Composition titled Headspace by Safiyah Al Tayer.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
The Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival (Feb. 4 – Mar. 31) is a vital part of the emirate’s economic diversification through its cultural economy: the festival not only a hub for artists, but is an opportunity for them to network with buyers and for the emirate to showcase its array of tourism offerings.
A growing number of artists have opened spaces within the RAK Economic Zone, which is developing packages to cultivate local talent through artists and photographer licenses; many are now settled into new retail spaces. Festival director Suqrat bin Bisher said: “We try to support people in this endeavour by offering cheaper business licenses than other emirates and we are also inviting a lot of key stakeholders such as banks, big corporations, and hotels, to help artists get support from within the system.
“We want to attract more businesses and connect them to the likes of the RAK Economic Zone, the tourism authority, and really promote this cross-platform collaboration.” In the RAK Economic Zone, artists and creatives alike are able to feed into a diversifying economy. The zone has shown the importance of culture in economic growth, bringing visitors and artists from at home and abroad. CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, Raki Phillips, said: “Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival is one of the most important artistic events in the United Arab Emirates, as it brings together local and international artists, offering visitors a rich and diverse programme.
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“This combination of art and heritage is a major driver of the tourism sector in the emirate and plays an important role in attracting visitors, especially those looking for unique and authentic experiences.” The emirate of Ras Al Khaimah is famous for its rich history dating back 7,000 years as well as for its diverse landscapes - an extra key that attracts a growing and diverse artistic and cultural community. The cultural sector in the UAE’s northern-most emirate employs hundreds of people across the many offerings, including tour guides at the UNESCO world heritage sites, to archaeologists at the National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah and pearl divers at the region’s first cultured farm, Suwaidi Pearl Farms.
This year, the festival, held at the 17th century Jazirah Al Hamra Heritage Village with remote locations in Al Murjan Open Park and Jebel Jais, has hosted over 150 artists from more than 45 countries. As one of three UNESCO World Heritage sites in the emirate, Jazirah Al Hamra offers visitors a glimpse into the emirate’s history. Recent research in the EU found that cultural and creative industries make up 4.5 per cent of the world’s GDP and are forecast to grow 10 per cent per year.
The cultural sector is growing faster than the manufacturing and service industries, among others, and is an important part of the RAK government’s development strategy as it moves into the next 50 years. “It is amongst a cultural landscape that we can foster creativity which is the very heart of how we grow start-ups, entrepreneurship and innovation,” said bin Bisher. “The festival is the coming together of old and new - fostering growth and innovation, while rooted in and inspired by our heritage and engaging the world.” Ras Al Khaimah is centrally located at the modern crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa, with one third of the world’s population within four hours’ flying time, making it an ideal location for businesses to expand into the UAE, the Middle East and Africa region and beyond.
It is known for its diverse landscape, from 64 kilometres of pristine beaches, to terracotta deserts and an imposing mountain backdrop, as well as a rich history. It has many archaeological sites, four of which have been shortlisted on UNESCO’s tentative list of World Heritage Sites. Alongside its natural vistas that have been carved out over millennia, the emirate’s Jebel Jais mountain, which is the highest peak in the UAE, boasts attractions including Jebel Jais Flight, the world’s longest zip line at almost 3 kilometres, and 1484 by Puro, the UAE’s highest restaurant, as well as a host of other adventure pursuits.
The Festival is an initiative of the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, and is an integral part of the Foundation’s mission is to contribute to the cultural development of Ras Al Khaimah. The Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research was instituted in 2009 to aid in the social, cultural, and economic development of Ras Al Khaimah. Established through Emiri decree by His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, it is considered a non-profit, quasi-governmental organisation. The Al Qasimi Foundation seeks to generate a world-class body of research on Ras Al Khaimah and the broader UAE, develop local capacity in the public sector, and engage the community in its work. Initially focused on education, the Foundation has expanded its priority areas to include health and wellness, urban and community development and arts and culture.
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