Doors finally open on Dubai Pakistan cultural venue

The new venue will be used to host a range of events from weddings to cultural shows, conferences and sporting events.

The auditorium at the Pakistan Association Dubai, which opened on Sunday. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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DUBAI// It may have been more than two decades in the making, but the doors have opened on the Dh8 million cultural auditorium at the Pakistan Association Dubai.

The new venue will be used to host events from weddings to cultural shows, conferences and sporting events.

Plans for a cultural hub for the Pakistani Community in Bur Dubai emerged in the early 1990s but financial uncertainty meant those were shelved until 2009.

Since then, progress has been slow, and it has taken a further six years to complete a project that has been funded by the community, for the community, through donations.

The completed venue in Oud Metha was opened in a ceremony attended by Pakistan’s ambassador in the UAE, Asif Durrani, consul general Javed Khattak and Arif Naqvi, founder and group chief executive of Abraaj Capital. It can seat 650 people and has an audio-video system and an e-library.

Maha Khan, an English teacher at the British Council, said the new auditorium is a big improvement on the limited facilities available in Dubai.

“I met the association leaders recently and they were very professional,” she said.

“They have been working hard to create something for the Pakistani community in Dubai to feel proud of. I have been to other, similar hubs in the UAE and they have been a bit run down, but this is very welcoming, and bright.

“I would like to offer free English lessons there from time to time. It is good to have a place where families can go.”

Officials from Dubai’s Community Development Authority, Dubai Cares and Dubai Police also joined the unveiling celebrations.

General secretary of the PAD, Dr Faisel Ikram, said: “It was long awaited, but I am proud to be part of such historic moments.

“On this occasion, a one-minute silence was observed in memory of our UAE brothers who laid down their lives in Yemen. It was to show on behalf of the Pakistani community not only to act as remembrance, but a pledge to guard the honour of these heroes.”

The facility is to be run by a business development manager with decisions made by a board. Members of the PAD can hire the facility for a nominal fee.

Dr Ikram said it was the only venue of its kind to serve large-scale events for the Pakistani community and hoped it would bring compatriots together regularly.

The PAD hosts a senior citizens’ club and it is hoped the new auditorium would encourage others to use the faculty and further strengthen community links.

Membership is open to men over 60 and for women over 50. However, to be eligible, the senior citizens must have valid UAE resident status and have joined the Pakistan Association Dubai.

They are offered free health check-ups, nutrition and fitness advice, as well as opportunities for regular social gatherings.

At the opening ceremony, Mr Naqvi said: “I would like to congratulate the Pakistani community on achieving the milestone of completing the Pakistan auditorium and offer much appreciation to the executive committee of PAD.”

nwebster@thenational.ae