UAE cultural events on hold as mourning period for President Sheikh Khalifa declared

Louvre Abu Dhabi has cancelled its Royal Secret Soiree event while Dubai Comedy Festival cancels some shows

Sharjah Children's Reading Festival has put its Friday workshops and activities on hold, but will still be open to visitors. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Major cultural events scheduled to take place over the next month have been suspended following the death of Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE.

The cancellation or postponements come in line with an announcement by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, stating that there will be an official mourning period of 40 days with flags to fly at half-staff, as well as three days of closure of ministries and official entities at the federal and local levels, and the private sector.

An event at Louvre Abu Dhabi, which would have the auditorium transform into The Royal Opera House at Versailles for a special series of immersive shows inspired by the museum’s latest exhibition, Versailles & the World, has been cancelled. Called The Royal Secret Soiree, the experience was to incorporate multidimensional theatre shows, taking place from Friday to Sunday.

Louvre Abu Dhabi will however remain open to visitors, and so will other tourist attractions such as the presidential palace Qasr Al Watan. Evening light shows at the Qasr Al Watan will however be cancelled during the mourning period.

Dubai Comedy Festival, which kicked off on Thursday with a show by Canadian comedian Russell Peters and is due to run until Sunday, May 22, cancelled a show by Indian comic Vir Das on Friday. A show by Filipino-American comedian Jo Koy at the Coca-Cola Arena on Saturday was also cancelled.

Organisers of the comedy festival however said all other scheduled shows, including Comedy Bizarre and The Laughter Factory, will proceed as planned from May 17.

"Stay tuned for the new schedule along with the ticketing procedure for the postponed events," read a statement from festival organisers. "From all of us at The Dubai Comedy Festival, our thoughts and prayers are with the family of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan at this difficult time."

Roots Arts, the weekly series uniting the UAE's creative community in art, fashion, food, music and dance, said it was postponing a planned performance by Emirati singer Abri on Saturday.

"Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan was an exemplary leader who lead the way to success for our nation. May his light continue to shine on everyone he touched and the nation. In light of these events, we have postponed our event, Abri, Rhythm & Grooves, and will be sharing more details later," Roots Arts posted on Instagram.

A new event called Break the Block, celebrating street food and music, which was to take place on Friday and Saturday at Dubai Design District, is "postponed until further notice". What is claimed to be Dubai's "first street food block party" was to bring together popular UAE hip-hop and RnB artists and street food trucks for the two-day event, with a musical line-up including DJ Kaboo, the Egyptian spinner who gained international acclaim with his tracks appearing in the new anti-hero Marvel TV series, Moon Knight.

A performance by South African DJ Black Coffee, scheduled to take place at White Dubai on Friday, has also been cancelled.

Jameel Arts Centre, the home of contemporary art in Dubai, said it will remain closed until Tuesday.

"With heavy hearts, we mourn the passing of the country's President. His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. May his soul rest in peace," the centre posted on Instagram."

Meanwhile, the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, which began on Wednesday, announced that it will go ahead as planned on Friday evening, but workshops and activities will be cancelled. Plans for the next few days of mourning are yet to be confirmed.

The event, organised by the Sharjah Book Authority, is taking place at the Expo Centre Sharjah under the theme Create Creativity, with a 12-day programme designed to instil a love for the written word in youth.

The Culture Summit Abu Dhabi, due to begin on Monday, May 16, has also been postponed. Organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, the fifth event is to run in-person under the theme A Living Culture, bringing together thought leaders and experts in the arts, heritage, museums, media and technology for a series of panel sessions and discussions surrounding culture's role in a post-Covid-19 world. South African comedian Trevor Noah had been confirmed to attend.

DCT Abu Dhabi said new dates would be announced soon.

Still to be announced

Details of the capital’s leading literary event, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, which is meant to run from Monday to Sunday, May 23 to 29 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, are also yet to be announced. The event is set to bring together more than 1,100 publishers from about 80 countries, with more than 450 activities that span panel discussions, seminars, cultural evenings and children’s events.

The inaugural International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries is also meant to run on the eve of the book fair on May 23, with authors, publishers, filmmakers and bloggers to gather for the event being organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre and DCT Abu Dhabi.

Another major event to take place within the next week is the International Indian Film Academy Awards, which are scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 21 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, starring Bollywood performers set to fly in from India. A decision on whether or not it will go ahead has yet to be taken.

Updated: May 14, 2022, 8:46 PM