Art Lover’s Guide to Dubai

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Art Lover’s Guide to Dubai 20151217T054338 20170822T181727:636390226479193385 Art Galleries

If you love art, great food and sightseeing with a cultural bent, you might have something in common with Hisham Samawi. An entrepreneur who founded one of Dubai’s leading art galleries, Hisham shares his favourite places to show visitors in the city he calls home.  

A Dubai itinerary full of culture, good food, and sightseeing.

Art Lover’s Guide

Hisham Samawi is a half-Syrian, half-Austrian entrepreneur who has been living in Dubai since 2006. In 2008, he established Ayyam Gallery, a leading art gallery in the region spearheading the growth of the local arts scene. Last year, he shifted his entrepreneurial skills, opening the first outpost of iconic New York eatery Clinton Street Baking Company to rave reviews. He has plans to grow the brand around the region while continuing to champion Arabian artists.

When friends are in town I take them to…

Breakfast at Clinton Street Baking Company. The fried chicken waffle, a signature item, is my favourite.

Then, we might take in the main sights – Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai etc, but I also like going to Jumeirah Beach Residence, with its beachfront promenade. Marina Walk, with all the boats, is also nice. And I love taking friends to Al Quoz, where there are so many cool design and gallery spaces. The underground movement of creativity here always takes visitors by surprise.


The spots that best show off local cuisine are…

Al Nafoorah in Jumeirah Emirates Towers and Al Hamidieh in Downtown Dubai.


Some of my favourite dining spots in Dubai are...

La Petite Maison [DIFC], the benchmark in fine dining, and Zheng He’s [Madinat Jumeirah].

I’m also a huge fan of Eric’s in Karama, a little hole-in-the-wall Goan-Indian restaurant. For the price of what you’d probably spend on a starter in most restaurants, you can have a meal for four! Special Ostadi, an Iranian kebab place in Bur Dubai, is another secret spot.

For local designer creations, I’d suggest…

Fashion Forward, the event that takes place every six months. They bring in the best local designers to present their new collections. Whenever I need to get something cool and quirky, I go to S*uce, a homegrown boutique.


My idea of the perfect memento is…

Some really nice original art, and limited-edition prints.

The most romantic spot in Dubai is…

Kite Beach at sunset, where you can watch the sun set right behind the Burj al Arab. There are usually kite surfers silhouetted against the sky as well, and as a sports enthusiast, I find it awesome.


The best event on the Dubai calendar is…

Art Dubai (March 2016). It’s my favorite time of the year because so many great art events take place around then, and people from all over the world visit to experience the best Dubai has to offer. The weather is usually great as well.


My favourite shopping destination is…

The Dubai Mall, one of the greatest shopping destinations in the world. I’m amazed by how much they manage to cram into that area. I also like stores like Boutique 1, which have lots of quirky brands.

My favourite hotel is…

The Address Downtown Dubai because it is so close to where I live and to the parts of Dubai I frequent the most. I always have my guests stay there.


To see the best art in Dubai I’d go to…

Alserkal Avenue in Al Quoz. It is at the heart of the Middle Eastern art scene and the location of our first gallery in Dubai.

Your views on the flourishing art scene…

What’s really interesting is that this is one of the few things in Dubai that has developed organically. There were a lot of people who were passionate about art, who took it upon themselves to drive it. It all started in Al Quoz because of the low rents, but back then [ten years ago] you couldn’t even get a proper trade licence for an art gallery as it was an industrial area. It’s been a process of creative collaboration, and there’s been a lot of support since, but that’s what makes it really special.

Some of my current favourite artists include…

Safwan Dahoul, who was one of the artists responsible for the art livery we saw on the Dubai metro carriages recently. I also like Tammam Azzam—he’s a young, upcoming artist doing a lot of cool, amazing stuff.

If I had a free day I would…

Spend it kite surfing near The Palm in Jebel Ali.

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