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The cofounder of Dubai restaurant/concept store The Lighthouse selects his highlights of the city
The sight that inspires me the most is… Dubai’s skyline when I look back across the Dubai Creek from the Waterfront at d3, where The Lighthouse is. Beyond offering a stunningly majestic view, it’s a constant reminder on how far Dubai has travelled as a city and the many strides it has made in terms of its infrastructure. Looking at the water and the Dubai Creek, which contrasts nicely with Dubai’s modern skyline, I am also reminded of Dubai’s beginnings as a pearl-diving hub and how important it is to preserve some of that heritage.
The building I feel most connected to in the city is… the external façade and architecture of Emirates Towers. Not only do I find the architecture, by Hazel Wong, contemporary and playful, it’s also timeless. My first job in Dubai when I came from London in 2005 was in its Business Towers, so it holds a special place in my heart. Every time I approach the building and look up, I find myself smiling – surely a good sign.
A recent “find” is… Bagel Yard, a bagel shop on Al Wasl Road. Not only am I a huge bagel fan from my days living in New York, where the best bagels are usually offered by street vendors, I am always on the look out for interesting homegrown, entrepreneurial concepts that add a new dimension to this city – and this one fits the bill.
An object from outside my city that sits in my home is… The Reader, a sculpture by renowned Egyptian artist Adam Herein that greets me every time I enter the house. Adam, in my view, is the father of Middle Eastern sculpture in the modern art era and a true master of his craft. The Reader is reminscient of many themes I am fond of when it comes to collecting Middle Eastern art, including the role of memory, identity and postcolonial feminism.
On my coffee table you’ll always find… books, books and more books. I am quasi-fanatical when it comes to collecting interesting coffee-table books and always running out of space. The books typically revolve around subjects I am interested in, be it art, design or architecture.
My favourite space in my city is… Dare I say The Lighthouse? I am biased but, to me, The Lighthouse combines the right mix of food, design and lifestyle enveloped in a beautiful setting that puts me at ease. It has evolved as a hub for creatives within d3 and Dubai. Most importantly, we have the friendliest, most attentive team that I’ve ever worked with and it’s that human element that makes it come alive.
The last gift I received from someone in the city was… an incredibly thoughtful collection of objects from my business partner. He knows me really well and the gift contained, among other things, a beautiful coffee-table book on Japanese gardens from Phaidon, a magnificent set of crystal glasses from Soho House and, perhaps most touchingly, a little booklet that mimicked an imaginary interview, complete with an illustration of me made by a local artist, with the Financial Times as part of “Lunch with the FT”, one of my favourite publications. Nothing will top that for a very long time and I was ever so flattered.
My next investment… is an artwork by Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari, who I have admired for a long time. I typically take my time when it comes to acquiring new artworks and like to do extensive research, and Akram is an artist I have followed for a long time. His work, beyond being aesthetically pleasing, touches on many themes that I feel very connected to, including the concept of archival memory and how you can manipulate and appropriate certain archives to produce an alternative reading of history, in a way.
My last memorable trip was to… taking my son back to Egypt where I grew up and touring its many magnificent ancient treasures, including the Luxor Temple, Valley of the Kings etc. I hope this will have a lasting impression on him as he forms his own identity and assembles his own set of personal memories.
The thing I most look forward to coming back to is… home to Al Barsha and seeing my family. My wife and I built our house 10 years ago as a passion project and it has so many memories. Every mark, scratch and object has its own narrative, which is beautiful.
If I didn’t live in my city I would live in… New York City, which has just the right mix of grit, cosmopolitanism and attitude. Nothing else compares and I was very fortunate to have spent the better part of my 20s there after graduating from college.
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