Islamic Lifestyle

PROFILE-Dubai Culture spearheading the development of the emirate’s creative industries

Photo: Sikka 2015 as part of Dubai Art Season 2015 / Courtesy Dubai Culture

As the Dubai Opera raises its curtains today with a one-night only performance by Spanish tenor Placido Domingo, followed in the coming weeks by other Western classical opera and ballet performances, Salaam Gateway profiles Dubai Culture, the government entity tasked to raise the profile of the emirate as a “vibrant, global Arabian metropolis that shapes culture and arts in the region and the world.”  

Many cities around the world attract millions of tourists every year thanks to their vibrant arts and culture scenes.

From longtime homes of culture such as London, New York and Paris to fast-emerging art hubs like Sao Paolo, Bogota and Tokyo, the artistic ambience within these cities serves as a major driver of their economic growth.

While Dubai may not have been traditionally associated with the arts, the city’s landscape is changing to reveal a lively arts and culture scene.

The organization tasked to uplift the emirate’s profile in the creative industries is the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority. Dubai Culture, as it is commonly referred to, began its work in March 2008 after being launched by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai.

Its vision is to position Dubai as an influential arts and culture centre, and the authority’s ambitions complement Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre’s objective to make the emirate the capital of Islamic art and design.

“Our goal is to show the world that the Middle East’s design industry is thriving and to highlight the position of the UAE, Dubai in particular, as the capital of this creative industry across the region,” Shatha Lootah, Dubai Culture’s marketing manager told Salaam Gateway.

“We also work on strengthening the diverse cultural and creative fabric of Dubai, empowering a new creative generation and preserving Emirati heritage,” she added.

Photo: Dubai Museum at Al Fahidi Fort in Dubai, UAE / Courtesy Dubai Culture


On a regulatory level, Dubai Culture is responsible for setting the framework for the emirate’s culture and arts sector and conducting research to support the development of the creative economy.

From a practical perspective, the authority manages several important heritage sites across the city and is a stakeholder in the renovation of Dubai's Historical District, the oldest part of the city.

The project is centred around the Dubai Creek and focuses on the transformation of four districts - Shindagha, Bur Dubai, Al Fahidi and Deira – to raise awareness of Dubai's rich history in trade, crafts and pearling.

A considerable portion of Dubai Culture’s work is directed towards developing cultural tourism by illuminating the country’s heritage. For example, Etihad Museum (Union Museum), a project managed by Dubai Culture, will exhibit the story of the nation’s development from its pre-union roots through to today.

Set to open by December 2016, the building covers 2.5 hectares next to the Union House, where the signing of the treaty establishing the UAE took place in 1971. The project also involves restoring the Union House to its original state and replacing the existing flagpole with a slightly taller mast.


Outside of the UAE, Dubai Culture regularly participates in events to highlight the emirate’s arts and culture scene. Its international work is done through its own initiative Dubai Next.  

So far, the authority has engaged with audiences in Basel, London, Milan, Paris, and Venice. Dubai Next works through interactive discussions and cultural talks about Dubai’s arts and culture sector.

The fifth and latest edition of Dubai Next took place in June 2016 at Remix Sydney, Asia Pacific’s largest creative and cultural industries’ summit.

“All of the Dubai Next talks have been well-attended, with visitors expressing a keen interest in gaining an even greater understanding of Dubai’s strides in the cultural sector,” said Lootah.


According to Lootah, positioning the emirate as the capital of Islamic arts and culture is among Dubai Culture’s long-term objectives, one which will require continued collaborations and partnerships with international organisations.

For example, in March the authority partnered with the Islamic Museum of Australia to host an Islamic Coins Exhibition in Melbourne.

The collaboration aimed to raise awareness of Islamic heritage and arts, and included a rare collection of the Islamic coins owned by Abdullah Bin Jassim Al Mutairi, a renowned Emirati coin specialist.


Dubai Art Season

An annual umbrella event with outdoor art projects, workshops, exhibitions, panel discussions, and performances across Dubai. One of the highlights of Dubai Art Season is SIKKA Art Fair, an initiative that showcases Emirati and GCC-based artists. A Dubai-government empowered digital platform that promotes collaborative communication between members of the culture, arts and heritage communities.

Dubai International Arabic Calligraphy Exhibition

A showcase of one of the world’s largest collections of calligraphy masterpieces. In 2015, the event featured works by more than 50 accomplished artists from across the globe.

Dubai Next              

An annual event that promotes Dubai as a hub for creative industries, inviting a global community of artists, creative professionals and entrepreneurs to work with the city’s arts and culture community.

Dubai Festival for Youth Theatre

An annual platform for aspiring theatrical talent that happens in November. In 2016, the event will showcase Arab talents from the UAE, including budding directors, playwrights and actors, as well as technical professionals in staging, costume, sound and lighting. Participants take part in workshops and lectures on the various aspects of theatre production. Winners from the festival are presented with career opportunities in the media industry as well as in performing arts.

Urban Commissions

Jointly launched in 2014 by Dubai Culture, Dubai Design District, and Design Days Dubai, Urban Commissions is an annual competition intended to celebrate the emirate’s growing design-conscious urban development and to recognise the city’s design talents. The inaugural round received 128 submissions from 24 nationalities. The call for entries opens in November and winners are announced in March the following year

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