Many cultural events are regularly held in the UAE. These provide opportunities for artists and professionals to showcase their talents, products, and services; and also allow a wider engagement of the community with cultural ideas and platforms. Some of the notable cultural events and program held in the UAE include:
* Lest We Forget: Lest We Forget is a project made possible due to the generous support of the Salama bint Hamdan Foundation. It is an innovative cultural project that is part digital archive, part oral history and part contemporary artmaking project. The community-based initiative documents and preserves the vernacular photography, oral histories and cultural traditions of earlier generations of UAE Nationals and long-term residents and facilitates an intergenerational dialogue with their descendants through a mix of research, art, storytelling, exhibitions and publications. Over 200 families have contributed to building the archive and more than 300 interviews have been conducted. Lest We Forget promotes a deep understanding of Emirati culture by collecting the personal memories of those with their own knowledge and experience of the culture and heritage of the UAE, and then inviting younger generations to creatively engage with the memories of their elders through the medium of contemporary art. Lest We Forget has hosted a series of exhibitions both internationally and in the UAE since 2014. Each exhibition has been accompanied by the publication of a dedicated book or publication. Lest We Forget also provides internship opportunities to local students.
The project aims to expand locally gathering oral memories, vernacular photography and archival material from families and individuals throughout the seven Emirates. Its goal is to continue building a library of tangible and intangible material that will serve as a central resource for students, researchers and the wider community to access and gather information. The library will also be accessible digitally allowing the material to be shared with the global community who are intrigued to learn more about the culture and heritage of the UAE.
* Zayed Heritage Festival: Named in honour of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding father of the United Arab Emirates, the annual Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival celebrates the United Arab Emirates' cultural inheritance, showcases the rich diversity of its traditions and enlightens visitors about the legacy of the nation's founder. Visitors to the festival can experience Emirati heritage and culture through its arts, crafts, foods and customs. A central feature of the festival is the UAE Heritage District, which hosts exhibitions, events and popular markets reflecting traditional Emirati life. The World Heritage district reflects the architectural heritage, crafts, products and traditional arts of other countries. The festival also features camel races, falconry shows, and a variety of competitions.
* Mother of the Nation Festival: The annual event honors Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the wife of the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE. She has been a pioneer in supporting women's empowerment and rights in the UAE and the region. The Festival creates an entertaining and interactive atmosphere that welcomes families and individuals from all walks of life and supports artistic and cultural performances. The Festival includes a showcase of cultural businesses such as fashion, cultural products, and competitions.
* Liwa Date Festival: The versatile date palm and the date fruit have played an important role in fulfilling the dietary needs of generations of desert communities, including those in the United Arab Emirates. The fruit is highly nutritious, while the trunk, fronds and other parts of the tree were traditionally used in buildings, handicrafts and tools. The Liwa Date Festival highlights these and other important aspects of the date palm. Held in Abu Dhabi, the Liwa Date Festival is an annual event that introduces date producers to modern agricultural practices and facilitates the exchange of expertise on the best ways to produce the highest quality date. The festival also is one of Abu Dhabi's most significant heritage events and tourist attractions that highlights the many ways dates have impacted the cultural, heritage and economic life of the country. It provides a great place for visitors to learn about dates and to sample the most popular date varieties grown in the UAE. The festival's main event is the competition for the best date fruit. Emirati farms vie for the title of best date grower. It also includes lectures on date farming; poetry evenings, and an exhibition space for date farming equipment and date products.
* Alserkal Avenue Programs: Al Serkal Avenue in Dubai develops year-round programming dedicated to fostering arts and culture education and engagement. The annual program is thematically developed to focus on a particular issue, bringing artists and professionals from different fields together to examine a concept through talks, screenings, workshops, Quoz Arts Fest, Art Week at Alserkal Avenue, Social Saturdays, November in Alserkal Avenue, Ramadan at Alserkal Avenue and Road Trips. For example, in 2015-16 the annual thematic program critically examined expanding concepts of community and belonging in Dubai. In 2017, its thematic was built on the interrogation of Dubai's arts community, considering the forms and conditions of artistic work, and the mechanics of art production, dissemination and discourse shaping the region and global art world. In addition, Ramadan at Alserkal Avenue is a month filled with activities, exhibitions, pop-up iftars, musical evenings, and tours. Alserkal Lates take place every Wednesday during Ramadan, during which galleries and creative concepts open late, with tours taking place at night. Moreover, Road Trips takes visitors across the UAE to discover the latest exhibitions, talks, performances, screenings, and activities by art galleries, arts institutions, and cultural initiatives around the country. Road Trips are free and open to everyone.
* Abu Dhabi Classics: The Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation annually brings classical and traditional music to Abu Dhabi, featuring world-class performers and orchestras from around the world. The program incorporates Abu Dhabi Classics, the Emirati Music Series, Umsiyat and the Bait Al Oud Concert Series. The events are held at leading venues across the emirate and include performances, talks, master classes and lectures from some of the most influential contemporary musicians from around the world.
* Abu Dhabi Art: Abu Dhabi Art is an annual event that expands beyond the notion of a traditional art fair, in placing strong emphasis on a diverse public engagement program, including art installations and exhibitions, talks and events that take place in different locations throughout the year. The culmination of this year-long program is the Abu Dhabi Art event in November, which provides an important sales platform for participating galleries whilst also offering these galleries an opportunity to showcase ambitious installations and site specific works by their artists to an audience of over 20,000 visitors.
* Abu Dhabi International Book Fair: Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is a major annual initiative that seeks to develop the regional publishing industry and promote reading in Abu Dhabi and the UAE. It holds many talks, lectures, and cultural activities, and ensures the participation notable thinkers and writers from around the world.
* Global Week: Global Week is an event organized by Manarat Al Saadiyat and celebrates the multicultural city of Abu Dhabi by bringing together various countries showcasing their art-culture-food, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the different cultures. This event was inspired by 'international days' that take place in schools and universities across the country. Through various artistic mediums, the event showcases how culture is preserved despite our ever-changing world. This event does not only entertain the public, but also provides opportunities for the public to learn on each other cultural practices.
* East to East Exhibition: The Exhibition is organized by Manarat Al Saadiyat and is an immersive installation of Moroccan-born, Belgian-raised photographer Mous Lamrabat's culturally-fused fashion photographs. The exhibition fostered dialogue around fashion and fabric in the Middle East from Morocco to the UAE. By showcasing fashion photography through the Middle Eastern perspective, the exhibition allowed the youth of UAE to envision themselves and their own art without having to disconnect from their culture. The unique installation within the exhibition became an attraction for people to photograph themselves within and post on social media and interact with the wider public and virtual sphere.
* Abu Dhabi Culinary Season: Launched in 2019, the Abu Dhabi Culinary Season is an annual six-week foodie affair featuring consumer events, interactive dining experiences, and city-wide promotions from casual to fine dining, while hosting internationally acclaimed chefs and restaurants for pop-ups across the emirate. The Season, was created to highlight the wide variety of culinary offerings in the UAE capital.
* Ataya Exhibition: Ataya (means 'giving' in Arabic) is and it is an exhibition for charity organized by Emirates Red Crescent under the Patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa Bint Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Nahyan. The annual Ataya Exhibition - since inception a short 5 years back - has quickly become a landmark in Abu Dhabi's cultural calendar, where a wide range of fresh and distinct fashion wear, jewellery, home accessories and furniture is exhibited and sold. The exhibits are by talented designers and artists from the UAE and the region, with each being picked individually by the Higher Committee of the Exhibition.
* Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival: Established in 2013, the Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival is a non-profit initiative designed to showcase, in a community setting, the talent and work of local and international artists, photographers, and filmmakers. The Festival initially began as a three-day event in 2013, and has grown to become a two month festival that includes a month of programmed events and an eight-week visual arts exhibition. The newest chapter in the Festival's history, launched to much acclaim in 2019, is a large-scale, outdoor exhibition in Al Jazira Al Hamra Heritage Village, which was modelled after La Gacilly Photo Festival in France.
* Art Dubai: Art Dubai is one of the world's leading international art fairs, presenting 90 galleries from more than 40 countries. Art Dubai, founded in 2007 and going into its 14th edition, offers a unique art fair proposition of commercial and non-profit cross-disciplinary platforms, and a commitment to cultivating a culture of discovery, education and thought leadership. Featuring three gallery sections (Contemporary, Modern, Bawwaba), the fair drives meaningful engagement with the rich cultural heritage and contemporary art practices of the region and extending to territories across what is known as "The Global South", including the Middle East, South and South East Asia, the African continent, and Latin America. Art Dubai has been the launch pad and development platform of the successful careers of artists, curators and art professionals, and continues to celebrate art excellence through its extended fair programming, artist commissions and initiatives.
* Hay Festival: Hay Festival is an international literary festival bringing together readers and writers from different walks of life for an international celebration of arts and science. The Festival was first launched 30 years ago in Wales and has since expanded to run festivals around the world. All the festivals share the same culture of generosity and celebration while remaining rooted in the local communities and literary traditions of the host region. Hay Festival Abu Dhabi, held for the first time in 2020, brought together 99 international writers and artists from 20 countries in talks and performances held over four days. Conversations at Hay Festival Abu Dhabi took place in 7 languages.
* Sharjah Architecture Triennial: Sharjah Architecture Triennial is the first major platform for architecture and urbanism in the Middle East, North and East Africa, and South and Southeast Asia. It serves as a space for critical reflection and supports research that situates the built environment within its complex social, economic, and cultural contexts. The Triennial invites architectural practitioners, students, scholars, practitioners, policy makers, and members of the general public to enrich international discourses by engaging in them from a regional perspective. The event's inaugural edition, Rights of Future Generations, took place in 2019 and looked at how buildings and urban spaces can respond to contemporary conditions, including climate change.
* Sharjah International book Fair (SIBF): Sharjah International Book Fair, launched in 1982, is one of the world's largest international book fairs. The 11-day event runs over 400 intellectual, cultural and artistic activities every year, including writing workshops, poetry readings and book signings, and has established awards programs designed to encourage and promote the literary community. The 39th edition of the SIBF will be held in November 2020 in a hybrid online-offline format and will be a celebration of literary and cultural diversity with 73 countries represented by 1,024 publishers. The 2020 event will showcase more than 80,000 new titles in over 30 languages.
There are many cultural events held in the UAE and they have many visitors as the statistics below show:
* Lest we Forget: approximately 100,000 visitors visited nine exhibitions.
* Abu Dhabi International Book Fair: approximately 270,000 visitors and 1,261 exhibitors annually over a 7 day period
* Mother of the Nation Festival: approximately 160,000 visitors annually over a 12 day period
* Abu Dhabi Culinary Season: approximately 100,000 visitors annually over a 6 week period
* Abu Dhabi Art: approximately 20,000 visitors and 40 galleries annually over a 4 day period
* Abu Dhabi Classics: approximately 15,000 annually over an 8 month period all around the UAE
* East to East Exhibition: In 2019 had 4,463 visitors
* Global Week: In 2019 had 916 visitors
* Art Dubai: In 2019 had over 28,000 visitors from around the world
* Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival: In 2020 had 13,000 visitors
The data above demonstrate that the UAE has become a successful destination for cultural events.
There are many events held regularly in the UAE and there is more variety in the types of cultural events implemented in the country to ensure the engagement of different segments of society with the arts and culture.
As a next step, the UAE will focus on studying the impact of these events on developing and nurturing home-grown talent in the cultural and creative sector, and putting a plan to ensure maximum benefit for talent and small-and-medium-creative businesses.