrish, the managing director of the events company, Flash Entertainment. "We've had so many calls and inquiries from people who had tried to buy in the Grandstand previously and were disappointed. They can now purchase these extra seats for Bocelli. People across the city have really got behind this show and I think many are now realising they may miss out," Mr Lickrish said.

The additional sales will double the size of the popular Italian tenor's audience for the open-air event on March 27, at what organisers believe will be "the biggest classical event in the country's history". It will be the fourth leg of Bocelli's Incanto album tour and its only stop in the Middle East, and comes as part of the Sixth Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival, which runs from March 21 to April 2. With only 10 days to go until the festival starts, we'll be rushing to purchase our tickets. See you in line!

You will never forgive yourself if you miss out on the Abu Dhabi Book Fair, commencing this Tuesday with 51 exhibitors from five countries lugging over thousands of titles from around the world. There will be book signings, panel discussions with celebrated writers, world-renowned chefs demonstrating how to cook the recipes that feature in their international cookbooks and the first antiquarian sale in the Middle East. If you do not make a stop at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre sometime between March 17 and 22, then you may just have wasted one of the best opportunities for cultural celebration to grace the capital. You have been warned.

An independent fringe art fair focusing international attention on Dubai's art and cultural agenda will begin for the third year tomorrow at 7pm, and will take place in the houses of Bastakiya - an older, historic area of Dubai. Al Bastakiya Art Fair (BAF) will be open until March 22, from 9am to 8pm daily, and is running parallel to Art Dubai and Sharjah Biennial 2009. In the best tradition of all things fringe, it will provide a platform for young, innovative and emerging artistic talent by opening up the unique environment of Bastakiya to contemporary art. Involving international, regional and local galleries, artists and curators, the programme of events will include a vernissage, daily exhibitions and lectures. Local artists are encouraged to take part in the exhibition, and are urged to use BAF as their platform to be heard. Contact XVA Gallery, the organisers of BAF, at 04-3535383 and launch that art career.

A drive to Dubai for those living outside the caffeine-driven city should perhaps be on the agenda for this week, given the plethora of activities on hand. First off, this afternoon will be your last chance to stop by the Taste of Dubai exhibition, which started last Wedesday, to watch a live cooking demo that will introduce new concepts in healthy cuisine.

Chef Emad, one of the leading chefs from Al Mijana restaurant at Le Méridien Airport Dubai, will be participating and will offer a wealth of cookery advice, including recipes, techniques and practical tips and features useful to culinary students, housewives and food lovers alike. Today's live cooking sessions will take place from 2 to 3.30pm and from 7.30 to 9.30pm. Whether you're a housewife, an aspiring chef, an amateur cook or a culinary student, it won't hurt to expand your recipe cache and partake in a little bit of culinary advice.

Between the two cooking sessions, find some time to nip over to the Hamleys toy store at Dubai Mall if you're a parent: the world's favourite fashion icon, Barbie, will be celebrating her 50th birthday from 4 to 6pm. Barbie fans should perhaps dress up, to fit in with the festivities. End the day with a well-earned break at Lotus One, the fusion restaurant and lounge bar managed by George V Leisure and Hospitality. A feast of "Pot Stickers and Dumplings" awaits you all through the month, in celebration of a delicacy that marks an age-old belief that dumplings signify good fortune. Pan-fried on the bottom and steamed on top, the dumplings, or gyoza, are called pot stickers because they tend to stick to the bottom of the pan; until, that is, they are scrapped off and on to your plate.

Three days of lectures on the Fear of the Other, organised by the Paris-Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi, will take place starting on March 17 at the Cultural Foundation in the capital. The general public are invited to come and listen to the wide variety of lectures by international panellists and scholars, who will discuss the different concepts of fear as they appear in literary texts - whether novels or poems.

Although most of the lectures will be in French, fear not; English and Arabic simultaneous translation will be provided. hkhalaf@thenational.ae

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