Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Cultural capital: Abu Dhabi is a city to contend with on the global events calendar

The capital's booming events calendar means we have an exciting and busy few months ahead

Ethiopia's Circus Abyssinia are one the shows Abu Dhabi culture lovers sampled when they performed three sold out shows in September at the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Centre. Photo by Rod Penn
Ethiopia's Circus Abyssinia are one the shows Abu Dhabi culture lovers sampled when they performed three sold out shows in September at the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Centre. Photo by Rod Penn

After covering the capital’s arts and cultural scene for eight years, you learn a few things. The first is that it is a cyclical thing. There are times when I am frenetically covering back-to-back events for up to four months.

I survive this onslaught because the hotter months will provide a relative calm. With the steaming weather making outdoor events prohibitive, I use the downtime to do some good old-fashioned admin such as answering forgotten emails (and apologies for that) or forward planning.

Well, at least that is increasingly how it used to be. Now, it is only October and I have already covered six concerts, four leisure events, three cultural panel conversations, a book launch and a circus.

This is not a complaint. I love this. This is exactly what I signed up for. My increasing workload is only further proof of how much the capital’s cultural scene has evolved over the past decade. When I arrived in the UAE in 2011, the idea was that Abu Dhabi hosted a few, yet grand, marque events, such as the ­Formula One and the Abu Dhabi Festival, while the regular entertainment shindigs were held in our neighbouring emirate down Sheikh Zayed Road.

However, over the past two years, those tables have turned with both Abu Dhabi and Dubai getting their fair share of events. This is not a competition, of course, because everyone wins here. However, we also have to remember we cannot be complacent.

As anyone who has lived abroad in any of the world’s cultural hotspots knows, a city’s arts scene is best developed with the participation of its residents. It is a two-way street. A few years ago, the common gripe I heard in Abu Dhabi was the lack of cultural events or activities. While those views may have held some weight at the time, they certainly don’t now.

Looking at my calendar, I am going to be busy in Abu Dhabi right up to February at least. Over the next few months, the city is going to be teeming with events that will appeal to all creative tastes.

If you are a fan of live music, there is a lot in store. And I am not just talking about the big Eminem and Abu Dhabi F1 concerts at Yas Island. You also have a chance to hear some cool sounds from the region and Africa at the capital’s latest concert venue, the new amphitheatre at The Cultural Foundation in Qasr Al Hosn. The fact that it is indoors is a game-changer, too, as it has already hosted a slew of gigs during sweltering months. On Saturday, October 5, you have the chance to see the electrifying Egyptian rockers Wusut El Balad, for example.

A few days later, classical music fans can savour the return of Abu Dhabi Classics, which marks the beginning of four months of regular concerts featuring some of the world’s best orchestras and soloists.

If your tastes are more esoteric and you want to be challenged, then the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Centre programme is full of intriguing events, ranging from spoken-word nights to contemporary dance performances and regular film screenings.

Food lovers can also enjoy Taste of Abu Dhabi, which returns to Yas Island’s du Arena next month, while bookworms will be hotly anticipating next year’s Hay Festival. The renowned literary event from Wales will make its Abu Dhabi debut in February 2020.

This is only a small selection of what’s coming to Abu Dhabi soon. I invite all of you to get out and get busy with me, as the city’s cultural scene can ultimately only be as good as the people who support it.

Updated: October 3, 2019 04:22 PM

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