Al Qasba rocks!

Sharjah's Al Qasba is one of the most exciting art and culture venues in the UAE. Meet the CEO making it all happen.

Checked out Al Qasba yet? This huge arts centre in Sharjah (one of the very few public arts centres in the UAE) is offsetting the summer burn by providing a more productive place to ditch the kids. Time Out talked to CEO Marwan Al Sarkal…

How’s it going over there?
This year has been great for us. By June this year, we had 280,000 visitors – compare that to 2007 where we had 226,000 visitors for the whole year. We’ve had phenomenal results, but we’re trying now to build on that success, to create something that has not yet been done in the region. We want to bring in events that are internationally based. At the moment we’re planning to refurbish our theatre to create the right space for this and also create a well-designed exhibition hall. We want art lovers to go there and find a haven, with workshops and major shows. Hopefully it will launch at the beginning of 2009 and the theatre will be finished by March.

How do you see Sharjah’s place in the Emirates?
It’s the cultural destination for the whole of the UAE. We have more than 20 museums in Sharjah, but we need to now work on the promoting the place. Al Qasba has made a difference in that it’s publicising itself and that has made people aware of Sharjah. But look, Sharjah has so many firsts – the first maritime museum in the country, a one-of-a-kind desert park and, of course, the Islamic museum, which no other emirates have done. We have all this, but they need to be promoted in a different way.

What is the Big House Of Fun?
Summer is a challenge here, especially when you’re an arts destination, so we had to use this as an opportunity to try things out. We put together the Big House Of Fun programme for kids, with cinema screenings, activities and plenty of workshops. Last year we had a really popular illusionist stage show, but this year we’ve pulled in performances from around the world like Britain and Latin America. Our target was 700 in the beginning, but since starting Big House Of Fun, more than a 1,000 kids have taken part in the programme. Entrance is free, the cinema shows have all been free and the workshops are only Dhs5, it’s made the place really popular. Even in this hot summer you’ll find Al Qasba is a pretty busy place.

Al Qasba (06 556 0777), Al Taawun Road, Sharjah. The Big House of Fun programme continues until August 23. See for details.

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