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UAE Strives to be Known for its Cultural Diversity

Asma Ali Zain / 21 May 2009

DUBAI — Humanity’s fundamental wealth lies in its diversity, according to Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of Unesco. And what better than cite the example of the UAE in this context?

With its diverse multicultural society, the UAE has developed its own unique cultural identity. And no doubt, art plays an integral role in the development of societies while nations retain their style and integrity due to their value of  art.

Today, the world is celebrating the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (Unesco) Day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

“The numerous cultural events held on and around this day in the world are meant to underscore not only the intrinsic value of specific cultural productions, but also and above all the fertility of their diversity,” Matsuura said.

“Together, they remind us that humanity’s fundamental wealth lies in its diversity. By bringing out what is primordial to the human condition, art is a catalyst for the building of peace in the minds of men,” he says.

According to him, Unesco believes that cultures are not monolithic but interdependent, resulting from mutual exchanges and borrowings, and that this diversity is a source of strengthand unity.

Approximately, 200,000 people make Dubai their home each year while over 200 nationalities coexist peacefully.

Despite this diversity, the UAE’s art and culture scene is still at the sprouting stage. “In the UAE, we have been paying more attention towards earning money than appreciating art,” says Anil Mathew, member of Unesco’s initiative, the Global Alliance forCultural Diversity.

His Dubai-based company, Constantine Corporate Communications, is a member of the alliance that explores new ways to turn creativity in developing countries into sustainablecultural industries.

“The project flopped in the UAE during the real estate boom since everyone was well-off,” says Mathew, who is planning to revive the initiative once again.

“It may pay now since the current financial conditions have affected many across the globe,” he says.

The alliance aims to promote cultural diversity, support economic development and encourage job creation in a range of fields including music, publishing, cinema, crafts and performing arts.

However, with strong governmental support towards preserving of traditions and heritage, the UAE is bound to make inroads sooner or later.  In Dubai, establishments such as the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (DCAA) have been launched with a long-term strategy of developing the emirate into a global cultural  hub.

“We plan to build upon Dubai’s status as one of the world’s most multicultural cities and contribute to the renaissance of culture and arts in the region,” says Dr Omar bin Sulaiman, managing director of Dubai Culture.

Besides art, the Dubai government is also focusing on transferring all heritage sites such as Dubai Museum, the Shindhaga Heritage area, the Union House, the Al Bastakiya, the old souks, the Hatta Heritage Village and others, under the umbrella of Dubai Culture.

Sharjah, on the other hand, is well-known for being the Arab world’s oldest art and museum centre.

Recently Abu Dhabi also jumped into the fray and hosted the world of music and arts (WOMAD) festival besides several other events such as Soundof Arabia.


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