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Marvel’s thrills in Dubai


The good news: A Marvel theme park is opening!

The bad news: You will have to go to Dubai to ride The Punisher’s Intensive Carousel.

A UAE-based investment group hopes to sink $1 billion into the park, which will open in 2011 and is planned to be the start of family vacation destinations in Pan Arabia.

The news of Marvel’s characters going into theme park development may not be a surprise (they are already found at Universal Studios), but the location may seem odd — however, Marvel’s characters have been popular throughout the Middle East for a while. In addition, Dubai itself has become something of a city-wide theme park, as Nick Tosches wrote in a June 2006 Vanity Fair article:

On a…piece of desert about the size of Rhode Island, sits the Capitalist Dream on Steroids, Dubai. Expanding faster, taller, bigger than any other country on the planet, spawning schemes of impossible luxury, such as Falconcity of Wonders, Sunny Mountain Ski Dome, and a manmade archipelago called the World, the emirate has become a juggernaut of tourism, finance and Information Age business, where everything–crime, religion, terrorism-takes a backseat to profit.

Speaking of Marvel—and this is IN NO WAY RELATED to the Dubai deal—we’ve been getting a bunch of emails from someone purporting to be convicted financier Peter Paul with all kinds of behind the scenes info on Marvel, Stan Lee, shareholders, Ike Perlmutter and all that other stuff. It’s kind of nutty, and reads like the background in an ARG (alternate reality game.) Heck, maybe it is all an ARG.

United Arab Emirate-based Al Ahli Group and Marvel Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: MVL) announced today a partnership that will bring Marvel’s full library of Super Heroes — including Spider-Man, Iron Man, The X-Men, Incredible Hulk, The Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer — to Dubai for a major new theme park destination being developed by AAG. The development is in line with the vision set by HH Shk. Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, through his innovative entertainment and hospitality driven expansion projects for Dubai and the UAE.

The Al Ahli Group, under the leadership of Chairman Nasser Ali Khammas and driven by the idea and dedication of CEO Mohamed Khammas, is poised to bring the region’s first and only global theme park destination directly to the heart of the Emirates. AAG and Marvel are also in initial stages of discussions about additional projects throughout the greater Pan Arabia region.

AAG has been in discussions for more than two years with the owners of the world’s top intellectual properties in the entertainment arena and is extremely proud of its new long-term partnership with the world renowned Marvel brand. The Project will open in 2011 with a direct investment of over $1 billion USD. The creative team, which consists of some of the most spectacular creative minds from around the globe, will be based in Hollywood, Orlando and Dubai throughout the four year development process. New technology and unparalleled visitor experiences will be the hallmark of the theme park, creating a new standard for theme parks around the world.

David Maisel, Chairman of Marvel Studios and a member of the Office of the Chief Executive, Marvel Entertainment, said, “We are launching a long term relationship with the Al Ahli Group to bring the Marvel Universe to Dubai with this exciting new theme park development. Al Ahli Group has both an impressive team of theme park, entertainment and hospitality executives and the financial strength to leverage that expertise into a world-class destination resort experience unparalleled in the region. We are very pleased to be a part of this exciting initiative and look forward to a successful partnership with Mohamed Khammas and the Al Ahli Group.”

Mohamed Khammas, CEO of Al Ahli Group commented “Al Ali Group’s partnership with Marvel Entertainment serves a long pursued quest of creating the ultimate entertainment destination for families and children of the region and the world, a destination where they can live their childhood fantasies and create new memories for the entire family to cherish and remember. Family destinations have not evolved in Pan Arabia and thus it’s time that we cater to that demand and make the investment required for global tourism.

“Marvel is a brand that is recognized globally via its ever expanding list of ‘Super Hero’ characters. Now, it won’t be much longer until the children in Pan Arabia and the world can experience new and exciting rides with Marvel’s Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four and many other Super Heroes right here in the UAE.

“This partnership is a result of the appreciation and loyalty that Marvel has internationally, and was realized through the dedication and management of the Marvel team led by my friend David Maisel. Without his personal efforts and dedication, it would have been a long time before the world would be able to experience the Marvel Super Heroes in what we aim to be the best entertainment destination in the world. In 2011, Spider-Man and the rest of the Marvel Super Heroes will set their first steps in Dubai.”

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