Five can't-miss things to do at Manarat Al Saadiyat in September

A new programme of events has opened at the cultural centre on Saadiyat Island

Drums by Kharsha at Manarat Al Saadiyat. 
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As someone who only recently arrived in Abu Dhabi, the discovery of Manarat Al Saadiyat, located in the heart of the Saadiyat Cultural District, felt like a real tonic. It was that little pool of calm I had been searching for amid the hustle and bustle of the city. I have often wondered where people go – particularly when the sun is at its hottest – to find a moment for quiet reflection. Now I think I know.

On my first visit, I simply wandered around the vast atrium, delighted to see as many chess boards and packs of cards as visitors. Later, I picked up a box of popcorn from the LARTE restaurant and mooched into the auditorium for a free screening of Guillermo del Toro's Academy Award-winning film The Shape of Water. I suspect I will do exactly the same next week, this time to see First Reformed, Paul Schrader's haunting and critically acclaimed thriller starring Ethan Hawke.

Read more: Here is our list of the essential things to do in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain

The rest of you have no doubt been enjoying all this – the galleries, the workshops, the café and the beautiful terrace – for months but indulge me a moment while I flick excitedly through the programme of upcoming events and pick out the five things not to be missed at Manarat Al Saadiyat this September.

For more information and to book tickets, visit

Cinema Space

The range and diversity of films being screened is quite remarkable. In September alone, you can see films from, among others, Italy, Germany, Korea and Japan. There is a whole series of films celebrating director Ingmar Bergman. I can't wait to see a new restoration of Terence Malick's Days of Heaven, but the best advice I can give is: look at the programme and dive in headfirst.

For full listings, visit

When: Every Monday and Saturday

Where: Auditorium

How much? Free

Drums by Kharsha

It’s not all peace and quiet at Manarat Al Saadiyat. “Drums by Kharsha” is a series of workshops for anyone interested making some noise and learning more about “Taiko” Japanese drums, including a bit about their history and how to get a rhythm out of one. The Kharsha group is made up of young Emirati and Japanese drummers, so you will learn drumming techniques from two very different cultures.

When: For kids aged 7+ Saturdays 2-3pm; for adults aged 20+ Sundays from 6.30pm

Where: Theatre

How much? Dh100

Rooftop Rhythms Arabia

This poetry and spoken word open-mic night offers aspiring performers the chance to try out new material. If this is something you’ve been meaning to do for years, now might be the time to give it a go. Equally, though, there’s no pressure to perform, so if you’d rather just sit back with a drink and listen to a wide variety of poetry and spoken word, then that’s absolutely fine, too. DJ ALLAD provides the beats between performances.

When: Friday, September 14

Where: Theatre

How much? Free

Try out spoken word at Rooftop Rhythms Arabia

Photo-editing (retouching portraits and landscapes)

For those of you with an interest in photography, this in-depth course on how to digitally enhance landscape and portrait photographs should improve your work immeasurably. Led by freelance photographer Wisam Zein, the course will cover everything from touching up digital photographs to traditional photo-chemical photographs. This might just be the moment when your hobby becomes something a bit more serious.

When: September 16, 19, 23, 26 and 30

Where: Photography Studio

How much? Dh800

#Endsmalltalk Discussion

I know, I know, this probably sounds like a complete nightmare: a meeting area for strangers where deep and meaningful discussions are encouraged. But it might just turn out to be one of those things that takes you out of your comfort zone and which you never regret. "So... the meaning of life. Thoughts?"

When: September 29

Where: Atrium

How much? Free

Time to end small talk?


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