Two-Time Merlin Award Winner Named – Controversy Ensues

Inside Magic Image of the Burj KhalifaThe International Magicians Society honored Arab performer Dr. Montaser Al Mansouri a second Merlin Award for Magic.  The award makes the Emirati magician the first Arab to receive two Merlin Awards.  A fellow Emirati performer told reporters he turned down the award last year when he learned he would have “to pay” to receive it.

Dr. Al Mansouri told the English-Language news site The National, “The Merlin is like the Oscars of magic,” he said. “I’m happy to get the Merlin Award and it’s big for a magician, the UAE and for Arabs.”

Dr. Al Mansouri gained notoriety and the International Magicians Society’s notice after giving 70,000 performances over 25 years.  (Our math may be off, but that averages 2,800 performances a year or more than 7-1/2 shows a day every day for each of the 25 years – that is a ton of shows).

But it is not mere quantity, the International Magicians Society also looks for the qualitative attributes award worthy magicians possess.  The Society’s Chairman Tony Hassini told reporters, “We look for showmanship, skills and talent and so it’s an award that the magician has to work hard for. The idea is to be persistent and stay with it and get it.”

The Emirates Zoo flew Mr. Hassini to Abu Dhabi to present the award.  The zoo, you say.  Why would Dr. Al Mansouri be honored in a zoo?

Mr. Hassini explains, “some of the greatest magicians who received this award worked in adventure parks. This is where the audiences are. They do five to six shows a day to mass audiences like Disneyland.”

Ah, that explains the incredible volume of shows.

Whilst Dr. Al Mansouri makes snakes and tigers vanish as part of his act at the zoo, he looks forward to bigger objects upon which to practice his magic. “I could make an airplane disappear in Dubai Airport and make it appear at Abu Dhabi airport,” he said.

The award was not without controversy, however.  The National reported Emirati magician, Moein Al Bastaki – known for making the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa (pictured) disappear last year – claimed he was offered the award in 2012. “I was told I had to book the tickets and the venue. If I had to pay to get the award I was not interested in getting it,” he said. “I believe in people seeing the magic and getting it and letting them judge you.”

Mr Hassini countered Mr. Al Bastaki’s suggestion that the award was for sale. “One way is to receive it is at the banquet dinner in Las Vegas and there is another in Saigon. Those who want an award will have to travel there,” he said.

The Society hopes to encourage the expansion of magic in the region.

“It’s almost forbidden here,” Mr. Hassini said. “They look at it as black magic but we’re trying to introduce it the best we can. When we nominated an Arab magician, we hoped to educate the Arab public.

“It’s possible in the future to bring in some magicians here. Not David Copperfield. He’s too expensive but someone of the same calibre and do a tour of major cities and do it as an art and not as a black magic.”

Read the full article at The National here.

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