Musings from Bahraini entrepreneur, design agency creative director and magazine editor, Wafa Alobaidat
Along with cupcakes and the t-shirt making business, another fast trend that I noticed is being picked up in Dubai is the business of creative hubs.
It is no secret that ever since digital platforms came to life, social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram gave communities a home. It was only a matter of time before physical platforms arose to serve a similar purpose for users of our digital community.
Reoccurring events like TEDx and Pecha Kucha do a wonderful job of gathering and bringing creatives together for one night in a spontaneous, efficient, and fun way. Recently initiatives such as Nuqat in Kuwait and Behance Portfolio Reviews in Saudi Arabia have been actively gathering creatives to showcase art and design as well as deliver educational conferences and seminars.
With that said, there is no substitute for a physical space, operating 24/7, with doors wide open that invite and welcome creatives to spend time with each other at their own pace and convenience. It is through physical space that creatives are able to meet, network, and most importantly collaborate.
Over the past few years, a dynamic duo made up of twin brothers Ahmed and Rashid Bin Shabib have been on a mission to create and build creative hubs all over the UAE offering an alternative solution to eating, drinking, and clubbing.
At their first space, Shelter, a warehouse space at the Serkal Avenue in the industrial Al Qouz district of Dubai, you can work hours on end having cup after cup of coffee inside the house sculpture built inside the warehouse space. The only disadvantages of Shelter are its location, in which a visitor almost always gets lost attempting to find it, and its lack of natural light. Its advantages, however, outweigh the disadvantages, and include comfy couches and privacy, allowing students, especially those studying architecture, to work hours into the night without being distracted.
The more recent Pavilion is like Shelter’s younger hotter sister. With its prime location right behind Burj Khalfia, the space is vast, with loads of natural light. Build from the ground up, its aim is very much like Shelter's. With an outdoor garden and fountain, gallery spaces, an indoor screening room, a café, and plenty of space for outdoor sculptures, it boasts many advantages, including a vast area, and cool interior. It’s also a great place to meet friends or hold events.
Recently, on a short trip to Dubai, I found the right hub for me. Make Business Hub is a concept space created by Leith Matthews and is located on the first floor of Al Fattan Tower.
A short walking distance from JBR, the place is wholesome and laid back, dressed in wooden benches, a bar with funky stools, pods for working in private, and inspirational illustrative quotes drawn on walls. Selling local magazines like WTD, serving sliders, and coffee served in cups from Copenhagen, the place is comfortable enough to make you feel like you are at home. It’s designed to showcase artwork, events, seminars, and lectures in an intimate way.
Bahrain is yet to have a hub like Dubai, with the majority of investors not understanding the value of a space that caters for the creative or entrepreneur if it does not make money.
Most of these initiatives are supported via sponsorships and donors, so for me as a local it is a tad frustrating that I have to make the journey to the UAE to experience such an atmosphere. But I hope that initiatives like these will come, and if they do, I hope our creatives can finally come out of the shadows and into the light.
Wafa Alobaidat writes a bi-monthly column for Khaleejesque and muses on fashion, art, culture and culture shock in the Middle East. Wafa is also the editor of Sketchbook magazine and runs design and PR agency Obai and Hill.