ABU DHABI: Dr Montaser Al Mansouri could easily pass off as another Emirati as he orders Turkish coffee at a restaurant in Al Bahia here.
But Al Mansouri is special -- very special.
Watch him unceremoniously pull a wallet out of his pocket to pay the bill. In a split second, the purse turns into a ball of flame in his hands.
Al Mansouri apologises to the petrified waitress, opens the wallet again and hands her a Dh100 note with a smile.
This double-Oscar winning magician, however, has more than just a few spell-binding tricks up his sleeves.
“I can make the Burj Khalifa disappear for three seconds. If I get a sponsor, I want to perform this magical feat in December,” Al Mansouri, 42, told XPRESS.
He is the first Arab national to win two Merlin awards (in 2012 and 2013), the highest honour bestowed on magicians by the International Magicians Society based in the US.
He won the prestigious awards for performing more than 70,000 magic shows over a span of 26 years.
“I am glad that I am in the league of world-renowned magicians like David Copperfield and Criss Angel,” said Al Mansouri.
But what makes him stand out from his compatriots is his identity, which the Ras Al Khaimah-born Emirati happily displays in his kandoura even during stage performances.
“I broke the tradition of magicians by not wearing a black coat. I want to be known all over the world as an Emirati magician. That is what makes me proud,” said Al Mansouri.
Not an easy choice
But being an Emirati and a magician at the same time was not easy when he decided to pursue a career in magic.
“I took fancy to this art after watching an Indian magician perform small tricks in Ras Al Khaimah when I was just 14. I became his disciple and learned magic for three years under his tutelage.”
But his father was totally against it. “Magic was considered a taboo. It was ‘haram’ for an Arab Muslim to practice it,” recounted Al Mansouri, who is married.
But the young boy was not one to easily abandon his passion.
Al Mansouri went on to study a four-year advanced course in magic at the International Brotherhood of Magicians in the US.
Since his return in 1994, he has been performing magic shows in and outside the UAE along with his seven-member all-Emirati team.
Currently, Al Mansouri performs daily shows at the Emirates Park Zoo. He plans to also have daily shows at the Al Raha Mall throughout Ramadan.
Al Mansouri says many people still harbour misconceptions about the art of magic.
“Through my shows, I try to break that mindset and try to bring magic closer to their hearts. The best way is to teach them small tricks behind the magic which I always do in my shows,” says Al Mansouri.