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.

‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition in Riyadh museum breathes new life into ancient sites 

Updated 19 April 2019

‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition in Riyadh museum breathes new life into ancient sites 

  • National Museum in Riyadh hosts digital show that tells the story of Mosul, Palmyra, Aleppo and Leptis Magna

JEDDAH: An exhibition that uses digital technology to revive the region’s ancient sites and civilizations that have been destroyed or are under threat due to conflict and terrorism opened at the National Museum in Riyadh on April 18.

“Age-Old Cities” tells the story of four historically significant cities that have been devastated by violence: Mosul in Iraq, Palmyra and Aleppo in Syria, and Leptis Magna in Libya. 

Using stunning giant-screen projections, virtual reality, archival documents and images, and video testimonials from inhabitants of the affected sites, the immersive exhibition transports visitors back in time and presents the cities as they were in their prime. 

It charts their journey from the origins of their ancient civilizations to their modern-day state, and presents plans for their restoration and repair. 

The exhibition has been organized by the Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. Riyadh is the first stop outside the French capital on the exhibition’s global tour. 

The exhibition follows last month’s unveiling of the Kingdom’s new cultural vision, which included the announcement of several initiatives, including a new residency scheme for international artists to practice in the Kingdom and the establishment of the Red Sea International Film Festival. 

Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, minister of culture, said: “I am delighted to welcome the ‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition to Riyadh. 

“It highlights the importance of heritage preservation, particularly here in the Middle East, and the vulnerability of some of our historic sites. 

“It must be the responsibility of governments to put an end to this damage and neglect, and to put heritage at the heart of action, investment, and policy.

“I will be encouraging my fellow members of government to attend this eye-opening exhibition in our National Museum, and hope to work in the future with partners, governments and experts to do what we can to secure our region’s heritage.”

The exhibition carries a significant message about the importance of preserving and protecting these precious but fragile sites — one which resonates strongly in the week when one of the world’s most-famous heritage sites, Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral, went up in flames.