Dubai is an emotive amalgamation of heritage, culture, and modernity—an urban oasis in the middle of the vast Arabian desert. Its cosmopolitan outlook and avant-garde character make it the perfect destination for women travellers. We took our cover star, Radhika Apte, who represents the urban millennial on and off screen, to the Emirati jewel to experience the best of architecture, modern art, and gastronomy. By Priyanka Chakrabarti
Producer Aindrila Mitra
Photographer Tarun Khiwal;
Assisted By Nithin Joseph & Abhishek Verma
Stylist D Ivyak D ’Souza;
Assisted By Dipika Mohta
Hair & Makeup Deepa Verma
Location Alserkal A Venue, Dubai
Video Producer Aditya Mehrotra
The shining sun, sand, and towering super structures of Dubai make it seem prodigious at first sight. If you arrive at Emirates Terminal 3, you realise right away that Dubai is a melting-pot of avant-garde art, innovation, and grace.
Exuding glitz and glamour from every corner and rooted in tradition, Dubai is fast becoming the most popular holiday destination for women travellers around the world. The City of Gold spoils you silly for choice. Whether it’s art, entertainment, gastronomy, or shopping, Dubai is a dream come true for female explorers. Thanks to its cosmopolitan culture and the liberal attitude of the ruling Sheikh, it is also one of the safest cities in the world. An apt personification of this ideology can be seen in actor Radhika Apte, who effortlessly brings to life bold and intriguing characters. Hence, she was our ideal companion to discover the hidden jewels of the Emirate.
The art scene in Dubai saw a major shift with the establishment of Alserkal Avenue in 2008.
If you want to explore Dubai’s quirky and vibrant art and culture, this is where you need to head. Grey concrete warehouses turned into intellectually stimulating art spaces, coupled with cafes, a cult cinema hall, a vintage car museum, and so much more will leave you spellbound. “I have been to Dubai so many times before, for events and promotions, but I have never been to this place before. I am in awe of Alserkal Avenue. The architecture, the art, and the cafes here are just amazing!” says Apte.
Established in 2008, Alserkal Avenue (alserkalavenue.ae) in the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai, is home to over 40 contemporary art galleries, non-profit organisations, cafes, yoga studios, and other homegrown creative businesses. Labelled as the arts and culture district of the city, this place is an effervescent community of visual and performing arts organisations, designers, and artisanal spaces that have become an essential platform for the development of the creative industries in the UAE. Alserkal Avenue is a part of Alserkal, the socially responsible cultural enterprise founded by Emirati businessman and patron Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal.
One of the most striking architectural marvels here is the building called Concrete. It’s a multi-disciplinary space conceptualised and programmed by Alserkal. Concrete was launched in 2017 as the first building in the UAE to be completed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), founded by Rem Koolhaas. It’s a versatile venue that can be metamorphosed to bring varied creative visions to life. This makes it suitable for international museum-grade exhibitions as well as events across art, design, fashion, and the performing arts. In fact, Concrete was shortlisted for the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
If you are a sucker for art galleries, we recommend a visit to the 1X1 Art Gallery (1x1artgallery.com). Celebrating two decades of exhibiting Indian modern art in the UAE, this gallery, which was founded by Malini Gulrajani in 1996, is now housed in a 700-square-metre warehouse space in Alserkal Avenue. As a significant podium for both, time honoured and budding artists, 1×1 Art Gallery supports its programme through well thought-out collaborations with local and international galleries, art fairs, and museums, as well as with independent curators and art bodies.
If you’re looking for a wellness fix, check out Shimis Yoga (shimis.com), a brand new yoga studio in Alserkal Avenue. This yoga studio conducts hot yoga classes, wherein asanas are practiced in a temperature controlled room (temperature varies between 28° Celsius and 30° Celsius). A juice bar and a quirky retail space complete the studio. You can also come here to attend a relaxing meditation session.
Another interesting space is Mirzam Chocolate Makers (mirzam.com). Mirzam makes chocolate with just three ingredients: cocoa beans, unrefined cane sugar, and a generous dollop of cocoa butter. Designed in a way that the production process is visible, you can experience every phase of chocolate making at this factory—right from the roasting of beans to hand-wrapping each bar.
If you’re a coffee-lover, then you must spend some time at the Nightjar (nightjar.coffee). It’s a boutique coffee supplier chain and has been operational in Alserkal Avenue since 2018. This hip spot is a coffee roastery that doubles as an eatery, an event room, a training facility, and even a party space. It serves some interesting brews, coupled with music, conversations, and of course, nourishment. Be it early morning or late night, they will not shy away from brewing a cuppa for you.
Another spot in Alserkal Avenue that blows our minds is Cinema Akil (cinemaakil.com). It is the first art house cinema in the GCC. Through its pop-up editions, it brings critically acclaimed films from around the world to audiences in the UAE. This initiative aims to spread awareness around cinematic arts. Book your tickets, find a place to sit (firstcome-first-serve), and let the magic unfurl. After the film screening, head to Project Chaiwala (projectchaiwala.com), which is located within Cinema Akil. This Indian diner is open from 12 pm to 10 pm every day, and curates authentic tea experiences in an urban setup. Expect a menu that flaunts delectable Indian and Arabic street food along with multiple variations of the beloved chai.
PS: The tea served here is ethically sourced from organic gardens in Darjeeling, India.
Being a modern metropolis, Dubai has a wide array of dining options. If you crave for globally inspired Indian cuisine, we advise you to make a reservation at MASTI (mastidubai.com). Located in the south of La Mer, this restaurant mixes the contemporary with the traditional, creating an expression of new India. Award-winning chef Hari Nayak has crafted the menu, which presents a pleasingly surprising reinterpretation of Indian cuisine. The BC Pizza is a cult favourite—imagine butter chicken, creamy burrata, and fresh basil, all set up on a crispy pizza base. The Saag Paneer Lasagna is a darling choice, too. It brings forth a heady mix of aromas with delicate spinach, light cheese, and coconut lime sauce coming together nicely on the palate. These dishes can be beautifully paired with MASTI’s enticing cocktails.
The lush interiors at MASTI are multi-layered, rich with texture and bold colours. The restaurant offers a pulsating enclave to savour the fun way of life. The beachfront terrace and lounge are open from day to night, offering a serene dining location that is caressed by balmy sea breeze, allowing guests to enjoy a laid-back yet playful experience. The bar is situated upstairs and offers panoramic views of the Arabian Gulf. Imagine sipping a cocktail here at sunset!
Al Ustad Special Kebab
If you’re on a tour of the hidden gems of Dubai, you must visit this legendary restaurant situated on Al Mussallah Road (old Dubai). A popular family-run eatery, Al Ustad Special Kebab (alustadspecialkabab.has.restaurant) looks nothing like a luxe fine-dining place. Think plastic chairs, ordinary cutlery, and plain-jane decor. However, their kebabs and other Persian delicacies have attracted patrons like Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan over the years. As we indulge in some meaty kebabs that come with freshly cut salads, it’s not difficult to imagine why this restaurant is such a favourite among celebrities. The kebabs are marinated for two days before they are cooked and served. The melt-in-the-mouth meat comes with an accompaniment of grated cucumber and curd. This is the most authentic kebab place we’ve ever visited.
Dubai is a shopping paradise, especially for the ladies who seek high-street fashion. The city has some of the biggest and most lavish malls on the planet, which have redefined the concept of luxury shopping.
The Dubai Mall
The Dubai Mall (thedubaimall.com) is so much more than just retail therapy. It is one of the largest destinations for shopping, entertainment, dining, and leisure. Seated like a poised diva, right next to the Burj Khalifa, this mall has over 1,200 shops, two major department stores, and countless food and beverage outlets.
Fun fact: the area of this mall is equivalent to that of 200 football grounds! Apart from shopping, the mall is home to the legendary Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, an Olympic-sized Dubai Ice Rink, children’s ‘edutainment’ zone Kidzania, a massive indoor cinema complex, and The Village —with a retractable roof that opens during winter.
Mall of the Emirates
Dubbed as the world’s greatest shopping resort, Mall of the Emirates (malloftheemirates.com) welcomes more than 40 million visitors each year. The mall takes the phrase ‘shop till you drop’ quite literally, as is evident in its 600- plus stores and 100 F&B outlets. The presence of Magic Planet, a family entertainment centre with a phenomenal range of rides, games, and simulators; Ski Dubai, which features zip lines, chairlift rides, ice caves, and penguins; and a 12-lane bowling alley ensures endless fun.
City Walk by Meraas
With its wide boulevards, bright lighting, infectiously lively atmosphere, and entertainment infused air, City Walk by Meraas (citywalk.ae) could easily be confused for a film set disguised as a mall. Split into different districts—each of which includes international retail offerings, upscale gourmet destinations, luxurious beauty spas, and plush hotels—this space is designed to sweep you off your feet. The abundance of activities aside, what really sets this space apart is an indoor tropical rainforest bio dome, complete with over 3,000 species of flora and fauna, and a man-made self-sustaining tree.
Emirates (emirates.com) is one of the most popular airlines that Indian travellers take to fly into Dubai. With many direct flight options from major cities in India, Emirates offers exceptional services and world-class amenities. Whether you opt for a First Class Suite with an onboard shower spa, a Business Class Cabin with fully flat beds, or even an Economy Class Seat with thousands of entertainment options to choose from, you are assured a comfortable journey.
The recently opened luxury hotel Address Fountain Views (from INR 13,600; addresshotels.com) is a highly recommended property. This visually striking three-tower marvel offers unobstructed and mesmerising views of the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain. You can binge on a range of delicacies at The Restaurant, or indulge in masterful pastries at The Pâtisserie, or grab a cup of coffee at The Café, or taste tantalising teas at The Tea Lounge. Paired with The Spa for traditional and modern therapies emphasising on aromatherapy and hydrotherapy, and a state-of-the-art fitness centre, this hotel radiates class, opulence, and comfort.