Moein Al Bastaki keeps his secrets like any good magician, but he also lets us into the world of illusions, mind reading and showmanship. Maey El Shoush reports
DUBAI // Mesmerised audiences are often left questioning what dark possibilities may explain an illusionist's performance.
While a true illusionist never reveals his secrets, 30-year-old Moein Al Bastaki wants to assure the Arab world it is harmless entertainment.
"The word magic, when translated to Arabic, is Sihr, and that sometimes conjures up negative images," the Emirati performer says.
"I was not sure at the beginning if society would accept this part of me wanting to become a magician - especially because I choose to wear traditional Arabic clothing."
A large part of Mr Al Bastaki's act includes mind-reading, which he says is a combination of "neuro-linguistic programming skills, psychology, showmanship and body language".
He admits that some people are unsettled by his performances, but says nothing he does should be taken as anything more than an illusion.
"It is not black magic. I cannot tell you how mind-reading is possible, but I can assure you it's just illusions that I know the secrets to," he says.
Demand from television networks across the region - including Oman, Lebanon, Kuwait and Bahrain - indicates that the Arab world may be opening up to the idea of magic as a harmless form of entertainment.
Sahar Al Shamrani, a producer for The Morning Show at MBC, says that while it is possible for someone such as Mr Al Bastaki to change negative perceptions of magic, it may take more time.
"Moein does great work to prove the art of magic exists in the Arab world. I am so happy that we have talent like him from the Gulf," Mrs Al Shamrani says. She says his work will open doors for others with a similar passion.
In between magic tricks that seem to flow quite naturally, Mr Al Bastaki talked about his memories of the moment he fell in love with magic.
He was only 6 when he saw his grandfather bite into a coin and split it into two halves, then shake his hand until the coin became whole again.
After realising it was an illusion, he became obsessed with David Copperfield performances and used to daydream about some day being better than the great American illusionist. "For a kid, magic is very possible. You can do anything and nobody can stop you from dreaming," Mr Al Bastaki says.
By the end of the year, he aims to open a magic school and a magic-themed cafe in Dubai.
He also plans to put on a few big shows and surprises after Ramadan.
"Hopefully, the magic school will open by the end of 2011. We will have a couple of teachers and different levels up to advanced," he said. "The coffee shop will offer magic acts every day by magicians, myself included."
Abdolrazagh Ibrahim, an Emirati childhood friend of Mr Al Bastaki, says the idea of a magic school is not only unique but will prove extremely beneficial. "Anything involving training kids is positive, especially when it comes to subjects they love like magic," said Mr Abdolrazagh.
"I feel Moein has reached the level of Criss Angel and will soon become better than David Copperfield."