Debt-laden Dubai will build an opera house and an modern art museum, the government said Wednesday, in the first such project since the Gulf emirate was hit by the global economic downturn in 2008.
The Dubai Modern Art Museum & Opera House District “aims to further strengthen UAE’s emerging role as the cultural hub of the region,” a statement said.
The complex is to be built near Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, added the statement, which said design and architectural elements are now being finalised, and work will begin soon.
Dubai-based real estate giant Emaar Properties which was behind major property developments in the city, including Burj Khalifa and neighbouring Dubai Mall — the world’s most visited shopping and tourism destination marking record visitor numbers of 54 million people in 2011.
Dubai had borrowed heavily to finance its rapid economic growth, which came to a screeching halt when international finance dried up.
Estimates vary of Dubai’s total debt, including that of government-linked firms, but most put the figure at more than 100 billion dollars (75.5 billion euros).
Glitzy Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, was buoyed by it rich partner Abu Dhabi and the federal central bank whom together pumped $20 billion into its coffers to meet immediate debt payments in 2009.
In 2008, Dubai announced plans to build a series of cultural projects, such as libraries, theatres and museums and an opera house, but the projects never saw the light.
Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, is building a huge cultural complex on Saadiyat Island, which will host branches of the Guggenheim, the Louvre and Zayed National Museum.
The Gulf region has been the site of a cultural boom over the past few years with the Arabian Peninsula’s only opera house — The Royal Opera House of Oman — opening in October.
Gas-rich Qatar, which had already established the largest museum of Islamic art in the region, opened the doors of Mathaf, the world’s first museum devoted the modern Arab art late in 2010.