Al Qouz

This industrial area of the city, which stretches to the east of Sheikh Zayed Road from Mall of the Emirates to Business Bay, may have passed you by, but some of Dubai’s most significant culture is hidden away among the sand-covered warehouses and factories of Al Qouz.
 
Tucked away in massive warehouses – often out of sight – are a collection of galleries and impressive interior design shops that are some of Dubai’s best bets for truly joining the global arts landscape. Add to that an endless selection of cheap south Asian cafeterias, several trendy cafes, the Gold & Diamond Park, Times Square Center, the treasure trove of goods at Dubai Antique Museum and community arts hub The Courtyard, Al Qouz quickly becomes a destination worth exploring.

The Art of Dubai
Although less-publicised than massive state-sponsored cultural projects in Abu Dhabi or Doha, the Al Qouz art scene, and Alserkal Avenue in particular, are the heart of the Arab art world. It is here that lesser-known artists can find exhibition space, and the galleries are working to promote Arab art on an international scale. At one end of the spectrum sit smaller galleries such as 4 Walls Art Gallery and, at the other end, are the well-known, relatively long-established galleries that have experienced art collectors as their main clients. One of the best recognised is The Third Line. The gallery itself is impressive and contains some of the most innovative art in the city. In addition to monthly exhibitions, the gallery hosts alternative programmes which include film screenings, debates and international multimedia forums, all promoting interaction between regional artists and the public. 

Along with the promotion and exhibition of regional art, Al Qouz has also become a centre for the creative process. The jamjar offers an extensive schedule of workshops and open studio sessions geared towards amateur artists looking for a welcoming outlet. Workshops range from advanced painting skills to the basics of lomography. The jamjar also hosts several exhibitions each year in its gallery space. 

Shelter promotes regional creatives with a host of entrepreneurial services including office space, business setup assistance and an environment to nurture contacts. Along with its office spaces and meeting rooms, Shelter includes a brasserie run by MORE Cafe and a boutique shop selling design-centric gifts and clothing produced by its members. Elsewhere in Al Qouz, you’ll find great galleries like Artsawa.

Alserkal Avenue
This arts district is home to around 20 creative spaces, and it’s a great place to spot new talent from the UAE and abroad. The easiest way to explore it is with the aid of ArtMap (visit artinthecity.com). There’s Salsali Private Museum, a non-profit museum, and hip gallery Mojo, both of which are known for championing local artists. Gulf Photo Plus is a photography studio and gallery that runs courses as well as exhibitions, and The Fridge has become something of a hidden gem for performance art and music events. Ayyam Art Center runs the Shabab Ayyam Project, a programme that encourages the development of new talent in the region, while Carbon 12 Dubai states its mission as bringing together a colourful variety of international movements with one common point: contemporary at its best. Gallery Etemad Dubai’s large open space showcases works by established and emerging international artists, and Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde has become a significant player, credited with discovering and nurturing the talent of some of the most promising figures in the Middle East’s contemporary art scene – including Rokni and Ramin Haerizadeh, Reza Aramesh and Lara Baladiwell. Green Art Gallery exhibits international fine art, and Lawrie Shabibi focuses on modern art from the Middle East, North Africa, South and Central Asia with regular artist talks and screenings.

A4 Space is one of the most recent additions to Alserkal Avenue, and a perfect spot to meet for lunch, arrange a brainstorming session or simply curl up with a good book. It’s a quirky, creative space which boasts a cafe and cinema, and there are also some lovely handmade gifts on offer. Visitors are encouraged to leave a favourite book with an inscription through the #leaveyournote project and add to the growing library.

The Courtyard
A stone’s throw from Alserkal is The Courtyard, home to the Total Arts Gallery, which has long showcased Middle Eastern art with an emphasis on Iranian artists, and the venue frequently exhibits traditional handicrafts and antique furniture. There’s also an innovative performing arts theatre here, The Courtyard Playhouse, and on Saturday mornings Ripe hosts a farmer’s market.

Bounce Dubai
This brand new indoor free jumping concept is already generating buzz throughout the city. Absolutely anyone can go along from age three and above, and it's set to become the hippest place to hang out in the city for anyone up for some serious fun - not to mention an amazing way to get fit. There's more than 80 trampolines grouped into different areas where you can try various activities including dodgeball and working on the perfect slam dunk.

Trendy tastes
Popular cafes in the area include the buzzing MORE Cafe at the Gold & Diamond Park, hip newcomer Tom & Serg (behind ACE Hardware) and Lime Tree Cafe. All are worth the trip into dusty Al Qouz.

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