As a city largely designed for international admirers, Dubai has always offered tourists flashy experiences. But after one’s been there and done that with the classics—playing in the snow at Ski Dubai, souvenir shopping at the spice souk, riding to the top of the Burj Khalifa—there’s another face of this desert city begging to be discovered.
Alserkal Avenue is neither souk nor shopping mall. Established in the city’s industrial quarter in 2007, the aim of this otherwise nondescript district of warehouses is to embolden the city’s blossoming artistic community—and encourage a dialogue between the creative cultures of East and West. Alserkal is a collection of art galleries, theatres, open-air event spaces, and even features a bespoke chocolate factory. It’s also a must-see space for tourists seeking to experience a piece of the city that is at once offbeat, on-trend, and creatively inclined.
Due to its enclosed location, it’s easy to explore Alserkal on foot, dropping into air-conditioned spaces at will. Start with Salsali Private Museum, the first privately owned operation of its kind to in the area. As a major player in the development of Dubai as an arts and culture hub, visitors will find more than 900 multimedia pieces, as well as special exhibits from visiting artists.
Alserkal is a must-see space for tourists seeking to experience a piece of the city that is at once offbeat, on-trend, and creatively inclined.
There are a number of galleries to peruse as you weave your way around the warehouse grid: 1X1 Gallery features new talent in modern Indian art, while Elmarsa, one block over, showcases North African art with a focus on emerging works from underrepresented markets. Green Art Gallery, a long-time member of the Middle East’s art scene, is considered to have introduced Modern Arab art to the world, and is known for its innovative mixed media exhibitions. Further down the way, Sima Performing Arts’ programming consists of everything from dance to indie film screenings, poetry readings, and panel discussions.
In the ultra-cool, wholesome-minded organic juice bar Wild & The Moon, you’ll find creatives and their contemporaries conversing over concoctions of Matcha Mylk (matcha-laced almond milk) and nourishing Super Bowls (a rotating lineup of vegan stews, salads, and noodle bowls). Fully fortified, step across the street to TheJamJar and express yourself at a DIY painting session, or find interior design inspiration at The Odd Piece, a furniture gallery of unique pieces from souks, antique shows, and international exhibitions. For a true taste of creative genius, check out Mirzam Chocolate Makers, which boasts a bean-to-bar chocolate crafting practice using single-origin cocoa and a painstaking sorting, roasting, and blending process.
Despite the confines of its industrial zoned space, Alserkal, much like Dubai itself, is always growing; it enjoyed an expansion in 2015 with a host of new galleries, shops, cafes, and studios. Then, in 2017, it introduced Concrete, the first building in the United Arab Emirates designed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, to the district as a new multipurpose event space. With creative progress as its main objective, this little artistic retreat is a place you can return to again and again—and always discover something new.
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