Dubai fest takes pains to prevent surprises

In light of Mumbai attacks, organizers ensure security

Complete Dubai fest coverage

DUBAI -- As the Dubai International Film Festival opens Thursday, two weeks after terrorists attacked the heart of Bollywood in India, organizers are keen to assure that the United Arab Emirates remain secure.

Festival chairman Abdulhamid Juma said that he and his team have worked closely with Dubai police to secure the festival venue at the luxury Madinat Jumeirah resort complex along the Arabian Gulf.

"We are very sorry about what happened in India but wish to assure all our guests here that Dubai is a very safe place," Juma said. "You don't see armed security in Dubai the way you might in other places in the Gulf, but they are there. They are everywhere."

Juma added that the festival's strict registration and badge system will ensure the event's exclusivity. And guests should take care to have their badges with them at all times to avoid being stopped by security.

Guests arriving in Dubai from all over the world Tuesday were focused mostly on the business at hand, but some had safety in the backs of their minds.

One guest, independent documentary director Rahman Satti, pointed out a bag left unattended near the festival registration desk in the 292-room boutique Mina A' Salam hotel.

"I thought, 'This could be a bomb,' but then I told a volunteer and he found its owner very calmly," the German-Sudanese filmmaker said. "There's media hysteria, but there's also real terrorism. This festival is big international event that they can't afford to mess up."

In June, both the U.S. Department of State and the British Foreign Office warned about the increased threat of a terrorist attack in the UAE, urging their nationals in the Gulf kingdom, a major international banking center, to be vigilant because of a "high threat of terrorism."

A U.K. Foreign Office spokesman in Dubai on Tuesday said that the level of threat is under constant review and often fluctuates based on intelligence but offered no alarm bells specific to the region. "Our travel advice remains the same as in June. We advise all Britons to remain vigilant in public places," the spokesman said.

While the U.S. Department of State currently advises that U.S. citizens traveling to or already in India maintain a high level of vigilance, no such warning is in place for Dubai.

The festival opens today with a screening of "W.," set to be attended by U.S. director Oliver Stone.