Cirque du Soleil comes to Dubai

Event adds to region's cultural scene.

The circus is coming! The circus is coming! And the Cirque du Soleil at that!

Dubai, where cultural life comes far behind making money and having fun, among other endeavors, is busy developing a permanent venue for the famous Montreal show on the Palm Jumeirah.

Due to open at the end of 2010, Cirque du Soleil is expected to breathe life into the emirate’s cultural scene, which is dominated by movie houses and suffers from a lack of major venue for performances.

According to property developer Nakheel, a 1,800-seat theater will be built to stage the attraction, which will be run for 15 years.

“Dubai is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world and, as with any city experiencing such a rapid growth curve, major cultural and civic facilities are required for a city establishing itself as a global 21st-century destination,” says Nakheel chairman Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem.

Entertainment in the emirate is mostly imported — the Madinat theater’s most recent lineup included performances by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, “The Nutcracker” by Ballet Russe, and “Encore,” a formal compilation of songs from West End shows.

Amateur dramatics aside, there is a paucity of entertainment reflecting traditional Arab culture in a metropolis brought into the modern age by the discovery of oil in 1966.

The Dubai Museum in the Fahidi Fort offers a fascinating glimpse into life in “Dubai BC” — before crude.

Colorful life-sized dioramas tell of when inhabitants enjoyed languid days living in traditional huts, visiting bustling souks, spending time at mosques and surviving off the land — much of it now cleared to make way for some of the world’s largest shopping malls.

A real-time cultural experience can still be found, however, down at the Creek, where boatmen load and unload their dhows, reflecting Dubai’s centuries-old trading traditions and its links with India and East Africa.

In a year or two, steeping oneself in local culture will be even more difficult thanks to attractions being built, such as the mammoth Dubailand theme park resort, and the World, a cluster of some 300 islands that are laid out to resemble a blurry vision of earth.

Culture, like entertainment, will remain among Dubai’s chief imports.

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