Dubai Like You’ve Never Known
Dubai Like You’ve Never Known

There’s a cultural revolution brewing in the Jewel of the Desert

Forget New York, Alicia Keys was really talking about Dubai when she sang the lyrics, ‘Concrete jungle where dreams are made of’ in Empire State of Mind. The flamboyant city is the definition of sweet dreams. The world’s largest melting pot, where at every junction the city’s manicured to make your existence better. It’s probably why Remitly, the American online remittance service that’s listed on the Nasdaq, recently called out Dubai as the premier destination in the world where people would want to live. On a colour-coded map—generated using 12 months of Google search data and with 164 countries analysed—users were asked to bookmark their top cities. Dubai, the Jewel of the Desert (and now perhaps the world) came out aces, followed by Miami and Paris. This was largely attributed to the surge of diverse job opportunities, growing infrastructure, unbelievable safety laws, unmatched healthcare and education system, and, of course, the biggest clincher of all, income tax elimination. Just ask Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan and David Beckham who all own mansions in the exclusive Palm Jumeirah.  


For holiday travellers who pour into the city—including an India-heavy population where hearing Hindi spoken at every corner is customary—Dubai is largely viewed as a goldmine where you exercise an idyllic existence, with a template of shop-eat-party-sleep-repeat. You go to bare your wealth at Dubai Mall, bring out your six-pack at Jumeirah Beach, Instagram the hell out of the popular hotspot Nammos and rest your head at the shiniest hotel. But what of people who want a hit of culture outside the obvious? The city that occasionally gets a bad rap for being too ‘man-made’ is now trying that much harder to be all-inclusive by way of spaces that promote alternative hobbies. From a burgeoning Fashion Week to a session of perfume-making, Dubai’s ensuring that whatever kind of person you are; there’s something for everyone.  


The Giving Movement tribe


Fashion like you’ve never known 


When I had the pleasure of visiting Dubai, thanks to Dubai Economy & Tourism, I was lucky to experience the city’s iteration of a Fashion Week. The five-day affair that recently transitioned from being Arab Fashion Week is run biannually in the months of March and October. The chosen location for it was but naturally the increasingly popular Dubai Design District (D3). Unlike other parts of the city accessorised with gargantuan structures; D3 is more hipster—a mash up of concrete and culture—kind of like the Soho of London or the Marais of Paris. The compact office buildings, juice bars all around and a diverse mix of people, all with bodies sculpted by Zeus, were the ideal trappings for a fashion shindig. Plus, this is Dubai we’re talking about. The holy grail of luxury fashion shopping where you breathe Prada and sleep Balenciaga. So, it was only time that the city sets the course for a fashion blowout.  


The show line-up nodded towards Dubai Fashion Week becoming something of a platform for buzzy, new-age talent. Besides American powerhouse Carolina Herrera’s grand opening and Malaysian couture house Rizman Ruzaini’s bringing in OG supermodel Naomi Campbell, the runway saw a bigger hit of niche global designers—including Pipatchara from Thailand, Poland’s POCA & POCA and Beirut-based brand Emergency Room. The party was, however, at The Giving Movement presentation. A large crowd jostling for space to get into the main show area reminded me of my time at Paris Fashion Week when brands like Rick Owens and Givenchy had tribes dressed in their wares, lining up streets before showtime. Admittedly one of the hottest labels in Dubai, The Giving Movement sees a general population salivating for its high-quality athleisure. This while being 100 percent sustainable, thanks to British designer Dominic Nowell-Banes— who permanently moved to the UAE in 2017—wanting to put out fashion that combats the industry’s impact on climate change. The result is a hype-inducing label that hits the sweet spot between style and substance. More importantly, The Giving Movement show was telling of the buzz surrounding labels ready to hit the big time. And while the scale of the entire event was much smaller than what you see across the globe, the intent of establishing ground as being more than just an in-your-face luxury platform set the tone for a new order of fashion in Dubai.  


A buzzy Alserkar Avenue


Craft your own smell 


In another part of the city sits Alserkal Avenue, which has officially become Dubai’s epicentre for art. The larger-than-life space mimics a gigantic warehouse (obviously with plenty of polish and shine) and spans a cool 500,000 sqft. Established in 2008 by the Alserkal Group, founder Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, sought to cultivate a vibrant creative community and support culture in all forms in Dubai. Today it is home to over 70 contemporary art galleries, visual and performing arts organisations, designers, home-grown and entrepreneur-led businesses, and community spaces.  


The magic laboratory that is Oo La Lab 


But here’s the best part. Within Alserkal Avenue is one of the coolest places in Dubai: the Oo La Lab where you’re invited to make your own perfume from scratch, bottle it up and take it everywhere you go. For an indecisive person like me who seeks the ultimate end goal of perfection, the process was a test of what I conjure up and whether I’d break something at the end of it. In a proper laboratory-like set-up, a range of liquid ingredients were set in three layers of top, middle and bottom notes with chemistry symbols pasted on them. Names ran from fougère, orris and chypre to the more obvious citrus, aromatic, fruity and spicy. After choosing the scents you like, you mix them up in a mathematical ratio provided by the mixologist on ground and then delicately put them from a test tube into a bottle. I cheated a little and got the mixologist to help my indecisiveness. Out came a fruity and intense scent that I named after my favourite dog, Duchess, from my gang of five French mastiffs. The hour-long process was undoubtedly one of the most novel I’d experienced before I hit up the city’s best hotel for magnificence like I’d rarely experienced.  


The view from Ling Ling


Eat like you mean it 


Atlantis The Royal. What’s not to be said about the grandest hotel in the world. Beyoncé’s kicked off the launch. Kendall Jenner navigated the many layers within the never-ending property. And the richest humans walking the planet park themselves here for a goodnight’s sleep. For normal folk, if you can’t stay here, make it a point to at least eat a lavish meal that you’ll remember for a lifetime. But where do you go when the hotel houses 17 world-class restaurants—including eight by Michelin-star chefs, like the legendary Nobu; Heston Blumenthal’s establishment and La Mar by Gastón Acurio? I’d, in fact, recommend the more decadent and accessible Ling Ling. The unique space that sits higher up in the expansive property houses a sexy lounge meant for heady cocktails and to sway to tasteful electronica; an outdoor terrace that proudly offers the best skyline you’ll ever see in Dubai; and a plush dining room surrounded by broody red lights for a sumptuous experience. When you sample the space in its entirety, you’ll realise that Ling Ling is in fact the best representation of the hotel’s unbeatable lavishness, an in-turn, Dubai’s grandeur. A version every traveller to this utopian city knows only too well. It’s why the next time you go, you traverse to pockets off the beaten track before you end up right where luxury lives for a dynamic holiday that allows you the best of everything. Even culture.  

contact us :
Follow US :
©2024 Creativeland Publishing Pvt. Ltd. All Rights Reserved