Arts news From oud-making classes to open-mic nights, we present 37 of the UAE's cultural highlights.
El Dorado and the National Theatre The two revue theatres in Abu Dhabi regularly feature Indian films. El Dorado showcases Tamil films while the National accommodates Hollywood, Arabic and Bollywood cinema.
The Emirates Palace terrace On a mild evening, there can be few more attractive venues on the planet than the terrace of the Emirates Palace. Lapping waves on one side, the splendid domed basilica on the other, gently wafting music from the musical greats playing in the auditorium, and gilt-edged gossip in cartloads. Bliss.
Bait Al Oud The Oud House is the unsung - or unstrummed, rather - hero of the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation. With concerts, lessons and oud-making workshops, the Oud House is keeping Arabian musical heritage vibrant.
The Kinokuniya Bookstore This circular-shaped Japanese bookstore in the newly opened Dubai Mall is perfectly engineered for days of aimless wandering among the stacks. Their collection is so extensive that they even have several aisles dedicated to obscure corners of mathematics. Of course they've got much lighter fare as well, a comprehensive fiction selection and a robust collection of manga.
The handicrafts workshop at the Women's Union Anyone who thinks that traditional crafts are part of a dying art needs to spend a few hours down at the women's union. Chatting away in groups, women toss balls of yarn back and forth across the room while threading a loom or weaving spools of thread into intricate decorations for cuffs and bodices.
The Kutub Book Club Hosted by The Third Line gallery, this Dubai-based literary circle is a place where books and ideas are contested. It attracts both Arabic and English speakers united in a love of Arabic literature, and its reading list includes everything from Elias Khoury's Yalo to Alaa al Aswany's The Yacoubian Building.
Souq Al Bastakiya The galleries and cafes of the historic Bastakiya area are always full of initiatives to improve the arts scene, and one of the latest is the Souq Al Bastakiya, an arts and crafts street market with live performances and about 50 stalls, which will run every Saturday from December 20, from 10am till sunset. Last year's BastaFlea market, which was run by the XVA, paved the way, developing something of a reputation for nurturing new talent, so this new project should have a ready-made art-hungry audience - plus, in true Emirates style, it has valet parking!
Local bands The Emirati hip-hoppers Desert Heat, the funkmeisters Abri, the garage rock band Juliana Down and the Filipino rockers Sandwash are starting to receive international attention, as well as opening for big international acts when they come to the region.
Textile tutorials Workshops at Tashkeel in Dubai's Nad al Sheba are a great resource for anyone interested in fine-tuning their artistic skills. Though a Tashkeel membership is required to take part in them, classes like contemporary Arabic typography and textile printing are well worth the effort.
The Chi Garden at The Lodge, Dubai Few music venues are equally well suited for live artists and DJs - but the Chi Garden, in Dubai's Oud Metha district, is one such venue. The outdoor auditorium, stuffed with beanbags and rugs, hosted the indie-folk singer José González in October. It has regular hip-hop and dance nights every week.
Dubai Lime A one-stop shop for art, music, film, design and entertainment, the online forum Dubai Lime single-handedly scoops up any ounce of creative talent in the city and serves it to a growing audience. Their aim is to nurture the cultural development of the city. The word is that Abu Dhabi Lime is not far off. www.dubailime.com.
European movies Bored of Bond and Pixar? Watch some of the most progressive foreign language films of the past 20 years as part of the European movies season taking place at the Grand Cinema in Abu Dhabi Mall and the Grand Rotana Cinema in Al Ain. For only Dh200, you get access to the entire season, until June 2009. Call the Swiss Embassy on 02 627 4636.
Cultural reality TV The Million's Poet competition is now in Abu Dhabi and Nabati poets from the UAE and the Gulf are being given the chance to be one of the 48 poets on the television competition. Filmings take place at the Al Raha Beach hotel and live recordings start at the same venue from Dec 11.
Open-mic nights A rare outlet for independent musicians who struggle against the commercial tide, Dubai Lime organises twice weekly open-mic nights at two locations in Dubai. The two-hour sessions on Saturdays at Central Perk in Jumeirah and on Tuesdays at Berts Café in Dubai Marina typically see between six to eight artists performing solo or in groups.
Tabla maa tabla? If your chose piano or violin lessons when you were younger and regret the choice, fear not. The art of the Arabic tabla can be learnt at Ductac with Zaid, who teaches for an hour on Monday beginning at 8.00pm at Dh60 a lesson. Known as the darbuka in Turkish, tapll in Kurdish, dobouk in Hungarian and tablah in Egypt, the tabla is a versatile little hand drum that still features heavily in Arabic and Mediterranean music. Ductac, 2nd floor, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai.
Digifilm Club The Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi hosts the Digifilm Club, which was created to bring more alternative movies from around the world to the audience. It will also give nascent filmmakers a meeting place to hone their skills. Since it started this year, the club has registered 82 members from 34 countries, who pay Dh250 for a yearly membership. Most learn the basics of filmmaking with the help of other members who share their experiences of directing, script writing, production and post-production.
Salsa and tango dancing If you are a salsa freak, go to Zenith at the Sheraton Corniche on Tuesday and Cinnabar at the Hilton Hotel on Wednesday from 8.00pm-10.00pm. Classes are followed by a salsa social dancing evening every week. Email email@example.com or call 05 0416 7250. The only tango classes you may have the chance to find in Abu Dhabi are Maya and Rami's. Facundo, an Argentinian teacher, has been invited directly from Buenos Aires for two weeks of workshops early this month. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 050 622 3679.
Evenings at the Ghaf With a prodigious events schedule belying its size, the Ghaf Gallery, the most progressive private gallery in Abu Dhabi, hosts some form of arty party on average every 10 days. While the work on show is hit or miss, the sense of community is reliably consistent.
The UAE Philharmonic The Emirates may not have a professional orchestra yet, but the cause to create one has a passionate advocate in Philipp Maier, the artistic director of the UAE Philharmonic, who is determined to turn his excellent collection of dedicated musicians from around the Emirates into the real thing.
Lawful Magic Recently set up by Nigel Holt to connect local English-language poets in the Emirates, the Facebook group Lawful Magic is in its early days but already has nearly 100 devoted members and plans for a magazine and poetry readings.
Artscape TDIC's Artscape series has only recently got under way, but the inaugural event - an interactive Picasso-themed evening complete with music, painting and a lecture held in October - was deemed a huge success. More events are planned, with the next scheduled for February.
Abu Dhabi Classics An unprecedented season of classical and Arabic music, the 2008-09 Abu Dhabi Classics has already seen the likes of Cecilia Bartoli and the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra perform at Emirates Palace, and there's plenty more to come, including Maxim Shostakovich conducting the work of his father, Dmitri Shostakovich, and a programme of workshops and talks.
Djembe at Ductac The African art of the djembe is on offer at Ductac. The djembe is a rawhide drum whose name comes from the Mali phrase "Anke dje, anke be", which translates to "everyone gather together". Whether it's for stress relief, communication or joyful celebration, there is always occasion for the djembe. Email email@example.com.
International art fairs Beyond the glitz and commercial successes of Art Dubai and artparis-Abu Dhabi, the most internationally acclaimed fair here is the Sharjah Biennial, the ninth edition of which will run from March 16. The ruling family of Sharjah is well known for its dedication to culture, and the fair's director is Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, the ruler's daughter and a graduate of the Slade School of Fine Art.
Conversations With Authors, at NYU Abu Dhabi The autumn series saw Philip Kennedy, the faculty director of the NYUAD Institute, engage noted authors in conversation about famous works. Works discussed have included Steven Hawkings' A Briefer History of Time, which saw the renowned cosmologist Dr Glennys Farrar take to the stage. The series also included the Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury taking on Milan Kundera's The Art of the Novel. The under-the-radar lecture series at ADACH features professors and specialists from places such as England's Oxford University and Madrid's Arab House.
Calligraphy The bi-weekly calligraphy classes at the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi are open to anyone - Arabic speakers or otherwise. Learn techniques to recreate (or at least appreciate) the beauty of Diwani, Riqa or Thuluth styles every Monday and Wednesday evening.
Wall of the Emirates Become part of the art at the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre's Wall of the Emirates large-scale message wall project. Presented in conjunction with the Dubai-based artist Patricia Millns, visitors can leave their own messages, drawings or signatures on the wall-installation piece that aims to connect people, not divide them.
Thinking Cloud Thinking Cloud art forum gathers like-minded artsy individuals to gab about such issues as "What I learnt in art school" and "Making the decision to become a professional artist". The group meets about once a month for open and vociferous debates. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Into Dubai Into Dubai, a project sponsored by the Seimens Arts Program in conjunction with the Dubai government among others, asked four composers to create new music inspired by the city and its inhabitants. The world premiere for Into Dubai will be held here this coming May, but after that, the production will travel to Berlin and Frankfurt, Germany to show off the city's original score.
AAUAE More fun than it sounds, the architectural association is stuffed to bursting with wannabe starchitects and bright young things. Their lecture series feature everything from blue sky discussions to sessions on sustainability. wwww.aauae.org.
Fanaan A new collective of UAE-based artists working in everything from textiles to oils, Fanaan will see their first show at the Ghaf Gallery from Jan 18-19 2009.
Desert Fish A visually led magazine based in Dubai, Desert Fish is packed with aesthetic innovation and creative photography and fashion collaborations, bringing a whole new approach to design in the UAE.
Spiky Penguin This online community offers one-stop shopping for young creatives (everyone from visual effects companies to animators) looking to find their niche in the UAE. Their stylish little site is a good home base to explore the local art and design with plenty of links to events, job postings, publications and local design agencies. www.spikypenguin.com.
Cliche Lowbrow art is where it's at. At least that's what the brothers Vinay Kumar and Vivek Premachandran decided when they launched Cliche, a monthly subscription-only publication and "portable art gallery" that showcases urban underground art by local and international artists. Log on to www.whitespace-designs.blogspot.com to subscribe.
House of Prose There aren't many better places to be than a well-stocked second hand bookshop. House of Prose stocks hundreds of used titles in its two Dubai stores - on everything from travel to self-help - and even offer 50 per cent cash back when you return something you bought from there. Call 04 368 5526 (Ibn Battuta Mall) or 04 344 9021 (Jumeirah Plaza).
Brownmonkeys An underground group of Pinoy urban artists, Brownmonkeys are intent on turning Dubai into Shoreditch with graffiti happenings, collaborations and very cool T-shirts.
START In association with The Prince's Drawing School and Art Dubai, the charitable foundation START aims to bring art education to disadvantaged children in the Middle East.