Al Burda Festival: event to feature workshops, talks, film screenings and more

The cultural festival returns to Expo 2020 Dubai, after being postponed last year

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - An attendee looking at an art on display at the Al Burda Festival, Shaping the Future of Islamic Art and Culture at Warehouse 421, Abu Dhabi.  Leslie Pableo for The National for Melissa Gronlund’s story
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Al Burda Festival, which was developed by the UAE Ministry of Culture and Youth in 2018, will return at Expo 2020 Dubai after being postponed last year because of the pandemic.

The event celebrates Islamic arts with its annual programme of cultural activities open to the public. It will run from December 19 to 21.

“The festival aspires to promote tolerance and human and cultural interaction through Islamic art, which epitomises the rich heritage and values of the great Islamic civilisation,” says Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth.

The festival will explore the theme of Transcending Spaces, Discovering the World through a series of events, including live performances, panel discussions, workshops, film screenings and art exhibitions featuring Islamic artworks.

For the discussions, more than 74 speaks from around the world will engage in dialogue, including Manal Ataya, director of Sharjah Museums Authority, who will discuss the transformation of Islamic spaces in urban life with architect Ratish Nanda; Gayane Umerova from Uzbekistan Ministry of Culture; artist Rahim Walizada and Hani Asfour, dean of Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation, on December 20.

On the same day, artist and poet Nujoom Alghanem will be in discussion with Emirates Literature Festival founder Isobel Abulhoul about poetry and narrative.

Hala Khayat, Art Dubai’s regional director, and Souraya Noujaim, curator at Louvre Abu Dhabi, will tackle the future of Islamic art and culture and its relation to business with artist and educator Alia Al Zougbi and Sheikh Salem Khalid Al Qassimi, who is the UAE’s Permanent Delegate to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

Masterclasses are also programmed throughout the event, including a class by architect Sumaya Dabbagh, who will discuss Islamic architecture, landscape designer Kamelia Zaal, who will share insights in Islamic garden design and architect Wael Al Awar, who will discuss sustainable alternatives in relation to architecture.

On the second day, artist Nima Nabavi will teach a masterclass that will take visitors through his practice, which draws from geometry, symmetry and the spiritual.

There will also be activities for children, including a tatreez design workshop developed by Tashkeel and a carpet-making workshop led by Sharjah Museums Authority.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Culture and Youth will announce the winner of Al Burda Award. Launched in 2004, the award recognises works that contribute to keeping the tradition of Islamic arts alive, as well as highlighting the diversity and innovation in the subject.

The award has been granted to 300 artists since its inception. This year, the shortlisted candidates will have their work on view throughout the duration of the festival. Details on the artists and winners will be revealed during the event.

Al Burda Festival will take place from December 19 to 21. More information at

Updated: December 16, 2021, 9:58 AM