Go here: The Special Olympic World Games Abu Dhabi
Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi finally land in the UAE capital. Can they herald an “inclusion revolution”?
So, after much fanfare and preparation, they are finally here: Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi (14–21 March). The world’s largest humanitarian sporting event sees more than 7,000 odds-defying, intellectually disabled athletes descend upon the UAE capital to compete against 170 countries in 24 sports. Hopes, unsurprisingly, are high: not just for the competitors but for the broader significance of the games in the Middle East and beyond. The point? To foster what’s been described as an “inclusion revolution” that attempts to use sports to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities; described, since 2017, as “the determined ones”. But can attitudes change? Well, with support from the highest ranks of government, it’s certainly the hope in Abu Dhabi, where 2019 has been declared the Year of Tolerance. Launching Walk Unified, a weekly walk through the city’s Umm Al Emarat Park to promote inclusivity, in January, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan said he hoped the legacy of the Special Olympics would carry “the important message of inclusivity, humanitarianism and respect for all people, regardless of age or ability”. Either way, with the biggest opening ceremony in the Special Olympics 50-year history set for 14 March, the games are likely to be an epic moment for inclusivity worldwide. So, let the games begin!
See this: Zimoun at NYU Art Gallery
There’s more than meets the eye – quite literally – at Swiss artist Zimoun’s (pictured) new exhibition at NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery (until 1 June). The acclaimed soundscapist is known for his unusual “sound sculptures” – audio-visual installations that fuse analogue motors to everyday objects such as cardboard boxes to construct immersive multisensory experiences. It’s the first time the artist has shown in the UAE, so definitely one to see – and hear.
Stay here: Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort
With its front-row seat on Saadiyat Island’s prime beach and spectacular views of the Arabian Gulf, Jumeirah’s newest resort is a real stunner. But that’s not its only USP; this beachside bolthole is being hailed as the group’s first eco-smart opening. Besides preserving the island’s sand dunes, the resort is clamping down on single-use plastics: all guests are offered filtered still and sparkling water via personal reusable bottles, while straws are banned. All the better to protect this patch of paradise.
Eat here: Keki Japanese Bakery
With a stall at Umm Al Emarat Park’s weekly Ripe Market (Saturday, 3–9pm) and a branch at Al Bateen Park, this popular chainlet does Japanese-style treats to perfection. Our must-try is the matcha mochi (rice cakes) or the baked cheese tarts (pictured).
See this: Cirque du Soleil
Cue the gasps of shock and delight: this month, Cirque du Soleil raises its iconic big top on Yas Island to stage what’s been billed as the Montreal super-circus’s biggest production yet: Bazzar (6–16 March). Expect plenty of awe-inspiring stunts from acrobats, dancers and musicians in the colourful spectacle, which – in a neat bit of metafiction – tells the tale of a maestro and his troupe as they prepare for a show. The circus extravaganza is part of Abu Dhabi’s annual Mother of the Nation Festival (12–23 March), which commemorates Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak through a series of family-friendly activities. “We are committed to developing the entertainment and artistic offering of the popular festival, in order to elevate it further,” says Saif Saeed Ghobash, Undersecretary at DCT Abu Dhabi. In addition to Bazzar, the festival also features concerts, as well as an educational pavilion, which celebrates the contribution of women in the UAE.