A Sacred place: The Arts Club Dubai

A private haven and home to an influential community of creatives, entrepreneurs and thought leaders, The Arts Club Dubai carries on the grand tradition of its original London hub, which has served the UK capital’s elite since 1863. GMT GCC steps into this exclusive world to talk culture, connections and horological collections.

The concept of the oasis was one of the Middle East’s many gifts to the world. In essence, it is a fertile haven of lush vegetation surrounded by harsh desert, and oases – al wahat in Arabic – were traditionally places that sustained desert dwellers. Well protected by their local populations, trees were often planted on the edges of oases to trap and protect their life-giving waters. It’s no surprise that many of the GCC’s most beautiful spots – the UAE’s Al Ain and Liwa, Saudi Arabia’s AlUla, Buraimi in Oman, amongst others – were once simple stop-offs for those seeking respite from the punishing emptiness of the desert.

Nowadays, well-to-do desert-dwellers still go in search of oases, but it’s no longer dehydration that drives them – rather, it’s a thirst for culture, art and beauty in the company of like-minded individuals in a place where, like the oases of old, the sheltered surroundings provide shade, comfort and seclusion from the strains of the world beyond.

With its opening in 2020, The Arts Club Dubai became such an oasis – its shelter in the form of 6,000 square metres of exquisite architecture and décor, laid out over six floors in the heart of Dubai’s financial centre. And the private member’s club’s offerings go well beyond quenching thirst, with a select combination of fine dining, bars, cultural and artistic programmes and meeting spots designed to nourish body, mind and spirit, in all aspects. Attracting a privileged and eclectic membership of entrepreneurs, artists, thinkers and leaders, The Arts Club Dubai is a place for connecting with others, no matter their walk of life.

We wanted to build a place that provides connection, but is also a space that feels secluded and private, designed for like-minded people

“We wanted to build a place that provides connection, but is also a space that feels secluded and private, designed for like-minded people,” says Ajaz Sheikh, CEO of The Arts Club Dubai. “Dubai’s appeal to international visitors can be both positive and negative as the city can get very busy at times and I think our members appreciate knowing that their club remains a constant haven at the heart of what is a very busy city. 

“We have lounges, a rooftop, seven bars and private spaces – if you want to be seen, you can be, and if you want to be private, you can too. We have high energy restaurants, slow dining restaurants, not forgetting our two cigar spaces that are very popular as they provide another meeting point for people with interests in common. Our strategy is very much focused on our members, offering experiences, concepts, and spaces for them to feel at home in the club, but also to enjoy some of the city’s best art, culture, and events, all of which helps to create the inimitable community and value proposition of membership at The Arts Club Dubai,” he adds.

As the Club’s name suggests, art is at the very heart of its raison d’être and the lush collection of regional and international contemporary pieces that adorns its vast space is the perfect demonstration of this support for creativity. While the Club’s permanent collection continues to grow organically, a programme of solo shows and group exhibitions in a wide variety of mediums and styles is designed to broaden the horizons of members’ knowledge of the arts, whether they’re experts or absolute beginners. Expert-guided tours of galleries and events such as Art Dubai also provide opportunities for members to engage with the artistic community beyond the Club’s walls. 

The Art Club Dubai’s concept of art isn’t merely limited to what’s hanging on the walls – indeed, a healthy programme of cultural and entertainment events keeps the social calendar fresh, whatever members’ interests. From business panel discussions and cigar festivals to DJ sets, the possibilities are endless – especially for watch lovers.

Ajaz Sheikh: CEO, The Arts club, Dubai

“As part of our cultural programme we invited Mohammed Abdulmagied Seddiqi into the club to host a talk on vintage watches from the 70s,” says Ajaz. “He gave a presentation on the industry at that time as well as the aesthetic and he brought some wonderful watches from his family collection. You can hear the full talk on our podcast.”

Running the full gamut from breakfast to nightcaps in the wee small hours, The Arts Club Dubai caters for its membership in spectacular fashion. Charmingly seasonal Italian fare, all-day Mediterranean dining, a hip Japanese concept and a classic ‘club menu’ in the members’ lounges are all accounted for, while rooftop cigar lounge Oscuro neighbours nightclub Vega, all surrounded by an outdoor, cabana-dotted terrace. 

“It’s been a fantastic journey from pre-opening to more than two years of operation,” says Ajad. “The global pandemic is definitely something we hadn’t factored into our plans, which had some impact on the way in which we could implement programming for our members and the many guidelines we had to adhere in order to safeguard our members and the community, so it is wonderful to now witness the club in full swing. We connect people through everything we do, from our restaurants and bars, our cultural programme, our music programme, not to mention the relationships and friendships that we’ve seen flourish during this time as members have made new connections with each other.”

It’s an intimate club to be part of – and it sounds as though its members really are getting the very best out of life in Dubai’s buzzing metropolis.