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Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

DIFC Gate Village Art Walking Tour

Explore the world of Middle East and International Art at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 0.3 miles / 0.5 km
Duration: Full day
Family Friendly
Overview: The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), a financial free zone in Dubai, is an onshore financial and business district. Given Dubai’s position on the world’s financial scene, the DIFC aims to be a major global financial hub. Free zones in Dubai stimulate business growth by providing ownership, tax incentives and assistance in setting up companies in the UAE.

Along with the numerous banks, financial institutions and services residing in the DIFC, there is a vibrant and very active community of art and cuisine. The DIFC has been described as a marriage between business, art and food.

This marriage was brought about by the vision of its architect Eric Kuhne. Kuhne, an American born architect living in London, is owner of CivicArts. The philosophy of CivicArts is to "re-unite the creative arts of art, architecture, garden, interior, urban and industrial design." Using his “Marketplace of Ideas” approach he conceives "great" civic spaces that "restore the storytelling quality of architecture." Certainly the DIFC brings this philosophy to fruition.

Kuhne states, "cities have always been marketplaces for commodities, goods, services and faiths" but that "none of these truly reveres the power of civic life." He argues that retail trade "can bring back the pageantry of civic life to cities and towns."

And the DIFC certainly does bring back the pageantry of civic life through its 12 art galleries and numerous fine restaurants. The DIFC is a pulsating hub of big business deals, gallery openings and well-heeled diners.

The DIFC Gate Village Art Gallery Walking Tour focuses on six galleries. But each of the full complement of galleries has its own ambiance and since all are located in the same area it will be easy to peruse all of them depending on the time you have allocated.

Tips: Be sure to check the web sites of the galleries for a whole host of special events open to the public. Of special note is Art Tuesday, which is an open house of all galleries with free food and beverages. Note this is not held during the summer months.

The DIFC Gate Village art galleries section has a very convenient parking garage located off the 312 Road as well a valet parking at the same entrance. If you eat at the Le Petite Maison restaurant (see POI #6), the restaurant offers free valet parking.

The DIFC is also accessible by Metro if you don’t mind a short walk through the DFIC. Exit the Metro at the Emirates Tower station taking one of the alleys between the buildings. Cross the next road and enter the building continuing to the other side of the building and exit. The next building is where the art galleries are but it is tricky getting in – ask the valet people how to do this.

If you should be in Dubai in March be sure to check out Art Dubai This is a wonderful art fair featuring offerings from more than 75 galleries from all over the world. Each of the DIFC galleries participates in the fair with special exhibits.

Another source of information for the Dubai art scene is ArtintheCity - - an umbrella project that unites the UAE arts and culture scene providing information to local and international audiences through a comprehensive website, a listing publication and the Artbus. It offers an app for your smart phone.

This is an Islamic country and the Holy Day is Friday with most establishments only open for partial hours on Friday.

Points of Interest


Cuadro Fine Art Gallery

Begin your tour of the DIFC Art Galleries with the Cuadro Fine Art Gallery, one of the UAE’s premier contemporary and modern art galleries. This gallery is the largest multi-gallery space in The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

The gallery’s exhibits “transcend borders and blur the lines between academia and aesthetics.” The exhibits concentrate on four areas: Painting, Paper, Photography and Sculpture, with each exhibit offering an educational component complete with lectures, workshops and panel discussions. A great interactive experience.

Check the gallery’s web site for schedule and information on exhibitions and events. The gallery is happy to provide guided tours. Please contact them to schedule a convenient time.
Opening Times:
Sunday – Thursday 10AM - 8PM

DIFC Gate Village 4

Phone: +971 (0)4 425 0404
Other Resources
Cuadro Fine Art Gallery

Farjam Collection

Directly across from the Cuadro Fine Art Gallery is the Farjam Collection.

The Farjam Collection, one of the most impressive privately owned collections in the world today, showcases a rotating series of exhibitions and educational programs. The gallery is free to the public affording the opportunity to learn more about the works, the artists and the context in which they were created.

The Collection concentrates on Islamic, pre-Islamic, contemporary Middle East and international modern and contemporary art. The Islamic section brings art from throughout the region including treasured Quran manuscripts, illustrated books on science, mathematics and poetry and other objects of art.

The Modern and Contemporary Middle East section contains emerging and cutting edge artists of the Middle East such as Farhad Moshiri, Mohammad Ehsaei, and Abdul Qader. The Modern and Contemporary section features Impressionists, Expressionists, Modern, Pop, Minimal and Conceptual art.

“As Mr. Farjam’s collection grew in scope, he had the impulse to share his artworks with a wider audience. He opened The Farjam Collection@DIFC in order to exhibit carefully curated shows and offer complementary educational programmes that draw on pieces, themes and artists from the collection. Mr. Farjam hopes that this combination of display and education will encourage audiences to exchange ideas about cultural traditions and inspire new artists to pursue their creativity.” Mr. Farjam is Chairman and Owner of Farjam and Founder and Chairman of the Hafiz Foundation," stated Marjan Farjam,
Collection and Exhibitions Coordinator.

Lunchtime guided tours every Wednesday are offered. Please call in advance to make arrangements.

Check the gallery’s web site for schedule of exhibits and special events
Sunday – Thursday 10AM – 8 PM
Saturday 12PM – 8PM

DIFC Gate Village 4

Phone : +971 (0)4 323 0303


The Opera Gallery

The Opera Gallery is located next to the Farjam Collection

The Opera Gallery in Dubai is one of 12 Opera Galleries stretched around the globe in the world’s most prestigious art cities.

The gallery showcases the works of the Masters such a Picasso, Buffet and Dali and also promotes new artistic talent from Europe, Asia and the Americas. Be sure to go downstairs to the “Black Room” for a look at the Masters.

All existing art forms are exhibited in the Gallery at one time or another. And all works and paintings on display are for sale. The Opera Gallery prides itself on providing specialists to assist clients with the purchase of major works of art. Starting your own collection or adding to an existing one? You may want to speak with them.

Check the gallery’s web site for schedule of exhibits and special events.
Sunday – Thursday, 10AM – 8 PM
Saturday, 12PM – 8PM
Closed Friday

DIFC Gate Village Building 3

Phone: +971 (0) 4 323 0909


Ayyam Gallery

The Ayyam Gallery commands a leading role in the Arab art world. Dedicated to helping the finest emerging artists from the Levan region attain international recognition; the gallery represents some of the region’s most notable contemporary artists.

Founded in Damascus in 2006, the gallery exhibits selections of cutting-edge painting, sculpture and photography.

Its goal of promoting the Arab World’s dynamic cultural scene at home and abroad has led the gallery to develop some interesting projects including The Shabab Ayyam Project, an incubator program for young artists, Ayyam Publishing, a Middle Eastern art imprint and Ayyam Auctions, which hosts biannual public sales.

Be sure to check the gallery’s web site for the schedule of exhibits and special events.
Sunday to Thursday - 10 am to 8 pm
Saturday - By appointment only

DIFC Gate Village Building 3

Phone : +971 (0)4 439 2395


The Empty Quarter Fine Art Photography

Next to the Ayyam Gallery you will find The Empty Quarter Gallery.

This is the only gallery in Dubai dedicated to fine art photography. Through the exhibit of fine art photography the gallery “expands the understanding and appreciation of photography as an artistic medium.”

Featuring emerging and established photographers from all continents, of particular pleasure are the exhibits that focus on the United Arab Emirates. You will be very pleased if you catch one of these exhibits because the photographs so vividly reflect the uniqueness of Emirati life.

Exhibits include documentaries, fine art, photojournalism, poetic, personal, abstract, human and street photography. Audio interviews, documentaries of photographers as well as rare and special editions are available for your pleasure.

Note: The gallery is named after the Empty Quarter, the Rub’ Al Khali Arabian desert which lies partially in the western portion of the UAE. It is the largest sand desert in the world and is famous for its majestic towering red sand dunes.

Check the gallery’s web site for schedule of exhibits and special events.
Saturday – Thursday 9AM – 10 PM
Friday 3 PM – 10PM

DIFC Gate Village Building 2

Phone : +971 (0) 4 323 1210


XVA Gallery

The XVA Gallery specializes in contemporary art from the Arab world including works of emerging, mid-career and established artists “who are responding to their local environment in thoughtful and provocative ways.”

The gallery is done in a modern warehouse style with raw poured concrete floors and detailed ceilings that offer the works of art just the right atmosphere to be displayed and truly appreciated.

XVA also has a gallery in historic Bastakiya area.

Check the gallery’s web site for schedule of exhibits and special events.
Sunday – Thursday 11AM – 7PM
Closed Friday and Saturday

DIFC Gate Village Building 7

Phone : +971 (0) 4 358 5117

Le Petite Maison Restaurant

Tucked around the areas of the art galleries, the DIFC has many good restaurants at all price points. On the balcony of Building #2 (the Empty Quarter Gallery) are a number of coffee and pastry cafes. In Building 3 (The Opera Gallery) you will find a couple of after-work lounges and a Lebanese restaurant. Building #4 (Farjam Collection) has the excellent More Café and Royal China Restaurant. All carry very good ratings but there is one that is far above all others . . .

Le Pete Maison Restaurant, located close to the XVA and Cuadro Galleries.

If you want to give yourself the perfect ending to your perfect day of viewing stunning art this is the place to go. Its cool French-bistro look with creamy walls, white tablecloths, long lava topped bar and tasteful art work is the ultimate setting to savor all you have just seen. You will think you wandered into a Paris bistro.

Not for the budget minded, this high-end restaurant has a fresh ambiance that is the ultimate complement to its Nicoise Cuisine. Relying on the supreme freshness and quality of the ingredients, the dishes offered are very simply prepared forgoing the need for heavy sauces. Sharing of dishes is encouraged and such a good idea so you can taste so many more.

With its French staff providing the epitome of service, this member of the famous French chain is repeatedly ranked as one of the top restaurants in Dubai. Make certain you try the Burrata et Tomatoe. If you love mozzarella you will love this rich creamy cousin.
Daily Hours:
Lunch: Noon – 3:30 PM
Dinner: 7PM – 11:30 PM
Bar: 1PM – 12AM

Free Valet parking at valet entrance on 312 Road

DIFC Gate Village Building 8

Phone : +971 (0)4 439 0505

Pictures in this guide taken by: katiefoster46, Cuadro Fine Art Gallery, Farjam Collection, Ayyam Gallery, Empty Quarter Gallery, XVA Gallery, photo by Katie Foster

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About the Author

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Katie is an American expat freelance travel writer living in Dubai, UAE. Her interests include travel,...

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