From film to fashion, Dubai bids to be creative capital for Arab world

Sun Apr 12, 2015 5:37am EDT
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By Andrew Torchia

DUBAI (Reuters) - Move over, Cairo, Beirut and Casablanca. Dubai is launching a drive to become one of the Arab world's top centres for art, design, film and fashion - areas that have traditionally been dominated by old Arab cities outside the Gulf.

Success is not certain. The wealthy emirate is much better known as a trading and banking hub and luxury shopping destination than as a center for the arts. It lacks the established cities' centuries of history and culture.

But Dubai has advantages which the old cities can find it hard to provide: security, cosmopolitan lifestyles and comprehensive travel links to the rest of the Arab world.

It is throwing hundreds of millions of dollars and the latest technology into its effort, using state-linked companies to develop the project in the same way that it's successfully jump-started other industries.  

"We want to encourage local and emerging talent from within the region," said Amina Al Rustamani, group chief executive of TECOM Investments, a business park operator owned by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

Other cities have allowed neighborhoods of artists and designers to emerge over decades. Dubai is not leaving that to chance; TECOM is creating a purpose-built 21 million square foot (2 million square metre) area called the Dubai Design District.

Tenants of the district are to include galleries, studios, workshops, boutique stores and museums, plus office and residential space. The first phase, to open this year, will cost 4 billion dirhams ($1.1 billion). TECOM says over 220 companies have agreed to take part.

The Dubai Design and Fashion Council, a state-funded body, plans to set up a design school with students from around the world. One of the school's specialties will be Islamic design.   Continued...

A general view shows Dubai's cityscape September 24, 2013.  REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah