x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

It's a kind of magic

Magic has traditionally had negative connotations in the Middle East. One Emirati illusionist is hoping to change that.

Many historical accounts say some of the earliest examples of the practice of magic have been found in the early civilizations of the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Arabic magicians made an effort to credit the various schools of magic and their influences in ancient scriptures. In those days, much of the craft revolved around the occult and spirits, or jinn.

But it has come a long way since then. As The National reported yesterday, an Emirati illusionist, 30-year-old Moein Al Bastaki, is hoping to change the negative perceptions of his profession in the region by opening a magic school in Dubai. And he assures his audience in the Arab world that there is nothing sinister about his act.

"The word magic, when translated to Arabic, is Sihr, and that sometimes conjures up negative images," the performer said. "It is not black magic ... I can assure you it's just illusions that I know the secrets to."

But Mr Al Bastaki, who dreamed of emulating David Copperfield as a child, needn't have worried. The popularity of magic has ensured that television channels across the region are clamouring to showcase his skills, with fans agreeing that it's all harmless fun.

Dubai's answer to Hogwarts could open by the end of the year. Aspiring Harry Potters take note.