In the last leg of my trip to Dubai this year, serendipity led me to Alserkal Avenue, a neighbourhood of warehouses in Al Quoz—where I discovered a one-of-its-kind vinyl record store, a dozen art exhibitions, innovative cafes and workout spaces, a group of Indian-origin actors rehearsing for a play, and more. By Rashima Nagpal
Amid the industrial area of Al Quoz in Dubai, 500,000 square feet has taken the shape of an art hub better known as Alserkal Avenue. The vibe of this place is unlike anywhere else in the emirate. It has been designed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture as a multi-disciplinary area called ‘Concrete’, and comprises 25 warehouses dubbed as art spaces. As I sampled a couple of them from the inside, a mix of intriguing spaces revealed themselves.
Some came in the form of huge art galleries furnished with nothing but canvases; a few identified themselves as independent fashion pop-ups; one of them was smeared in paint and with unfinished paintings scattered all across the room—I found out that it hosts painting workshops for people of all ages; some have been designed as incredible cafes (such as this one) or co-working spaces; some theatres; and the one that had me at first sight was a vinyl record store.
Founded by music hobbyist Shadi Megallaa, The Flip Side at Alserkal Avenue has been tagged as UAE’s only independent record shop. It opened in 2017, and has ever since been attracting old-school music lovers with an aim to revive the charm of a disc. Megallaa’s collection ranges from Blues, Jazz, Rock, Funk, R&B, and Soul to Hip-Hop, Reggae, Electronic, Deep House, and quite a lot of Indie music. Apart from buying a vinyl, one can simply spend time sampling tracks at one of the listening stations here. Like I did. With just enough time to play one record, I intuitively picked up an R&B album by a band I hadn’t heard of before (Open Soul by Tomorrow’s People) and fell in love with.
Alserkal Avenue hosts multiple events at all times. From Social Saturdays (think meditation nights, board games, talks, food pop-ups) and running clubs to film screenings, plays, art festivals, and more, it is a liberating place to be at.