Chilling out at Al Quoz

DUBAI - At first glance, Al Quoz may seem like an area dotted with dusty factories, rows of cloned warehouses and labourers hard at work.

By Farhana Chowdhury

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Published: Sun 12 Sep 2010, 12:53 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:40 PM

The name, in fact, conjures up an image of an industrial wasteland. But there is more than meets the eye. Tucked away behind corners and alleyways lies a bevy of art couture, storehouses with super sales on clothing brands and household goods, an entertainment and leisure complex, and two shopping malls — Oasis Centre and Times Square Mall — all camouflaged under an ‘unglamorous’ backdrop.

Nelly Ali, a recreation enthusiast from Iran, calls herself a ‘Qouzer’, a self-created term to describe people who frequently haunt Al Quoz.

“Many ask me why I visit Al Quoz instead of spending my weekends with them at ‘sheesha’ cafes or walk around malls,” says Ali. “I tell them I like the quiet ambience around here. It has a slightly distant mood from the usual city life. I’m an art lover and to see galleries displaying contemporary art in a place people consider ‘a labour camp’ is exciting. Freedom of creative energy is what it is,” she said.

Another attraction is the Dubai Bowling Centre that lies off Shaikh Zayed Road’s second interchange. The 70,000 sq ft building looks like something out of a fantasy world. Shaped like an 18th century castle, the interior boasts of state-of-the-art professional series bowling lanes complete with touch-screen score systems, table tennis facilities, a 2,500 sq ft arcade arena and a cafe. Maricel Tolete, a Filipina receptionist, said she had never heard of the place until one of her friends invited her to tag along one day.

“My friend told me she had joined her company’s bowling league and she had started going to this bowling place in Al Quoz to practice. I knew there was a bowling centre on Shaikh Zayed Road but I never knew about this one. Now I always join her and I’m hooked,” she said. Fancy a summer retreat but don’t want to spend a fortune? Why not sit on a block of ice and have a warm cuppa? That’s exactly what ‘Chillout’ lounge at Times Square Mall offers along with a menu full of hot treats and non-alcoholic drinks. The zone might not be the best place to have a meal, but it is worth experiencing sub-zero degrees in the desert city, according to Manav Jain, who works as an IT administrator for a Dubai-based company.

“It is a nice place to go in Al Quoz if you can bear the cold. Even though I was given a jacket and gloves, I still froze! But the interior is lovely and I enjoyed my time there,” he said.

The lounge was opened in 2007 and is known to be the first of its kind in the Middle East featuring a unique mix of ice, steel and glass.

So, there is a ‘cool’ hangout zone, lively entertainment spots and arts galore. Still think Al Quoz is a barren wasteland? “Once upon a time, people didn’t feel comfortable driving around this area. But just as Dubai has changed so dramatically in the past 10 years, I think, Al Quoz will also become a trendy place to relax someday,” said Nelly.

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