Besides being the world‘s richest city and a mecca for business, Abu Dhabi also acts as a vibrant cultural hub, where traditional and modern lifestyles mingle. As a metropolis that is famous for its diverse and cosmopolitan cultural scene, summer offers an enriching agenda, making the city an eventful destination. From exhibitions and dance extravaganzas to unmissable comedy, here are ten of Abu Dhabi’s most outstanding cultural and art events this summer.
Art | Ramadan Art Bazaar
Until 29 July
Ramadan Art Bazaar, which this year holds its 7th anniversary, was started by local digital artist Sumayyah Al Suwaid, who is still the primary organiser and curator of the event. The Bazaar runs through the weeks of Ramadan and showcases a great variety of artworks from 34 international artists, who currently reside in the UAE. The alluring art event offers a valuable platform for artists and art-lovers alike: while it ensures a venue to feature established and developing artists, it also encourages emerging art-collectors by setting the maximum price ceiling for each product. The displayed works range from handmade products to photography, paintings, and digital works to furniture and designed clothes, making it a must-see event for all art and design enthusiast.
Culture | A History of the World in 100 Objects
Until 1 August
An exceptional show is on display at Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Cultural District that, following the successful joint exhibition series of BBC and the British Museum, is debuting as a complete exhibition in this form. The outstanding collection features the history of humanity tracing back two million years and exploring global history through the significance and shaping power of objects. The exhibition of A History of the World in 100 Objects aims to present a global view on the differences and similarities among cultures, eras and the implications of compelling objects. The display is clear and modern, ensuring a stimulating time travel along such thematics as the first cities, first global economy, or status symbols, all implicitly revealed by the 100 unique objects.
Design and Animation | Freej Live: Abood’s Dream
31 July – 2 August
Marking a new era in the entertainment industry, Mohammed Saeed Harbi’s name is something to remember. The animator’s 3D cartoon Freej has quickly turned not only into a beloved TV series in the Emirate, but also into a something of a national pride. The ‘neighbourhood’, as the word translates, is a locally produced animated cartoon where traditional, real-life inspired family moments are captured, giving the show an authentic cultural twist. This touring show now brings the known characters even closer to its audience by setting it as a live Arabic theatrical production at various venues in the region.Freej Live: Abood’s Dream is an entertaining stage show for all ages and is listed among the greatest sensations on Abu Dhabi’s summer selection.
Freej Live: Abood’s Dream, Emirates Palace Theatre, Abu Dhabi, UAE, +971 2 690 9000
Photography | The 8th Emirates Photography Competition Exhibition
Until August 16th
Identified as one of the most important professional photography contests, The Emirates Photo Competition is taking place for the 8th time, attracting almost 36,000 entries from local and international artists. The ultimate aim of the competition is to advance photography as a form of expression in the United Arab Emirates as well as to encourage photographers to seek for novel, creative, and innovative ideas. The two-month exhibition displays the winning photographs, among others, the grand prize-winner series, entitled Pilgrimage to Lalibela by the Italian artist Cristina Garzone, who received the greatest attention under this year’s main theme: ‘Decisive Moments. Besides the exhibited award winner’s, additional exhibitions run parallel, featuring four guest artists, who discuss the main subject line further.
Dance | Shadowland by Pilobolus
8 – 16 August
Shadowland is an evening-length dance show by the internationally acclaimed dance company Pilobolus, a pioneer on the contemporary and avant-garde dance scene. Founded in 1971, Pilobolus quickly established its name as being an innovative entertainment group, applying an unusual combination of dance, theatre, concert and circus elements, still aims to emphasize the use of human body as the most universal media. As a clear demonstration of the exciting and sole language that Pilobolus boasts for, Shadowland places the audience into a surrealistic world, where unusual theatrical scenery is replaced by pure and ecstatic play of shadows, colours and dynamic screens. An unmissable event by a multiple award-winning grou who genuinely seeks to answer: ‘what can be done with the human form?’
Pilobolus’ SHADOWLAND: the “Transformation” excerpt:
Performing Arts | Arab Stars Showcase
An evening in the name of the region’s greatest talents, Arab Stars Showcases lines up the previous winners of MBC reality shows in one roof in one spectacular performance. The extraordinary event showcases the three most exciting young talents of the Arab region, who merge local heritage with fresh, modern touches. Mohammad Assaf, who, besides winning the second Arab Idol, is best known for his debut as first Arab singer at the FIFA 2014 Opening Congress, Ahmed El Bayed, the Middle East’s pioneering illusionist, and Mohammed Al-Dairi (Arab’s Got Talent), and astounding speed painter, are among the top-notch performers of the night. A truly entertaining event with local cultural traces, set at the one and only luxurious Emirates Palace.
Arab Stars Showcase, Emirates Palace Theater, Abu Dhabi, UAE, +971 2 690 9000
Music | Bollywood spectacle with Sunidhi Chauhan
As part of the city’s Summer Session Sunidhi Chauhan, India’s greatest playback singer, performs for the first time in front of an Abu Dhabi audience. The event also coincides with the celebration of India’s independence day, which will give the concert an even more exciting vibe. The multi-award winning young singer is famed for her Hindi film songs and energetic live shows, features that unquestionably ensure a colourful Bollywood spectacle with Sunidhi Chauhan at the magnificent Emirates Palace’s auditorium.
Circus | La Veritá
12 – 31 August
La Veritá (The Truth) is another breath-taking show by Daniele Finzi Pasca, the creator of the Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo and the Sochi Olympics’ closing ceremony. This exceptional and rare theatrical circus is an artistic homage to the life and work of Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali. 13 acrobats conjure the visions of Dali through song, contortions, acrobatics, music and more, creating a vivid and colourful staging of the surrealist world. The spectacular features the once lost original hand made backdrop of Dali for the very first time since its creation in 1944, when it was designed for the New York Metropolitan Opera’s Tristan and Isolde ballet production.
La Veritá, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, ICC Hall, Abu Dhabi, +971 2 444 6900
Performing Arts | David Blaine: Real or Illusion
21 – 23 August
David Blaine, American illusionist and endurance artist, is best known for his 44-day Above the Below (2003) stunt, hanging over the River Thames in London in a transparent Plexiglas box. Since then Blaine has gained global attention by his street and close-up magic and by his numerous Guinness World Record achievements and attempts. This summer, this renowned artist makes his debut in the Middle East by a mind-blowing spectacle in Abu Dhabi, performing his usual death-defying magic stunts. Real or Illusion is among the city’s headline shows; therefore, tickets are expected to run out quickly.
Real or Illusion, Emirates Palace Theatre, Abu Dhabi, UAE, +971 2 690 9000
Comedy | United Nations of Comedy II
28 – 29 August
This summer, for the second time, Abu Dhabi hosts the world’s funniest Arab comedian group, which, through an endless flow of jokes, explores the phenomenon of the Westernized Middle East. Though the comedians, named The United Nations of Comedy, are freely expressing their multiculturalism, one thing remains obvious: their strong ties to the Arab region. Six internationally acclaimed comics (Nemr Abou Nassar, Aron Kader, Mo Amer, Khaled Khalafalla, Amir K and Sammy Obeid) take over the stage and ensure two unforgettable, laugh-full nights with different appearances at Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace. The Republicants vs. The Dumbocrats, as they advertise their travelling show, guarantee a night filled with serious jokes influenced by personal views with somewhat satirical edges.
United Nations of Comedy II, Emirates Palace Theater, Abu Dhabi, UAE, +971 2 690 9000
By Virág Gulyás