Since 2008, Abu Dhabi hosts an annual Festival of Thinkers, which is being held under the auspices of the Abu Dhabi Higher Colleges of Technology. The Festival of Thinkers provides a platform to foster thinking, educating the youth of the region, and allowing thinkers from around the world to come together and share their ideas and thoughts on today’s global challenges. The conference is presided by the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology, Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan.
The idea is to bring together a large number of leading intellectuals from the fields of education, culture, politics, journalism and science, including Nobel prizewinners and famous media figures, and have them exchange ideas in various kinds of forums.
During the 2011 edition, the section dedicated to arts discussed the importance of the arts in the development of nations, how ideas presented in the arts influence society, in what ways do the arts contribute to the creativity and innovation of society, and how investment in arts can be encouraged in order to have art influence society.
There was a section dedicated to representatives from the world of arts and culture, named Inspiring through the Arts. In the sidebar there are links to a video report on the theme and a video report of a meeting on Leadership in Arts.
Note – It is remarkable that Shirin Ebadi – an obviously dissident Iranian lawyer and human rights activist – participated and that she is quoted prominently on the website of the festival. This may reflect the UAE’s official economic ties with Iran, though remaining cautious about its political influence. This may be the message behind the presence of Mrs. Ebadi in the festival. It is obvious as well that the UAE maintains strong cultural ties with both the art world in Iran and in the–mostly dissident–Iranian diaspora.
A somewhat surprising aspect of the Festival of Thinkers is its algnment with two young local rappers, Khalifa Al Romaithi alias K-Multi (a student at Abu Dhabi Men’s College) and a.z., and with twofour54, the media-producers’ organization in the Abu Dhabi media zone, for producing a rap song and a clip to promote the festival among younger audience. It demonstrates the festival’s abilities to think in different ways to make this event wider accessible.