Seeing is disbelieving: Inside Dubai’s Museum of Illusions

Updated 19 September 2018

Seeing is disbelieving: Inside Dubai’s Museum of Illusions

  • “We purposely trick the eye and the mind — you get to experience different visuals.” Mohammed Ali Al-Wahaibi
  • Dubai’s newest entertainment offering has only been open for just over a week but is already earning a reputation as the city’s latest Instagram hotspot

DUBAI: Dubai’s newest entertainment offering has only been open for just over a week but is already earning a reputation as the city’s latest Instagram hotspot. This is hardly surprising, because otherwise the Museum of Illusions would not be living up to its name — it is, after all, dedicated to tricking the mind into seeing something that is not there.
But even if you are more “anti-influencer” than “die-hard Insta-storyteller,” that is okay – there is plenty for everyone to enjoy. Key exhibits to look out for include the Vortex Tunnel, the Ames room, the Head on a Platter and the Rotated Room.
Not for the nausea-inclined, the spinning Vortex Tunnel tricks you into thinking the walkway is rotating thanks to a clever setup, while the Ames Room, is a distorted space that makes it appear that you have grown into a giant or shrunk down to become a tiny person. The Head on a Platter is seemingly a favorite with kids, who think it is hilarious that their head can be served up for lunch.
The Rotated Room is one of the most photo-friendly attractions, offering an opportunity to get creative and show your friends and family that you are dancing on the ceiling, just like Lionel Richie did in the music video to his 1986 hit of that name, which was filmed using a similar set-up.
The Dubai venue is the ninth Museum of Illusion worldwide, the latest addition to a brand that launched three years ago in Zagreb, Croatia. Since then, the franchise has spread to a number of countries across Europe, and has been brought to the UAE, Oman and Malaysia by businessman Mohammed Ali Al-Wahaibi.
“I purchased the museum’s rights for the Middle East, and we have been setting up,” he said. “It’s a mix of entertainment and education, and it’s a unique experience that’s fun for the senses.
“We’re adding value to the endless options here (in Dubai). The museum examines the relationship between the eye and the mind. We purposely trick the eye and the mind – you get to experience different visuals.”
Suitable for everyone from the age of three and up, the UAE’s newest entertainment offering features a mix of attractions that are fun for adults and others that are more suitable for the little ones. One of the best things about the exhibits is that most of them are interactive. There are photos, puzzles, games and plenty of “magic” to discover – 80 illusions in total.
“You are part of the illusion, you’re not just a spectator,” explained Al-Wahaibi. “That makes it a lot of fun. We’ve been advising visitors that it takes an hour [to see everything] but they have been staying longer and really enjoying it.”
Located in Al Seef, one of the emirate’s newest developments, tucked behind Dubai Creek, the Dubai venue is the biggest Museum of Illusions to date, “which speaks to the high standards of the emirate,” Al-Wahaibi said. “We wanted to bring an offering that suited the high expectations of visitors. Each museum is designed based on its location, and we’re attracting both tourists and local residents.”
If you want to experience the museum’s fun exhibits but will not be in Dubai any time soon, you will soon get the chance, as the next venue to open will be in Riyadh.
“The Kingdom is a big country and so we wanted it to be one of the first to launch,” Al-Wahaibi said. “The museum is very family oriented and fits well.”
The Museum of Illusions in Dubai is open every day from 10 a.m. Tickets cost $22 for adults and $16 for children. Visit for more details.

With Saudi roots and an Indian heart, Al-Kazi is an act the stage will never forget

Updated 21 February 2019

With Saudi roots and an Indian heart, Al-Kazi is an act the stage will never forget

  • Though an icon in India, few people know about Al-Kazi’s Saudi roots

JEDDAH: India has always been a hub of art and culture. Over the last century, movies emerged as the most expressive cultural medium, and the Indian film industry — commonly known as Bollywood — has since become a powerhouse of world cinema.

One can never do its history justice without mentioning Ebrahim Al-Kazi.

A renowned director and drama teacher, he worked as the director of the prestigious New Delhi-based National School of Drama (NSD) from 1962 to 1977, teaching many well-known future actors and fellow directors, including Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah and Rohini Hattangadi. He also founded the Art Heritage Gallery in New Delhi.

Though an Indian icon, however, few people know about Al-Kazi’s Saudi roots. His father, Hamad bin Ali Al-Kazi, was a trader from Unaiza in the Kingdom’s Qassim region, who subsequently settled in Pune, India, where Ebrahim was born in 1925. 

Early on in his career, Al-Kazi worked with the Bombay Progressive Artists Group, which included M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, Akbar Padamsee and Tyeb Mehta, who would all later contribute to the design of his sets.

He worked in India, the US and Europe before becoming the director of the NSD, and later of the Asian Theater Institute, and is credited with staging more than 50 plays in his lifetime. He also contributes to the preservation of Indian cultural history through his Al-Kazi Foundation for the Arts.

In February 2015, Al-Kazi was honored at the second Saudi Film Festival in Dammam. He was later quoted in Arab media sources on his Saudi upbringing: “Our father was a firm believer in our cultural roots that went back to Saudi Arabia, and we spoke only Arabic at home. We had a teacher of Arabic and Islamic studies who came from Saudi Arabia, and lived as part of our family.

“Arab families (in India) did not mix very much with others, but my father had close ties with people other than Arabs,” he added.

Al-Kazi has also won many prestigious Indian awards. He was the first recipient of Roopwedh Pratishthan’s Tanvir Award in 2004 for his contribution to Indian theater, and in 1966 received the Padma Shri award. He won the Padma Bhushan award in 1991, and was given India’s second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, in 2010.