Dubai is known for its skyscrapers, sun, sand, luxury shopping and not much more. But behind the 5* hotels and expansive malls there is growing arts and music culture waiting to be explored - you just need to know where to look.
In the last few years there has been a rise of artists from in and around Dubai producing paintings, pottery, visual media and more, influenced by both modern life and the history of the country.
This work is being picked up for gallery exhibitions in places such as The Third Line, The Fridge and Traffic. Visit thejamjar for a community-based hands-on experience where you can make use of their DIY studio or take part in workshops, creative learning classes and painting parties. XVA gallery has a stylish cafe – Gordon Ramsay is said to be a fan – and doubles as a hotel. The Rotunda Gallery is a space for the American University in Dubai and hosts student shows where you can catch work from emerging artists studying in the area. These are just a few of many great gallery spaces so it is worth doing a bit of research on what is on at each before you visit.
If interiors, architecture and product design are more your thing, time your visit with Dubai Design week (24-29 October 2016) where you can experience 6 days of all things design including panel discussions, workshops, installations and product exhibitions. Make sure you get to Downtown Design to view the most cutting edge and innovative furniture, lighting, textiles and accessories to name just a few. In the meantime there are plenty of design blogs that cover Dubai and the Middle East, such as DesignFix, where you can keep up to date with what is going on in the Dubai design world.
A good way to immerse yourself in musical culture and history is to visit Dubai Music week (September 2016); an international music festival with talks, workshops and performances covering rock, pop, urban and Latin and Arabic genres.
On top of that, there are plenty of comedy and live music events going on in Dubai throughout the year, ranging from contemporary musicians to performances seeped in cultural heritage. Eventful gives a calendar of live concerts and Time Out Dubai is useful for smaller and more intimate gigs. The Music Room is a a well-known venue for live music of a range of genres, and Malecon is popular for Latin music lovers looking to dance the night away. For a more relaxed vibe head to Zero Gravity beach bar and spend your day soaking up the sun listening to Dubai ‘soul man’ Adam Baluch.
The Visit Dubai website has good information on the more historic aspects of the city such as UNESCO World Heritage sites, local cuisine and regional traditions. Bur Dubai is the historical district in Dubai and can be found on the western side of the Dubai creek. Here you will find some beautiful mosques, historical buildings and museums. It is also home to some traditional souks where shopping can be done away from the plethora of glitzy malls that Dubai has become famous for.
Try and visit also the Al Marmoom Heritage festival – a popular camel festival held yearly at the end of the camel racing season. If you can’t make it for this time you can visit the Al Wathba Camel Race Track. Entry to the track is free and races take place mainly on weekend mornings and some public holidays. Get there early to soak up the atmosphere.
There is so much on in Dubai in terms of art, music and design culture it is really useful to do the research before you go. The Visit Dubai website gives a good overview of what there is to do and see, but the best information can be found on personal blogs, local news websites and in local guidebooks which is where the best local haunts and smaller events are revealed. Take a look at the Dubai events calendar to make sure you don’t miss a thing – and enjoy!