The saying goes that all good things must come to an end, and 2012 has certainly been a good one – and one of Dubai’s most eventful years yet. From a slew of new hotel openings (there were five stand-out openings this year) to a string of new restaurants, bars, art galleries, shops and spas, the city has truly hit its stride once again. Here we take a walk down memory lane to recall some of the events and destinations of this year. Here’s to 2013 being even bigger and better!
We’ve eaten our way into the furthest corners of Dubai this year, from Al Qusais, where we discovered Sri Lankan takeaway Red Box, to the Abu Dhabi border in Ghantoot for Blue Marlin’s new Saturday brunch. We’ve also seen two more celebrity chefs open in Dubai, both at the new Meliá Hotel: Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor and Marco Pierre White’s Titanic opened their doors in 2014. Dubai has also welcomed visits from superstar chefs Pierre Gagnaire, Antonio Carluccio, Yannick Alléno and Gary Rhodes.
But it was Portuguese cuisine that seemed to dominate this year, thanks to the launch of Portugal Genuine Piri Piri Restaurant, plus openings from venues inspired by former Portuguese colonies: Sweet Brasil in JLT, churrascaria Fogueira in JBR and Karama restaurant Goa.
Despite this international flair, home-grown has become the buzzword in the past year, from local veg at Greenheart Organic to Emirati concepts such as Klayya Bakery and Sweets. Finally, we couldn’t let 2012 pass without the year’s sweetest topic: Dubai is now home to the world’s most expensive cupcake thanks to Bloomsbury Café. Indeed, it seems there’s been a cupcake dedicated to almost every exciting event this year, from Eid to J-Lo’s much-hyped concert.
New hotels that opened in 2012 include Rixos The Palm, Jumeirah Creekside, Kempinski The Palm and Spanish boutique venture Meliá Hotel in Bur Dubai.
The unveiling of the new art library and creative space The Archive in Safa Park in November is high on our list of happenings for 2012. A few months earlier, Cuadro Gallery in DIFC made waves, showing the iconic founders of the light and space art movement in groundbreaking exhibition ‘Substance of Light’.
New galleries popped up across the city, including the conceptual-focused Grey Noise in Alserkal Avenue and the unique masters of vintage European furniture J+A Gallery in Al Quoz. And bookworms were spoiled for choice at the 2012 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, with One Day author David Nicholls and UK radio legend Terry Wogan both stopping by.
Meanwhile, Al Quoz’s Green Art Gallery and Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde made history when they became the first galleries from the Gulf to show at Art Basel, and The Third Line made the big time as the only gallery to do the same at Frise New York. Meanwhile, the popularity of Al Quoz art hub Alserkal Avenue continued to surge (The Fridge and GPP relocated there last year), with galleriese hosting hugely successful communal openings night in March during Art Dubai, followed by the QUOZ Project event in November.
Home-grown series The Entrepreneur broadened the city’s TV production portfolio, giving wannabe businesspeople the chance to pitch their ideas to the pros.
Hordes of new outlets, boutiques and luxury stores made their mark on the city in 2012. But it was the opening of Sunset Mall’s fantastically popular and affordable West LA Boutique earlier in the year that gave the city’s fashion set their fix, alongside Rivaage Boutique, Socialista Boutique and make-your-own abaya hub Whoop. The world’s biggest footwear concept, Level, opened in The Dubai Mall to offer a mix of shoe brands for all budgets. We were also treated to 24 hours of shopping at Dubai’s biggest malls for Eid Al-Adha. And some of the world’s top designers hosted events here, including British mogul Matthew Willamson, model Heidi Klum and Brit couturier John Rocha.
The past 12 months have seen some fantastic Dubai talents emerge. New house duo SickAsSwans became the first UAE band to top the album charts with their debut release, These Words, in May, while rock band Point of View launched their debut album in October with the backing of Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal.
In terms of international acts it’s been a phenomenal year, with rock bands Duran Duran and The Eagles playing The Sevens, and J-Lo, Katy Perry and Usher rocking Dubai Media City and Meydan. Meanwhile we’ve had megastars such as 50 Cent, Nicki Minaj and Snoop Dogg at Atelier’s Meydan gigs, Stereophonics, Snow Patrol, Fatboy Slim and Dizzee Rascal at Sandance, while Peppermint brought over Swedish House Mafia on what may be their last tour ever.
The year has been a delight for comic fans: the two biggest releases of 2012 were Marvel flick The Avengers and DC Comics adaptation The Dark Knight Rises.
The sign of a strong nightlife scene is its new arrivals, and in 2012 Dubai scores a full bill of health, with a slew of exciting new openings. In bars we’ve had trendy lounges including the Al Murooj Rotana’s Alegra, Rixos The Palm’s White X Bar and the Jumeirah Creekside’s Cu-ba and Nomad Lounge. But there’s also been more low-key fare with the Madinat Jumeirah’s Rivington Grill bar and the Ramada Plaza JBR’s retro-themed Speakeasy.
In the world of clubs, Old Dubai fought back with the opening of Mansion in the Meliá Dubai, while New Dubai is still thriving with international brand, the Habtoor Grand’s Villa Romana. Down the road in Ghantoot, Blue Marlin Ibiza UAE has given clubbers a new excuse to leave the emirate.
Sport & Outdoor
Padel tennis, Flywheel classes, Meydan Beach Club, shark safaris, The Track golf course and Watercooled watersports centre all launched.
Body & Mind
It’s been a huge year for the city’s health-conscious. Swathes of new salon openings caught our attention: I GIow Beauty Lounge in JLT (the longest-lasting eyelash extensions we’ve worn), Spa Cordon in DIFC (outstanding mani-pedis) and Code Men’s Salon, a stylish male grooming lounge.
The arrival of Sh’Bam classes around town, swing yoga at Fitness First, Skiptrix sessions at Urban Energy and stand-up paddleboard yoga at Watercooled certainly kept things interesting. Personal training- only spot Symmetry Gym also opened in the first quarter, complete with Dubai’s most expensive personal trainer Amir Siddiqui. Also during summer, the couple behind gastric mind-banding presented a talk in Dubai explaining the weight-loss benefits of the psychological practice over surgery.
Al Noor Centre for Special Needs celebrated its 30th anniversary, Dubai hosted its first festival for twins and triplets, and a woman swam around The World Islands for charity.