Festival 2017

1 - 31 March 2017


H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan
UAE Minister of Culture & Knowledge Development 

Please join us for Abu Dhabi Festival 2017, the largest celebration of arts and culture in the Arabian Gulf. For its 14th edition, the Festival’s country of honour is its neighbour Saudi Arabia, commemorating the might of Arabic culture.

With over 100 events presented across the capital and the country, this year’s festival hosts a fusion of outstanding UAE creativity and exceptional international performers from as far afield as China, Spain and the United States – a testament to the power of cultural exchange as a route to tolerance.

Welcome to an enriching, extraordinary and eclectic experience.


Theme – Culture and Tolerance

The Abu Dhabi Festival 2017 theme ‘Culture & Tolerance’ are two notions that seem to go hand-in-hand. However, a culture of intolerance seems to be taking hold in the world. In this context, the Festival theme is one of urgency and seeks to reaffirm culture as a platform for tolerance, exchange and understanding. This is reflected in the programme of artists from across the world, whose work is closely linked to this notion.

It has now become a long tradition of the Festival to commission works that explore exchange and tolerance. In 2017, the Festival continues to explore the connections between the musical heritage of the Arab World and other forms of musical expression.

The first shining example is Mohammed Fairouz, the Emirati composer whose UAE roots blend seamlessly with his experience in the United States of America. In this spirit, the Festival commission by Tarek Yamani is an exploration of the interplay between the rhythms of the Khaleej with the great American Jazz tradition. Another whose dedication to the notion of Culture & Tolerance cannot be underestimated is Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble. Their exploration of the Silk Road is reminiscent of a time when commerce and caravans were the vehicles for more than just goods.

The caravan of cultural expression continues with the Festival’s very own exhibition ‘Portrait of a Nation’ in which the UAE’s visual artists will open the doors of global dialogue beginning at Berlin Art Week, Germany.

Abu Dhabi Festival should not only be defined by its exhibitions and performances but also by its legacy of unique encounters and new intellectual pathways. We are therefore very excited to see how in 2017 the language of art allows cultures to meet. Abu Dhabi Festival aims to be an affirmation of the roots of culture – the roots that nourish the very identity and soul of this nation and of others. To the static, fixated approach to rootedness, the Abu Dhabi Festival offers a dynamic, evolving approach to the tree of culture.

Country of Honour

In 2017, the Festival recognises the deep cultural wealth of its neighbour, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, marking the might of Arabic culture that emanates from the Kingdom.

It is fitting to have Saudi Arabia as 2017 Country of Honour, as what was to become today’s Saudi Arabia was an important hub in the Silk Road and a focal point for Muslims in particular. In this context, travel, exchange, discovery of the Other is in an integral part of Islam and the Pilgrimage and Saudi Arabia was and still is a witness to such exchange.

The artists and luminaries of Saudi Arabia have taken their culture to such heights while embracing dialogue with the world. This is reflected in the extraordinary achievements in poetry of HRH Prince Badr Bin Abdul Mohsen Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud (Festival 2017 Guest of Honour).

Each year, Abu Dhabi Festival recognises a Country of Honour, commemorating its culture through performances and strengthening diplomatic ties as it welcomes esteemed guests of honour and celebrates artistic expression.

Previous countries of honour have been: France (2016), Italy (2015), USA (2014), Spain (2013), UK (2012), Belgium (2011), Poland (2010), France (2009), Lebanon (2008, 2006), and Egypt (2007)