Art: in the UAE public eye

By Anna Seaman

In the shadow of the world’s tallest building, it is a little difficult to compete for attention. However, Emaar, the developers of the Burj Khalifa, have spent the three years since it opened filling the surrounding vicinity with a great variety of pieces of public art that are arguably taking their equal share of the limelight – at least for those of whom the enormous spike in the sky is an everyday sight.

Life Size Andalucian I, the newest sculpture in Downtown Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National

Life Size Andalucian I, the newest sculpture in Downtown Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National

In recent weeks, a mysterious baseball-bat-shaped sculpture has been erected on the boulevard that art enthusiasts say looks like a giant shawarma underneath its tarpaulin wrapping. Emaar is remaining tight-lipped as to what lies underneath it but say all will be revealed “very soon”.

The newest piece that is, however, accessible to viewers is Life Size Andalucian I by the South African sculptor Vincent Da Silva. Located in Burj Plaza overlooking the Dubai Fountain, the sculpture is almost two metres in height, capturing the power and energy of the horse it depicts, and reflects the great passion the people of the UAE have for equestrian culture.

Mohamed Alabbar, the chairman of Emaar Properties, said the piece is “not only a marvel in figurative sculpting but is also a tribute to the Arab world’s equestrian heritage and will appeal to all visitors”. More info

Which is the best spot to watch Dubai Fountain show from?

By Majorie van Leijen

“You may experience some water spray from The Dubai Fountain show,” reads a sign board placed in front of the lower part of the bridge extending over the Dubai Mall Lake.

The addition to the existing bridge connecting Dubai Mall to Souk al Bahar was completed with the end of Ramadan. (Majorie Van Leijen)

The addition to the existing bridge connecting Dubai Mall to Souk al Bahar was completed with the end of Ramadan. (Majorie Van Leijen)

The lower part forms an addition to the existing bridge connecting Dubai Mall to Souk al Bahar, and was completed with the end of Ramadan.

“The construction is part of Emaar’s ongoing efforts to enhance visitor experience in Downtown Dubai,” said an Emaar spokesperson.

During of Dubai Fountain show times, which is every 30 minutes during evening hours, the area around the lake is quickly filled up with hundreds of spectators.

The bridge is one of the popular locations from which the spectacle is viewed. As soon as the show is over the crowd disperses, and crossing the bridge becomes close to impossible.

With the extension of the bridge at least one extra lane has been guaranteed.
The addition to the bridge was built without elevation, so all passengers, including those in wheelchair or with strollers can cross it, and is located at the lakeside, hence the splash warning.

“People can get wet when they stand there. The fountains will probably be adjusted, but for now these warning signs have been posted,” explained an Emaar source.  More info

Join the Dubai Fashion Street Catwalk

By Staff

Ready for your model moment at DSF 2013? We’re excited about the Dubai Fashion Street Catwalk that takes place on Saturday 26 January at the Promenade alongside The Dubai Fountain as part of the fest celebrations this year.

Dubai Fashion Street Catwalk

Dubai Fashion Street Catwalk

There’ll be over 100 professional and real-life models – male/female/children/teens – and you’ll also catch fashion from stores in The Dubai Mall on the ramp… think Kate Spade, Bebe, Warehouse, Oasis, Stradivarius and more. Plus, international DJs Twins on Deck will be flown over from South Africa to keep the crowd rocking through the afternoon along with a special guest presenter.

If you’re gorgeous and want to be one of the catwalk models, just visit the Dubai Fashion Street Catwalk Model Scout stand in The Dubai Mall this weekend (10 to 12 January) or email for more information. Each participating model receives a free gift bag! See you there!

INFO: Dubai Fashion Street Catwalk, 2.30pm to 5.30pm, Saturday 26 January, the Promenade alongside The Dubai Fountain; More info

PHOTOS: DHL hosts spectacular Dubai Fountain light show


DHL Express has highlighted its ‘most ambitious advertising campaign to date’ at The Dubai Fountain.

 DHL highlights its 'most ambitious advertising campaign' in Dubai.

DHL highlights its 'most ambitious advertising campaign' in Dubai.

The global logistics company premiered an eye-catching light show in Downtown Dubai on 20th October 2011, which was choreographed in dramatic style to a specially reworked version of the Motown classic ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’.

The song is also the soundtrack to DHL’s new campaign, now airing across the Middle East region. The special display will run every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening for a month. More info

Dubai Fountain: A splash of notes

By Sharmila Dhal, Senior Reporter  XPRESS

Many of you would’ve visited the Dubai Fountain this Eid. But did you know how it works? Here’s the backstage story on how the rich repertoire of performances has been put together.

Dubai Fountain

Dubai Fountain

Dubai: As the world’s largest performing fountain, the Dubai Fountain in Downtown Dubai has attracted over 47 million visitors since its launch in May 2009.

If you have watched the shows one after the other, you will have noticed that the music accompanying the spectacle changes with each performance, thus reflecting a rich repertoire of classical and contemporary strains.

While the creators of the choreography have remained unsung heroes so far, they will now earn royalties every time their music is used. This follows a first-of-its-kind music rights agreement recently signed by developer Emaar and the non-profit PRS for Music and SACEM – who represent composers, songwriters and musicians – to license the public performance of music accompanying the fountain. And it has been no mean feat putting them all together, as XPRESS found out behind the scenes.

The main control room of the Dubai Fountain is located on the top level of neighbouring Dubai Mall. The choreography of each performance of the fountain is first created on a unique computer simulation programme called VirtualWET that, in real time, simulates the appearance of the water, including the effects of gravity and wind on water sprays.

Room service is an ‘afterthought’

By Tabitha Barda

Although room service is another valuable marketing platform for a hotel’s F&B offering, it is often neglected, leading to guests ordering in takeaway from fast food chains instead, according to five-star hotel executive chefs.

Executive chef of Taj Hotel, Joe Vock, says room service is too often an afterthought.

Executive chef of Taj Hotel, Joe Vock, says room service is too often an afterthought.

“For a lot of hotels the room service is an afterthought,” said Joe Vock, executive chef of the Taj Hotel in Dubai. “It’s often prepared in a small environment and the menu is very limited, but there should be the same choice as there is in other hotel F&B outlets.”

“Room service should be run like another outlet,” agreed Anston Fivaz, executive chef of Dubai Ibn Battuta Gate hotel. “People judge you by it. The food has to be of restaurant standard in terms of service, presentation and quality.”

Charging a premium price for room service is a thing of the past, said Fivaz.

“In the old days there was always a service charge included in the room service but with today’s economy as it is, it’s just another revenue generator and needs to be treated like any other restaurant. It needs to still be competitive and on a par with the other outlets.”

Furthermore, Jean-Luc Morcellet, executive chef of The Palace – The Old Town hotel in Dubai warned “If you are too expensive the guests will go shopping. Or they will even order in takeaway.”

It’s not uncommon to see hotel guests bringing in fast food produce from chains such as KFC and MacDonalds in preference to the hotel room service, said Morcellet. “The problem is that people react to brand. They don’t want your gourmet burger, they want MacDonalds.”

Morcellet said he is working on a new room service menu that will be easy finger food, packaged and delivered in the style of a takeaway in an attempt to meet this demand: “You have to give the guests what they want because it’s too easy to go somewhere else here, he said.

When done well, room service has the potential to work as an effective marketing tool, said Christophe Prud’homme, executive chef of Al Bustan Rotana in Dubai: “Room service is a tool to tease your guest to come down and try your restaurant.”

“It’s this whole concept of making sure that your guests in-house stay in-house and you maximize your revenue,” added Fivaz.

Bits and Bleeps: An Interview with composer Christopher Tin


Last month “Baba Yetu” became the first song created for a video game to win a Grammy. Composer Christopher Tin believes that “writing good music is the same no matter what you’re writing or what you’re writing for,” but this win has been a long time coming for the games industry.

It’s often been ignored, but now with some universities offering courses in game music composition, the industry seems a long way from 8-bit chiptunes and the bleep-bloop of Pong. “Writing music for video games wasn’t even a blip on the radar when I was in school – the focus was on writing music for film. No one even acknowledged it.” Now game producers are moving away from in-house composers; they’re enlisting the likes of Harry Gregson-Williams – big names in Hollywood.

“The sound that the composers bring to their game is as important an element of the brand identity as the look of the characters, and the music has the possibility of travelling to areas that the games themselves wouldn’t reach. For example, with Baba Yetu I’ve brought the Civilization franchise to markets where they have no interest in video games.” The classical music market is just one example. Baba Yetu is also featured in the Dubai Fountain, a giant interactive display that gets millions of visitors every year. “It’s created a lot of exposure for the game.”

Christopher Tin’s album, Calling All Dawns, features the work of over 200 musicians from around the world, singing in 12 languages, and he has grand plans for the future. “It all ties into this philosophy that writing music is the same no matter what you’re writing for – I would love to write a ballet and work with a dance company, for example. I would love to write another musical. I would love to write some country music. The skills that you have as a composer can be transplanted to any market – if you can just make good decisions about music, it doesn’t matter whether it’s being sung or played on a fiddle.”

He’s currently working on an electronica project that draws on his study of literature. “We’ve taken a bunch of Romantic era and Renaissance era poems by people like Christina Rosetti, John Donne, Thomas Carew, and we turn these into sort of dark electronic songs with a trip-hop, Gothic influence to them. I’m a big fan of delving into the literary classics of the past and resurrecting them in some way musically. I think that’s a lot of fun.”

I wonder if he finds it more fun than making music for films and games. Though technology has progressed to allow game composers a lot of freedom, there are limitations to both mediums. “You have to set aside your ego in a lot of cases. Of course you want to write music that is the most dramatic or beautiful or florid, but the most important thing that music can do in the context of the film or video game is to compliment the film or video game itself. So if that means the music that you’re writing is just a low drone on cellos and basses then that’s what you’ve got to do.”

Fountains of Bellagio continue to amaze visitors


A crowd of people gathers at the Bellagio lake’s edge, watching as a spherical puff of white fog rises above the surface, dissipating quickly in the afternoon sun.

It’s only a routine test, a small demonstration of the way fog is created during the Fountains of Bellagio show. Though it’s over within a few seconds, the people watch and wait, hoping the lake will offer up a majestic treat in the form of dancing water and swelling music.

The slightest hint of activity — a boat, bubbling water, daily equipment tests — is enough to draw a curious audience, all willing to direct their focus on the eight-acre lake. It has been that way since the attraction debuted with Bellagio’s opening in 1998, fountain operators say.

“You come out here any night and people are lined up to see it,” says Gene Bowling, Bellagio’s front feature manager. “It touches people emotionally in different ways. In my opinion, it has probably eclipsed the ‘Welcome to (Fabulous) Las Vegas’ sign in popularity and recognition.”

Indeed, in a town where a decade can be a lifetime and newer and younger is almost always better, the fountains at Bellagio endure. Thirteen years after its introduction, the feature has become an icon recognized around the world, so popular that some tourists plan vacations to see it, says Jim Doyle, director of new technologies for WET Design, the company that designed and built it.

Even Bellagio’s neighbors, the Jockey Club and the Strip’s newest addition, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, advertise some hotel rooms and restaurants based on the view of Bellagio’s fountains.

It’s an unusual marketing approach for a competitor but not surprising considering the universal appeal of the fountains, says David Schwartz, director of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ Center for Gaming Research. “I think that whole image of water in the middle of the desert is something that really touches people in an emotional way.”

Doyle says he knew early on that the feature would be a crowd favorite when he saw it in action. Its versatility — the fountains can be programmed to move to any music – and its sheer size allow it to make a lasting impression.

“The first time we fired (the fountains), when that wall of water went up, I knew that it was going to be a hit,” he recalls. “I had never seen anything like that before, and I had seen a lot. That was so impressive, the image is still burned in my mind.”

By today’s standards, it seems simple. But at the time the project started, 1995, the technology was cutting-edge, Doyle says. Dancing fountains had been done before, but nowhere near the scale of the proposed attraction at Bellagio. Up to that point, WET Design’s largest project was one-fifth the size of the Bellagio fountains, and the company was considered a leader in the industry. The company hadn’t designed a feature of at least the same size until last year, when it built a fountain attraction 50 percent larger in Dubai.

“Yeah, it was so cutting edge we weren’t sure if the damned thing was going to work,” Doyle says, laughing.

Bellagio’s attraction consists of white lights, a fog system and four types of devices that shoot water into the air at varying heights. One of those devices — basically robots called oarsmen — is the only one that can make the water change directions. That was brand new technology built specifically for Bellagio, Doyle says.

“The biggest problem we faced was really a question of scale and the new technology of the robots,” Doyle says. “It was basically, let’s build something for the first time and then build 200 of them to operate on opening day.”

WET Design doesn’t talk about the cost of the project, Doyle says, but they do like to repeat an anecdote he attributes to Steve Wynn. Supposedly, Wynn joked that “he started out with a hotel with a water feature in front and he ended up with a water feature with a hotel behind it.”

News reports have claimed the price tag was as little as $40 million and as much as $75 million. Even though it went over budget, Doyle says, the attraction has most likely paid for itself many times over, even when maintenance is included.

And operating the feature is no small or cheap undertaking. A staff of 30 engineers with various backgrounds maintains and operates the fountains daily. All are dive certified, Doyle says, because much of their work requires them to be in or under water.

A giant workshop at the north end of Bellagio houses every tool and piece of equipment the staff needs for the attraction’s upkeep. There’s a machine shop for building or repairing — the staff built a barge several years ago to use for their maintenance sweeps of the lake — a dive shop, a docking area and several rooms full of pumps, holding tanks, a water softening system and spare parts.

Diving Concepts, a scuba equipment company, made a dive suit of Kevlar for the fountain crew so that they could move their arms freely underwater. And there’s a lot of water, more than 22 million gallons of it, which is recycled and reused in the lake. That’s one reason shows are canceled on windy days, Bowling says.

“If you lose water, being in the middle of the desert, you’re not going to get that back,” he says.

There are 5,000 lights with bulbs that need to be changed on an ongoing basis.

The system consists of four kinds of devices that shoot water.

The oarsmen, all 208 of them, make the water “dance” up to 77 feet high. Each is individually programmable so the direction of the water can be changed anytime. There are 798 minishooters that shoot water 100 feet high; 192 supershooters that shoot water 240 feet into the air and 16 extreme-shooters, capable of projecting a wall of water as high as 460 feet. The “fog” is made with softened water that is fed at a high pressure through pipes that lead out to the lake.

The fountains can be choreographed to move and “dance” to any music. Currently, there are 29 different shows, each set to its own music, including eight holiday songs. Classical composers, Johnny Mathis, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra are among the artists represented. The music, which is rarely changed, is piped through 183 speakers around the lake.

Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at or 702-380-4564.

A souq with a view

By Deepa Narwani (ABOUT DUBAI)

At the Dubai Mall waterfront, stone steps beckon you to cross the bridge and step inside the rustic Souq Al Bahar. Albeit not a traditional souq, it does not disappoint one with its modern-day outlets.

Souq Al Bahar

Souq Al Bahar

Souq Al Bahar, which means the market of the sailor, derives its name from both its traditional souq architecture of natural stone corridors, high archways and subdued lighting and its unique seaside location on the Burj Lake. Its wind towers, wooden screens, and fortresses recreate an old-fashioned souq experience. The cultural theme flows throughout the mall, with boutique shops showcasing the Arabian heritage through a mix of authentic handicrafts, fashion and accessories.

On the perimeter of the souq are an assortment of restaurants on two levels, most with outdoor seating and a view of the Dubai Fountain. It’s an exciting atmosphere which benefits from the pedestrian access to the mall boardwalk and hotels.

National Iranian Carpets sells high-quality handmade rugs at the souq. Arvind Akshn, in charge of the shop, said: “We sell handmade Iranian carpets. The business is quite satisfactory here and has picked up in the recent months.”

He added that mostly Europeans and Russians like to buy these carpets. “Tribal designs in different colours are the most popular carpets. People usually prefer medium- and small-sized rugs as they are convenient to take back home.”

The souq features over 100 shops, some of which are still to be opened, in an eclectic retail mix that includes 22 restaurants, cafés and lounges that line its waterfront promenade. The extensive food and beverage offer makes Souq Al Bahar an ideal leisure spot for friends and families to come together. The interior features Turkish lanterns hanging from the ceiling to give to it the old-world charm.

Al fresco dining at any of these restaurants offers the city’s best views of Burj Dubai and the Burj Lake.

Toshkhana offers a range of carpets that include delicate handmade silk and cotton rugs, costing anything from Dh1,500 to Dh15,000 and sturdier woollen carpets priced between Dh800 and Dh1,500. For something a little more unusual, embroidered velvet-trimmed rugs with decorative jewel effects are on sale for around Dh2,500. Jalil Haqim, store manager, said: “The store specialises in authentic crafts such as garments and furnishing items.”

Jalil added that the business has been a little quiet and the store caters to both Emiratis as well as tourists. “The Europeans specially like buying the Pashmina shawls.”

The souq’s bridge is a hotspot for tourists capturing Burj Khalifa or the Dancing Fountains. After the show, Souq Al Bahar is their destination and is crowded in the evenings.

A laser show on the façade of the souq also takes place in the evenings. At other times, it is lit by a soft purple light.

At the second entrance of the souq, there is a kiosk selling colourful sand bottles. The stall called Souvenirs of Dubai attracts maximum attention as tourists stop by to click pictures of Mohammed Yousuf Antawee, the artist who finishes painting the souvenirs in less than five minutes.

Mohammed Saif, salesperson, said: “The raml (sand) that we sell is from the UAE. The bottle prices range from Dh50 to Dh1,000 depending on the size. Tourists and locals both buy souvenirs but Japanese tourists buy them the most. We sell almost 1,000 pieces on weekends.”

Souq Al Bahar is also home to the popular Farmers’ Market that takes place every Friday from 10am to 5pm. It is worth a visit to buy locally grown, freshly picked, seasonal fruit and veggies. All proceeds of the sale go directly to the farmers with no middlemen involved. It is the perfect place to buy organic and fresh produce at reasonable prices.

Rebecca Oain, a visitor to the souq, found the backdrop very pleasant. She said: “It is tastefully done keeping the Arab culture in mind. I bought a pretty Pashmina from one of the stores. The souq is a little empty but the restaurants are quite nice.”

The souq also features a Spinney’s market, a pharmacy and a couple of gelato shops.

Ideally located near the iconic developments of Downtown, this signature souq is both a tourist destination and a lifestyle shopping mall offering all conveniences of a community mall in a cultural and leisurely setting.

Grammy for Dubai Fountain song


The next time you watch The Dubai Fountain sway to the rhythm of “Baba Yetu” in rapt attention, make a mental note that you are listening to a Grammy Award winning song.

The Dubai Fountain at Dowtown Dubai (SUPPLIED)

The Dubai Fountain at Dowtown Dubai (SUPPLIED)

Composer Christopher Tin’s Swahili song, which also sets the theme tempo for the videogame, “Civilization IV,” won the Grammy this year for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists.

The song, from the album “Calling All Dawns,” made history for being the first video gaming music to be nominated and to win the prestigious music award.

“Calling All Dawns” also won the Best Classical Crossover Album at the Grammys.

“Baba Yetu” was arranged by Tin along with the Soweto Choir and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Ahmad Al Matrooshi, Managing Director, Emaar Properties, said: “Much before it caught international attention, the song featured in The Dubai Fountain, and has captivated millions of visitors ever since. We will continue to introduce cutting edge musical performances that add to the marvellous experience that the world’s tallest performing fountain assures in Downtown Dubai.”

Nestled at the foot of the towering Burj Khalifa, other songs performed by The Dubai Fountain include “Sama Dubai,” a tribute to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and another Emirati composition, “Insh Al Aldar”, associated with festive solidarity and dancing, reflecting the UAE’s cultural traditions.

At over 900 ft (275 metres) in length, The Dubai Fountain has been designed by Californian based WET, also the creators of the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas.