Song and dance celebrating Gulf stability takes to Dubai stage

Sun Jan 10, 2016 12:16pm EST
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By Noah Browning

DUBAI (Reuters) - A fantasy musical set to poetry by Dubai's ruler seeks to explain the secret of one of the Arab world's most compelling success stories, promoting a style of government that creates wealth and ensures stability while avoiding political strife.

Lebanese director Marwan Rahbani insists the play, Al Faris or "The Knight", which premiered this month, describes general ideals of leadership and is not about Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum himself.

"The city is not Dubai, and the knight is not his highness Sheikh Mohammed. Anyone can have these attributes," he said.

But the government-sponsored production is certainly in keeping with the public devotion to the rulers of the stable though politically-closed Gulf, where little dissent is tolerated and Arab family dynasties keep a firm grip on power.

From Abu Dhabi to Manama, Doha to Riyadh, the images of rulers and kings are emblazoned on buildings and giant billboards, and their deeds dominate the media.

However the Dubai musical, which ran for four days at Sheikh Rashid Hall, adopts a more traditional form of celebrating family rule, showing an idealized Arab leader as a poet and horseman, both highly prized skills among Arabs.

The main character, whose close-clipped beard and headdress give him a resemblance to Sheikh Mohammed, wends his way through a make-believe universe of clanging sword battles and Arab folk dances in pursuit of a sweetheart abducted by jealous villains.

Soothsayers liken the poet-prince's quest to his desire to build his kingdom into a paragon of diversity and peace.   Continued...

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (2nd L), prime minister and vice-president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, attends the premiere of Al Faris or "The Knight", a musical set to poetry he penned, in Dubai January 6, 2016. REUTERS/Ashraf Mohammad