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Interview with Mr. Faisal Al Sheikh, Events Section Head of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority

Search ASIA Travel Tips .com Latest Travel News Send to Friend Thursday, 26 June 2008

The buzz of excitement which has been building for weeks from Abu Dhabi to Fujairah, from Al Ain to Dubai has finally reached a crescendo; Summer in Abu Dhabi today opens its doors for the very first time.

The festival, which joint organisers Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC) promise will provide a great day out for the whole family, begins at 12pm on June 26th at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. Spread of 13,000sqm of fully air-conditioned space the event consists of 7 unique themed islands (Discovery, Imagination, Adventure, Fun, Creativity, Action and Heritage & Culture).

The following is a recent interview with Mr. Faisal Al Sheikh, Events Section Head of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority.

Q: Where did the Summer in Abu Dhabi concept originate? The vision of the ADTA, under the direction of His Excellency Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nayhan is to extend the tourism season in the capital to a full twelve months. In order for us to achieve this we knew that we must stage something special and it must be staged in an indoor environment. Abu Dhabi is blessed with the worlds most modern indoor exhibition and event venue so the location was not an issue, we just needed to decide what we wanted to stage.

Specialists from the ADTA and ADNEC looked at the most successful public festivals around the world. We looked at things we wanted to take on board from these attractions and we looked at things that we knew could be done better and we sourced unique attractions from all over the world and asked them to come to Abu Dhabi for the Summer.

We then thought about how these very different attractions could be tied together to form one event, which is representative of the unique nature of Abu Dhabi, this is when the concept of Island Zones which are reminiscent of the islands of Abu Dhabi was first discussed.

Q: Can you tell us more about these island zones? Summer in Abu Dhabi will offer seven uniquely-themed islands spread throughout 13,000 square meters of indoor air-conditioned ADNEC space. Each island provides a different set of attractions with a different flavour and theme.

Discovery Islands main attraction is Robot Zoo, a 1,000-square-meter interactive educational exhibition that will use animatronics to show animal dynamics and movements. The exhibition, which has won many international awards, has been seen in more than 20 science centres in North America and Singapore by more than four million visitors. The Island will also include the Optical Illusion Gallery, which will contain various mind and skill tests and leave guests believing the impossible; and a fully interactive three-dimensional animated character called Solar the Turtle who can talk, move, and express emotions.

Imagination Islands will contain an inflatable structure with a beanbag seating area to watch episodes from the SpaceToons TV Channel in English and Arabic. It will also include Woody, a fully-animated singing and storytelling tree with interactive animation controls that will deliver stories to children seated on flower cushions. A unique Ultra-Violet puppet theatre never before seen in the UAE and a Childrens Theatre showcasing well-loved fairy tale characters in fun-filled musicals round off the fantasy-inspired Island.

Adventure Island will be headlined by the 1,000-square-meter travelling interactive exhibition from London called Science of Spying. Sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Police, the educational exhibition will enable participants to explore the skills, abilities, and technologies used by real undercover agents. The Island will also include a model racetrack with camera-equipped remote-controlled cars which can be controlled by up to four competing drivers via a special console. Other attractions include the Lazer Maze and the Interactive Adventure Cinema, where guests will sit on motion-based themed seats as they interact with simulated Caribbean; wild west; enchanted forest; and underwater adventure environments.

Fun Island will offer various traditional youth-oriented activities such as a bungee trampoline; river and train rides; an inflatable play centre; a cups-and-saucers ride; spill the milk and ring and bucket tossing booths; dance machines; and popular video games.

Creativity Island will showcase various creative talents such as juggling; stilt walking; acrobatics; face painting; and tight rope walking. An Island highlight is the Capital Centre-sponsored Build a City exhibition, an interactive educational event where children can learn the basics of construction in a fun-filled setting.

Other attractions are the Arts & Crafts corner featuring painting, jewellery making and pot painting, and the Dance Heads section, where children have an opportunity to captivate audiences with their dance performances.

Action Island is divided into Urban Area, Sports Zone and the Etisalat Chill Out Zone. The Urban Area will feature skill demonstrations by freestyle BMX bikers; soccer players; and DJs. The Sports Zone will test various sporting skills, including climbing; football; basketball; and rodeo bull riding. Lastly, the Etisalat Chill out Zone comprises an area for children above the age of 13 to relax and unwind while enjoying live DJ music.

Last but certainly not the least, Heritage and Culture Island is a joint project with the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage aimed at promoting knowledge about the UAEs rich culture and heritage among the thousands of children and parents who will visit Summer in Abu Dhabi. The Island will specifically focus on the countrys folkloric dances; calligraphy; ornaments; handicrafts; traditional music; traditional food; and various art forms.

Q: Which organisations are backing the event? Weve been very lucky to work with some of the UAEs most prestigious organisations on the event. While the event is being jointly organised by the ADTA and ADNEC, it would have not been possible without the continued support of Etisalat, Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage, Capital Centre and the Abu Dhabi Police. We are also working with MBC3, Gulf News Broadcasting, Spacetoons and Abu Dhabi Media Company to help communicate what the show is. Additionally, Etihad Airways have been very helpful in providing competition prizes for our visitors.

Q: Is this an experimental project or a yearly undertaking? We are looking forward to establishing Summer in Abu Dhabi as a much-awaited annual summer family event. The reaction so far has been very positive, I think Abu Dhabi is ready for this type of summer festival.

Q: What do you expect the impact of the Summer in Abu Dhabi festival to be on tourism in Abu Dhabi? Summer in Abu Dhabi will help convince residents of Abu Dhabi and the rest of the UAE that there is no need to leave the country during the summer, which will lead to a significant increase in local tourism. We are blessed with a magnificent climate for 9 months of the year, the world is well aware of this fact and it has helped boost tourism in recent years. Our aim is to extend the tourism activities of Abu Dhabi so that it stretches for a full twelve months, events such as Summer in Abu Dhabi are crucial is fulfilling this goal.

Q: There are a number of family festivals in some emirates. Do these festivals and Summer in Abu Dhabi complement each other? Will Summer in Abu Dhabi achieve its targeted goal? The various summer activities scheduled throughout the UAE have their own activities and target markets. While Summer in Abu Dhabi shares the aim of other festivals spread throughout the country, which is to boost tourism during the summer months, it differentiates itself in terms of its audience, which is the family with focus on the children; its activities, which combine fun and educational elements. When Abu Dhabi enters a market, its aim is always the same to be the best; and we are confident that Summer in Abu Dhabi will the best summer festival in the Middle East

Based on the positive response we have received since we unveiled the festivals inaugural opening, we believe that Summer in Abu Dhabi will become a much-awaited annual family event and an important contributor to Abu Dhabis tourism sector. Yes, we are highly confident that this event will meet and even exceed our expectations.

Will the festival contribute to the increase in hotel occupancy rates in Abu Dhabi during the summer? We are exerting extra effort to ensure that Summer in Abu Dhabi visitors will have a memorable experience during the festivals first-ever run; in fact we are aiming for returnee guests instead of just one-time visitors. We are confident that our patrons will fully appreciate the kind of unique atmosphere we have spent months  preparing for them. This will definitely give a boost to the summer occupancy of Abu Dhabis hotels. We are working hard with local hotels to provide a fully co-coordinated event experience for Summer in Abu Dhabi visitors.


Summer in Abu Dhabi runs at ADNEC from June 26th August 18th. Tickets are priced at AED30 for an adult and AED20 for a child between 4 16, children under 4 get in free. Tickets can be purchased on the door and visitors are advised to park at Sheikh Zayed Sports City, where ADNEC will provide a constant free shuttle bus service.

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