Dubai is fast becoming one of the global hotspots for Art in the Middle East. In March it hosted Art Dubai, Dubai Canvas and World Art Dubai, all showcasing artists from around the globe, but specifically the Middle East, Africa & Asia. We’ve yet to check out the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, but we have attended one or two events in Dubai.
As part of Art Week, Alserkal Avenue (a trendy warehouse location converted into hipster art galleries, coffee houses, shops and a classic car showroom) hosted ‘Late Nights’ where the galleries would stay open longer than normal hours.
It was great wandering around the avenues after dark. The most interesting thing was the mix of people. Hipsters and scenesters were inhabiting corners of coffee shops and more avant-garde galleries, whilst there were Emirati’s in full dishdashas serving coffee, Russians in full black tie and I’m pretty sure half of France in one gallery. Eclectic was definitely the word, and it was great. (Also it’s dog-friendly!!)
We saw some absurd video art with no explanation (although I did try to earwig the conversation between some people next to me who seemed to know the artist), a pyromaniac who burnt a lot of books, a strange magical unicorn land, classic cars (mostly from America) including Lamborghini’s attempt at a 4×4 jeep thing, two Model-T Fords and a Pontiac Firebird, to name but a few. It was incredible.
The main exhibit was a piece called ‘Under’. a shipping container with a tree in it and a roof made of netting. There was probably some symbolic reason that I was missing, but sometimes art like that just doesn’t do it for me.
I’d definitely recommend a visit if not just for a brew from Nightjar Coffee, who will cater to your tastes and won’t just serve you a bog standard brew.
We mostly went because… a) it’s Dali and b) tickets were half price. Unfortunately, a lot of the work were prints, but the most fascinating part was the detailed photograph collection of his life at home in Port Lligat in Catalonia. I knew and still know very little about Dali, but one thing I did learn is that he was mates with Andy Warhol and Alice Cooper!!
There was one original piece of art, a painting of some Jasmine flowers. Apparently, Dali became obsessed with Jasmine when he was at Port Lligat. I’ve since been reading his Wikipedia article and wow, his wife was a piece of work.
Who knew the Queen Elizabeth 2 had been in Dubai for the past 10 years?! Not me! Probably one of the most famous cruise liners of the 20th century, the QE2 even carried troops to the Falklands War in the 1980’s. She’s now parked up (forever hopefully!) in Port Rashid, to the northeast of the Burj Khalifa. For the past few years, she has been renovated to become a floating hotel with several restaurants and bars. We were fortunate enough to visit during their soft opening whilst everything was still shiny (and not quite ship-shape) and quiet!
A new visitors centre has been attached permanently to the ship, allowing visitors a glimpse into her history before entering a glass elevator and heading on board. Hands down my favourite room on the ship was upon entering! It was so late 1960’s early 70’s it was incredible. A round sunken sofa area is surrounded by a walkway depicting scenes from the QE2’s past. Please, get a member of staff to show you where to go, it is SO easy to get lost once on board, and signage is not something Dubai is known for at the best of times! The elevators, stairways, bannisters are all original, and I reckon some of the carpet is still the same too. It’s a bit rough around the edges where they’ve tried to shoehorn in extra toilets, but I would say it’s a pretty faithful restoration. Some ceilings seem to be a bit lower in places, possibly where they’ve had to add in extra lighting and sprinkler systems.
We ate at The Queen’s Grill (reportedly where the Queen herself ate on occasion!) They were still serving a pared-back tasting menu, which to my delight had an entirely vegetarian option. The food was delicious (although they might want to rethink how they serve their amuse bouche) and the added bonus is just outside the main entrance is a gin bar. BONUS. On entering the restaurant there is still the sign saying men must wear dinner jackets (whoops) and the service was excellent. Our waiter was from Kosovo and we had a lovely chat about him. He was very excited that we were from the UK and onboard the QE2!
After dinner, we explored the original casino (decommissioned, this is Dubai and gambling is illegal), a small ballroom area, more bars that were yet to open and a small shopping avenue, complete with original 1920’s art deco style lettering and design. I will be honest, it was pretty creepy, aside from the odd security guard wandering about it was dead, and I half expected water to come gushing down hallways (a la Titanic) or a toddler to cycle round a corner (a la The Shining.) It would be cool to spend a night on board for a special occasion or to head back once it is fully opened in the winter to check out some of the other F&B venues.
We then headed to what can now be classed as Dubai’s oldest pub, the Golden Lion. It still looks like the interior of a working men’s club from the 70’s complete with a limited selection of alcohol and darts. And smoking. I still haven’t got my head around smoking being allowed still out here. I reckon it’s only a matter of time until it’s banned. Fingers crossed eh?!
All in all an enjoyable trip, and a perfect way to spend the pennies our lovely friends donated to us before we left the UK. It’s only a matter of days now until we’re back in the UK to catch up with everyone, and I honestly hope it rains!