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Travel to Dubai


Dubai Design District

1 June 2018

Explore the cool hipster spot that's putting Dubai design firmly on the map

The ultimate home of the region’s creative thinkers, Dubai Design District (d3) is the UAE’s undisputed hipster-haven and is spread across 11 low-rise buildings with a slick pedestrianised food and shopping scene, flexible offices and communal co-working spaces. It’s the shrewd coming together of a vibrant and contemporary mix of businesses providing the creative community with a suitable ecosystem and matching infrastructure. d3 has become a hub for international fashion brands, art galleries, media influencers, star architects and graphic designers, a collaborative place where small business coexists with global players.

Exhibitions, talks, events and a series of swanky pop-ups keep visitors to Dubai’s trendiest neighbourhood on their toes. Whether that’s in the comfort of sneakers when the yearly footwear and street culture showdown Sole DXB sets up shop, or in heels when the fashion pack sets up camp during Fashion Forward. Casual and relaxed street-style places to eat thrive along d3’s wide and stylish walkways, a novelty in terms of the pedestrian experience in the city, comparable only to Dubai International Financial Centre’s cluster-blueprint or City Walk.

Dubai’s new design epicentre was fashioned after other creative clusters such as London’s Shoreditch, Miami’s Design District and New York’s Meatpacking District to create a flourishing scene that is unique in the UAE. “We wanted to use the best of everywhere when we began making our own creative hub,” explains d3’s CEO Mohammad Saeed Al-Shehhi. Phase three will soon include residential canal-front towers, marinas and a range of trendy boutique hotels. While d3 follows its ambitions to place itself amongst the world’s leading creative centres, it serves the local community and visitors alike as a vibrant destination putting Dubai design firmly on the map.

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse is d3’s cool, calm and carefully curated concept store and kitchen. It’s the unofficial canteen of the creative set and a firm favourite for weekend brunch. Half concept store half restaurant, it’s also the go-to gift shop for design aficionados looking for stylish tabletop accessories, handmade glassware and coffee table books, while the all-day kitchen serves up Mediterranean-inspired dishes and freshly baked Viennoiserie. After work, the aperitivo crowd takes over this neighbourhood meet-up to the tune of nu-disco beats.

d3 Building 6 | Thelighthouse.ae | Tel: +971 4 422 6024

Chaps & Co

The traditional English-style barbershop may have other branches around Dubai, but its d3 outpost is the newest and home to the UAE’s first female barber. It’s the grooming pit stop of choice for hipsters and local creative folk alike. Closer to a gentlemen’s club than your standard in-and-out barber, Chaps & Co offers the full palette of grooming services for men. A lady’s salon next door makes sure no one is left out of a well-deserved beauty break.

d3 Building 6 – Mezzanine Floor | Chapsandco.ae | Tel: +971 4 240 6843


Here’s a store with a clear commitment to the needs of frequent travellers: Montroi was created to “celebrate nomadism” through handmade travel bags and accessories, fragrances, curated city guides, and cultural talks and events. It’s the brainchild of mod-nomad Enrique Hormigo, whose products are defined by their toughness, with a priority of ageing well, and by being as light as possible. “Our products are designed for longevity and are timeless in style”, Enrique explains. “There was a time when a bag would last for years and would become more beautiful over time: this is true luxury.” The handcrafted soft leather backpacks are a worthy bestseller.

d3 Building 7 | Montroi.com | Tel: +971 55 938 8481

East Wing Gallery

Hailed as one of Dubai’s most promising independent galleries for photo, video and print art, the up-and-coming East Wing gallery promotes international off-the-grid artists and dialogue through photography. Its current exhibition, Habibi Funk: A Spotlight on Arab Grooves, runs until late August and traces the “steps of a fusion of sounds and artists created in various Arab cities that are geographically distant from each other, yet share a common thread in their vanguard beats”, according to the gallery’s director, Elie Domit.

d3 Building 2 | East-wing.org | Tel: +971 50 553 3879

Akiba Dori

Be sure to stop by at Akiba Dori, the new generation resto-bar for lovers of Japanese street food. A food hall-style indoor alleyway presents seven storefronts serving everything from bar food to ‘Tokyopolitan’ fusion pizzas baked in wood-fired ovens in less than a minute. According to its founders, “Akiba Dori is inspired by the backstreets of Akihabara in Tokyo.”

d3 Building 8 | +971 4 770 7949

Words: S. Hottinger-Behmer