by Sara Al Mulla
  • 3 minute read
  • June 28, 2021
The Literary Muse: Sara Al Mulla On How The UAE Has Reinvented Itself As A Creative Community

You could easily lose yourself in a city that feels almost storybook-like in its beauty. Such cities have fused creativity into the fabric of their urban beauty and being, inspiring revelers to bask in the serendipitous thrill of discovering a world of cultures, artistic expressions, and narratives. The creative class is most sought-after in our times, from connoisseurs, artists, and gourmands to writers, designers, and aesthetes. They make a city bewitching. Tokyo, Venice and Paris have established themselves as creative cities. Explorers are spoilt for choice when perusing their exhilarating calendars that boast art exhibitions, book fairs, literary events, live performances, and film festivals. In fact, during the 17th and 18th centuries, European aristocratic families would send their children to major cultural cities, such as Paris, Venice, or Rome, as part of seeking education in the arts.

Venice’s spellbinding beauty has attracted creatives since the 7th Century, praising its much-admired reputation for freedom of expression, tolerance and hospitality. Patronage of the arts was always a priority and led to the opening of the first theater and coffee house, and a flourishing publishing industry in Europe.

In 1844, English author Charles Dickens took a year-long sojourn from his writing career and moved his family to Italy. Upon his arrival to Venice, he was instantly bedazzled by its surreal beauty. When he published his travelogue, Pictures from Italy, he vividly described Venice as “a place of such surpassing beauty, and such grandeur, that all the rest was poor and faded, in comparison with its absorbing loveliness.” Paris is another eponymous culture jewel and is one of the most visited cities in the world. Travelers looking for a refined experience, blending the ethereal and epicurean, are in for a treat. Interestingly, the city underwent an imaginative urban renaissance during the mid-19th Century to attain its status today. At the time, Emperor Napoléon III appointed a new prefect of Seine, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, and together, they envisioned a more beautiful Paris.

The beautification project included expansive boulevards, enchanting squares, magnificent theaters, whimsical gardens and green spaces, architectural façades with chic balconies, and the iconic Parisian street lamps. American author Ernest Hemingway once told a friend, “If you’re lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

The UAE has been reinventing itself as an abode for a creative community. In recent years, it has inaugurated a Suite of world-class live performances, film festivals, art exhibitions, literary events, and book fairs. The Saadiyat Cultural District in Abu Dhabi is home to a host of avant-garde museums, such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim, Manarat Al Saadiyat, and Zayed National Museum.

Dubai also enjoys a distinct cultural presence. The Dubai art season that runs from February until April enjoys an exhilarating calendar of cultural events, such as Art Dubai, the Emirates Festival of Literature, and the Middle East Films and Comic Conference. Dubai Opera has attracted the finest of live performances since its opening. Recently, Dubai announced the Al Quoz Creative Zone project as a new hotspot for creative businesses. Sharjah has been hailed as a UNESCO ‘Cultural Capital of the Arab World’ and boasts a dazzling menu consisting of an international book fair, art education programs, and live performances. As the UAE embraces creative communities, we’ll discover fusions of cultures, identities, and artistic expressions that will continue to elevate our human experience.

Sara Al Mulla is an Emirati civil servant with a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature from the University of Roehampton. Visit and follow @amorelicious on Instagram

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