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Dubai announces plans for new opera house, art center

Ambitious project from a Gulf nation aspiring to be region's "cultural hub."

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A gallery in Dubai where the respected Christie's auction house held an event on modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art. Christie's opened its Dubai office in 2005. (Karim Sahib /AFP/Getty Images)

Dubai today unveiled ambitious plans to build a new opera house and modern art museum meant to reflect the it's "emerging role as the cultural hub of the region," Agence-France Press (AFP) reported

The wealthy Gulf emirate is looking to reassure investors and attract business after being hard-hit by the global economic downturn, developments that helped kill a similar opera project three years ago, said Reuters.

Dubai leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoumt said construction work will begin soon on the new art district, which is to be located near the Burj Khalifa tower, currently the world's tallest. It will also be near the Dubai Mall -- the most-visited shopping destination on the globe, according to AFP

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Reuters described the new opera house as a glass building situated on the edge of an articificial lake, while The Khaleej Times called it "a design masterpiece" that will boast "plazas, high streets, shaded colonnades, courtyards, sikkas, alleyways, waterfront promenades and parks."

Dubai's opera house would join the region's Muscat Royal Opera House in Oman and the Qatar Opera House.

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The city's operatic aspirations date back to at least 2009, when plans fell through for a new opera venue and huge arts center designed by British architect Zaha Hadid to be built on one of the city's islands, said Reuters, while nearby Abu Dhabi delayed plans to construct Guggenheim and Lourve branches in the capital due to to debt issues.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120321/dubai-announces-new-opera-house-art-center