Dubai might be the land of label-filled mega malls, high-end celeb-chef restaurants and luxury brand hotels but the desert city of ritz and glitz also hides an oasis of all things urban and edgy.
The hip hive of Alserkal Ave in the industrial district of Al Quoz is a budding pocket-sized patch of art spaces, concept stores and coffee joints that could be straight out of Brooklyn or Berlin. So, if you find yourself needing some industrial respite from all the Dubai glamour, whizz over to Alserkal and check out these trendsetting top spots.
There are more than a dozen commercial galleries and private museums on and around Alserkal Ave, so culture vultures will have plenty to pillage.
One of the earlier arrivals in this area, Lawrie Shabibi is your man for paintings and sculpture by the main names of the Middle East, South and Central Asia, and North Africa. Pieces with a cultural or political bent are given particular prominence.
Warehouse 21, Alserkal Ave, Al Quoz. +971 4346 9906. lawrieshabibi.com
The Third Line
From bright pop photographs by Morocco’s Hassan Hajjaj to Iranian Monir Sharoudy Farmanfarmaian’s bold mosaic-inspired installations, The Third Line displays a colourful collection of rotating mod works across all mediums. Can’t fit that big Laleh Khorramian water colour in your carry-on? You can always pick up artsy coffee table tomes and monograph mags in the gallery bookstore.
Warehouse 78-80, Alserkal Ave, Al Quoz. +9714 341 1367. thethirdline.com
Feeling extra arty? Consider swinging past Carbon 12 with museum-worthy canvasses and cerebral installation works from near and far, and Ayyam Gallery for emerging and established artists from across the Middle East.
Repping antique Middle Eastern furniture, handcrafted jewellery and modern works by creative talent from the UAE and beyond, you can discover an array of artifacts old and new art this gallery-esque concept store. If you’ve splashed out at one of the above galleries, Showcase also offers a custom framing service.
Unit 35, Alserkal Ave, Al Quoz. +971 4 379 0940. showcaseuae.com
The Odd Piece
A maximalist mass stash of period decor and worldly artisan homewares that’s sure to bring out the boho bowerbird in you – think sleek mid-century Scandi consoles and C.18th French armchairs alongside Arabesque carved mirrors and Turkish suzani wallhangings.
The film fanatics behind Cinema Akil make the most of Dubai’s balmy evenings with outdoor sessions of indie flicks showing nightly in season at the Alserkal Avenue Yard. Grab some snacks from the onsite stalls, snuggle into a cushy foam chair and get engrossed in a documentary or the latest global arthouse feature. Lovers of the classics should also look out for regular retro nights when yesteryear greats like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Play it Again Sam hit the silver screen.
The Yard, Alserkal Ave, Al Quoz. cinemaakil.com
The Jam Jar
If this arty enclave has you inspired, swish over to The Jam Jar, a community arts space that hosts painting parties and drawing workshops. Of if you’d rather leave it to the experts, you can also catch dance performances and exhibitions showcasing work by young and emerging local talent.
Unit H74, Alserkal Ave, Al Quoz. +971 4 341 7303. thejamjardubai.com
White-washed walls, shiny subway tiles, bare bulbs and blond-wood tables – Tom&Serg certainly looks the part of an Australian-style cafe but, more importantly, this freelancer-favoured brunch box delivers on bites and brews too. Dive into dishes like a spicy buttermilk chicken brekky bao, smoked salmon and poached eggs with a potato-quinoa hash and za’atar burrata, plus specialty barista-prepared coffee (as you would expect from a place with a Melbourne-born chef and part-owner).
15A St, Al-Joud Center, Al Qouz. +971 56 474 6812. tomandserg.com
Taking everyone’s favourite sweet treat back to basics, this workshop and store ditches the nuts and nougat, instead crafting delectable chocolates using just three ingredients – organic cocoa beans which are slow-roasted onsite, unrefined cane sugar and cocoa butter. And with wrappings designed by local artists, each bar looks as good as it tastes. Warehouse 70, Alserkal Ave, Al Quoz. +971 4333 5888. mirzam.com
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