Trendy Art Neighborhoods in the Arab World
By: Dani Meyer/Arab America Contributing Writer
The Arab world has a long history of arts and culture; however, in recent years, the region has transformed into a new type of art center, filled with murals, art galleries, and museums. These arts neighborhoods are filled with inspiration for artists and make for great travel destinations if you’re in the region. Here are 10 neighborhoods around the Arab world where you can catch a glimpse of amazing art.
1. Alserkal Avenue, Dubai
Alserkal Avenue is an industrial compound located in the industrial zone of Al Quoz in Dubai. It was established in 2007 by Emirati businessman and patron, Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal. Today, it is a cultural district featuring contemporary art galleries, performing arts, and artisanal spaces. It spreads across nearly 20 warehouses and is Dubai’s de facto arts hub. Alserkal Avenue also has coffee shops, cafes, and co-working spaces, in case you want a pick-me-up or some Wi-Fi to go along with your daily dose of art.
2. Mar Mikhaël, Beirut
Beirut is known for its electronic music scene, ground-breaking fashionistas, and beautiful museums. At the heart of all this creativity is Mar Mikhaël, located on the outskirts of downtown. Old sets of stairs have been covered with vibrant paintings. The neighborhood’s main area is called Armenia Street and is filled with art galleries, exhibitions, and films.
3. Zamalek, Cairo
On the northern part of Gezira Island in the Nile River, you’ll find this upscale neighborhood with embassies, charming shops – bookstores, antiques, cafés – and plenty of cultural outposts. Zamalek features open-air performances, round-table discussions, and poetry. In addition to the performing arts, there are galleries galore – and the Museum of Modern Art.
4. Old Medina, Casablanca
The Old Medina of Casablanca is a great place for a quick stroll through some street art. It features a lot of murals that were painted during 2013 Sbagha Bagha Casablanca Street Art Festival by various artists.
5. Jabal al Weibdeh, Amman
Jabal al Weibdeh is located between Jabal Amman and downtown Amman. It is a close-knit arts community that was organically grown. The neighborhood features lots of street art, as well as Darat al Funun, a contemporary art collective housed among 6th-century Byzantine ruins. The Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts rounds out the neighborhood with changing exhibitions and a permanent collection, comprising over 2,800 pieces that cover painting, sculptures, graphic arts, installations, and more by some 1,000 international artists.
6. Adliya, Manama
Located in Bahrain, this chic part of the city attracts art galleries, cafes, and bars. Of the art galleries in Adliya, one of the island Kingdom’s most prominent may be Albareh Art Gallery, a platform to showcase contemporary Middle Eastern Art. Adliya also features non-profit Al Riwaq Art Space, which has been running since 1998 to nurture creativity through exhibitions, workshops residencies, and events. Even Adliya’s playground, bursting with colors and reclaimed-style playsets, is a piece of art in itself.
7. Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi
Saadiyat is one of the Arab World’s most up-and-coming arts neighborhoods. With the opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat is well on its way to becoming prominent in the Emirati art scene. Additionally, the Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi are currently under development. Art Abu Dhabi, held annually each autumn, is yet another highlight of this cultural district.
8. Hayy, Jeddah
Meaning “neighborhood”, Hayy is positioned to be part of Saudi Arabia’s cultural tourism. A three-story, 17,000sqm complex developed by Art Jameel, Hayy showcases and nurtures all aspects of the arts, including space for galleries, performances, comedy clubs, a digital studio for film-makers and more.
9. West Bank, Palestine
While not strictly an art neighborhood, the West Bank (specifically the Apartheid Wall) serves as a blank canvas for a number of artists looking to use their art to highlight injustice and resistance in Palestine. In the 17 years since Israel began construction of the apartheid wall, local and international artists have taken to it as a blank canvas on which to paint their politics, illuminating different realities in the process.
10. Sidi Ghanem, Marrakech
Quartier Industriel Sidi Ghanem is a developing shopping hub and artisan enclave on the edge of town, filled with local designers’ workshops and hip shops selling their products. Goods range from high-end fashion that incorporates Moroccan textiles to lamps that combine traditional metalwork with modern style. Laid-back cafes are scattered around the area, along with French restaurants and Moroccan kebab eateries.
These ten art neighborhoods combine the history of the arts and culture in the Arab World with modern traditions and practices. Do you know any other arts neighborhoods in the Arab world? Let us know in the comments!
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