Dubai's Old Library saved from closure after finding new premises

The emirate's oldest library opens new chapter with Emaar agreement

Dubai, United Arab Emirates- July 12, 2012;  A visitor browses the books at the Old Library  in  Dubai  . (  Satish Kumar / The National ) For Arts & Life
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Dubai’s oldest library has been saved from closure after a deal for new premises was reached.

It was feared that the Old Library in Dubai would be left without a home after the closure of the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre (Ductac), which was announced by The National last week.

The Old Library in Dubai had been operating from Ductac in the Mall of the Emirates, but the theatre closed after failing to find an alternative home.

An agreement has been reached with Emaar to relocate the library to the Gold and Diamond Park.

Michelle Sadoon, vice chairwoman of the Old Library in Dubai, said she was delighted that a new home had been found.

“The Old Library in Dubai has gone through some challenges in 50 years, but we are still standing,” she said. “We put out the feelers once we knew we would have to find new premises and, thankfully, Emaar came forward and made an offer to us.”

The Old Library in Dubai has 2,000 members, and Ms Sadoon assured them that it would be business as usual when the new premises open in October.

“At the moment, it is just core and shell, but we are going to have it set up exactly like it was in Ductac,” she said.

She said it would have been terrible for the community had the library, which is run by a team of 40 to 50 volunteers, to close.

While it was good news for the library, the emirate is still feeling the after-effects of the closure of Ductac. It has left the city without an internationally recognised community arts centre, according to the man who helped to found it.

It was initially expected that Ductac would move to premises in Mirdif City Centre, but that failed to materialise.


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'You were the heart of Dubai': Residents lament loss of Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre


Brian Wilkie, founding chairman of Ductac, said he was not surprised given the resources required to replicate the project elsewhere.

“This is a project that took almost three years to build and the total cost was Dh60 million. When it went up, we were expecting it to last 50 or 60 years, not for it to be closed in 12,” he said. “If you go to any city in the world you will find a community arts centre, but that is no longer the case with Dubai.”

He said that Ductac was created because of a lack of facilities for people interested in community arts in the emirate.

“Dubai is now twice the size it was back then so I don’t see how this can be a good thing. There is nowhere else like it in Dubai, or even in Abu Dhabi, for that matter.”

He also said that the only theatre facility of comparable size would be in the Madinat in Dubai, “but that isn’t the same at all”.

“Ductac was more than just a theatre. It also offered courses in theatre, creative writing, pottery and public speaking.

“When Ductac was created, it was a message from Dubai to the global community that the region was serious about smaller arts. That is no longer the case.”