We find a whole lot more to the burgeoning district than art galleries
It may be concealed among well-worn warehouses, labourer accommodation sites and motor garages, but cultural district Alserkal Avenue is probably the feature for which Al Quoz is best-known. For more than a decade, it has been the spot in which the city’s most artistic artisans and hippest hipsters can congregate. But Al Quoz is much more than this creative hub. It also houses some of the city’s coolest cafés, eateries and workout spots. We take a look at some of our favourite spots in one of Dubai’s most un-Dubai areas.
A4 Space Alserkal Avenue, Dubai’s main creative hub, opened as a group of 20 warehouses in 2007. Since its expansion in 2015, when the area was doubled in size to total 500,000 sq ft, several more innovative businesses and galleries have opened, featuring some of the region’s most established artists. At its heart is this creative hub described as a free co-working space to inspire and influence the creatives of Dubai. It features a café, cinema, free wi-fi and a hangout area called The Loft, which boasts a collection of books donated by the public. Open Sat-Thu 10am-7pm. Alserkal Avenue (050 556 9797).
Cartoon Art Gallery If you’re anything like us, you’ll have left your childhood kicking and screaming, refusing requests to switch off those Saturday morning cartoons just because you have a real job. If that rings a bell, we may have the perfect excuse for you to relive part of your misspent youth. Al Quoz houses the region’s first gallery to specialise in exhibitions related to animation, cartoons and comics. Works feature well-known caped crusaders alongside more abstract characters and conceptual pieces on canvas and in print, while staff hold knowledge on the subject that is as sharp as Wolverine’s adamantium claws. Open Sat-Thu 4pm-10pm. 4B Street (04 346 6467).
Café Rider This motorcycle workshop-themed café was at the starting line when the UAE’s speciality coffee race got under way in earnest. Since then, this friendly location has become known among punters and vendors alike as one of the city’s best java spots. Choose the bean of your choice and your favourite brewing method before taking your hot beverage and relaxing among the motorcycles, biker jackets, helmets and other memorabilia. The perfect place if you like to travel on two wheels, or simply can’t jump-start your day with a good cup of coffee. Open Sat-Thu 8am-8pm; Fri 8am-5pm. Warehouse 7, Street 14C (04 321 4411).
Hapi The healing properties of bone broth are thought to be so effective that some nutritionists have suggested the savoury brew should be in a food group all of its own. An interesting fact perhaps, but what has it got to do with a visit to Dubai’s quirky industrial-hipster crossover? Because situated towards the back of Alserkal Avenue is health food brand Hapi, which specialises in a wonderfully creative, tasty version of the dish. Of course, you won’t be forced to climb out onto this culinary limb – the menu does include a good range of healthy and organic fare. Open Sat-Thu 8am-10pm, Alserkal Avenue (04 225 1807).
J+A Gallery Furniture shopping can be a long and fruitless endeavour. As with all such retail pursuits, the temptation to head straight for a mall can be overwhelming. But if you’re looking for something different for your home, you might be glad you tried this modern, contemporary art space, which takes its inspiration from Germany’s Bauhaus art school. If beautiful vintage European furniture is your thing, you’ll love it in here, among interiors, lighting and more from the early to mid-20th century, plus artworks from renowned German artists. Open Sat-Thu 10am-7pm. Street 4A, Al Quoz (055 395 0495).
Mirzam Chocolate Makers Ever since the beginning of Dubai’s single-source coffee movement, there has been another bean-centred dedication following swiftly behind. Just as those who swear by the flavours of speciality coffee would not be seen near a jar of instant, craft chocolate aficionados would stay well clear of the mass-produced, sugar-filled version of the sweet treat with which we all grew up. Those purists have been rejoicing ever since the opening of the city’s first home-grown chocolate factory. Chocolate fans can take a tour to see its production line from start to finish – and take part in the tasting programme. Sign us up. Open daily 10am-7pm. Off 6A Street (04 333 5888).
The Fridge This cool music venue is one of our favourite spots to see local musicians and occasional bigger names. But it also does a lot to help give a boost to the city’s up-and-coming performers. Since 2007, it’s in-house talent management company has been scouring the region for the best up-and-coming acts to add to an already-impressive portfolio. This innovative brand also stages shows at some of the city’s biggest and best-known venues, including Dubai Opera and Madinat Theatre. Open daily 9am-6pm, Unit 5, Alserkal Avenue (04 347 7793).
The Warehouse Gym Question: where do artists, designers and other creative types go to work out? If there is an answer, it would surely involve a large New York loft-style expanse, chic lighting and graffiti-plastered walls. Enter The Warehouse Gym, a 1,400 sq m urban space incorporating cutting-edge equipment, circuit training zones, a full-size MMA cage, boxing area and cardiovascular equipment with TV and smartphone connectivity. Classes include CrossFit, TRX and Boxfit on a timetable that’s perfect for pre- and post-work sessions Open Sun-Wed 6am-midnight; Thu 6am-10pm; Fri 8am-10pm. Al Quoz 3 (04 323 23 23).
Tom&Serg This polished concrete-floored haven had a huge hand in the city’s casual café culture and remains the torchbearer to the numerous similar spots that have popped up in the few years since. With a regularly changing menu, this first venture from Tom Arnel and Sergio Lopez, two former employees of jones the grocer in Abu Dhabi, is still one of our favourite places for a late, lazy Saturday lunch. Open Sun-Thu 8am-3.45pm; Fri-Sat 8pm-5.45pm. Al Joud Center (056 474 6812).
Wild & the Moon Do not touch that fork until you have snapped these beautifully crafted bites from every angle possible. It is perhaps fitting that a small café in the centre of an art district puts almost as much effort into the aesthetics of its colourful dishes as it does into the flavours. It’s almost a shame to tuck in – yet tuck in we shall. All dishes are free from soy, dairy, gluten, sugar, additives and chemicals, making it a great place for a guilt-free weekend breakfast or quick working lunch. Open daily 8am-7pm. Alserkal Avenue (800 9453).
Four more Places to indulge your artistic endeavours in Al Quoz
Gulf Photo Plus Take courses in disciplines such as filming and studio lighting, as well as photography. The annual Gulf Photo Week also takes place on Wednesday February 7 to Monday 12 this year. Prices and times vary. Alserkal Avenue, gulfphotoplus.com.
Nadi Al Quoz Hang out in this creative hub with a coffee and free wi-fi or attend lectures and courses, such as the “build your own website” course, hosted by Project Code on Saturday January 21. Prices and times vary. Alserkal Avenue, alserkalavenue.ae.
Quoz Arts Fest This annual event sees a host of art galleries in the area work in collaboration to bring you a programme of include artist workshops, performances, walks, and interactive installations. Free. Jan 26-27. Alserkal Avenue, alserkalavenue.ae.
thejamjar This popular arts hub offers a range of courses in subjects including Arabic calligraphy, abstract art and figure drawing. The centre will also be taking part in Quoz Arts Fest this year. Prices and times vary. Al Quoz 3, www.thejamjardubai.com.