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Founded in 2004 by the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF), Abu Dhabi Festival is an annual multidisciplinary festival, one of the largest cultural celebrations in the entire region, reaching across the world through world-class international co-commissions and co-productions supported by joint audience development and marketing efforts, both in the UAE and abroad. This consists both of presenting innovative Arab creativity in other parts of the world and bringing the best cultural experiences from around the world to Abu Dhabi. Additionally, the Festival is an opportunity for artists from the Arab world and from other cultures to co-create by reinterpreting each other’s creative and artistic expression through their own lens. Abu Dhabi Festival also honours a different country each year as part of its programming and efforts in cultural diplomacy. In these ways, Abu Dhabi Festival’s programming creates bridges between cultures whilst inspiring a deeper interest in the cultures of the Arab world. Through its education and community programs, the Festival reaches across the UAE, engaging children, young people and adults while providing memorable and meaningful experiences that unite visitors, residents and citizens. The Festival has become a leading cultural destination, making Abu Dhabi an important centre on the world’s cultural map and attracting visitors from the region and beyond. Over the years, the Festival’s performances have run the gamut, from classical music, ballet and opera, to jazz and traditional music from around the globe. Throughout each festival, visual art exhibitions, interactive arts programs for children and for people of determination (persons with disabilities), film screenings, live interviews and panel discussions have been essential components.
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Each year Abu Dhabi Festival brings attendees from around the country, region, and the world, to Abu Dhabi, helping make it a global city and positioning it as a cultural destination. Whilst the Festival has been vital in bringing some of the finest artistic performances to the UAE, it has also become an important date on the worldwide cultural calendar, where audiences from 200 nationalities come to attend this seasonal event. The Festival has helped make the UAE an even more attractive place to live and work for local as well as for foreign nationals creating opportunities for vibrant cultural exchange and cross-cultural dialogue, and rich artistic collaborations, all on UAE soil. This falls in line with ADMAF’s mission to shift perspectives and broaden understandings, to grow tolerance amongst cultures. Throughout the years the Abu Dhabi Festival succeeded in establishing long-term partnerships with leading cultural organizations across the globe. These partnerships are underpinned by a sense of solidarity across the international cultural sector in creating a better understanding of audiences’ needs and how to meet them, and in exchanging expertise and best practices, as well as finding new ways of working together to cultivate resilience. Most importantly, these partnerships have created avenues and platforms for co-creation in the UAE and beyond. ADMAF and Abu Dhabi Festival’s various partnerships have played a major role in creating opportunities for nations and corresponding cultural entities to listen to one another, to cultivate mutual understanding and to forge long-term cultural relations that benefit all parties and that are geared toward fulfilling sustainable development goals.