ADDING UP THE DELIGHTS | XVA Gallery & Boutique Hotel, Dubai
The rush of old Dubai’s Bur Dubai neighbourhood, replete with horn-inflicted mazes of traffic, giddy neon signs, clustered apartment blocks, and marketplaces equally anxious for notions of space, can at times be about as soothing as getting massaged by a professional wrestler. Ironic then that this area should play home to one of the gentlest square acres of space you're likely to come across in a city of a million glittering ambitions. That such a languorously unpretentious locale should have taken on achingly cool credentials in a decade when Dubai has only grown taller and flashier, is nothing short of providence.
But then contrasts and contradictions seem to abide quite peacefully within the wonder that is Bastakiya. From antiquated waterside communion to flourishing art commune, the district has come into its own. And though it may have been rechristened as the awkward ‘Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood’, it’s ‘Bastakiya’ where the aromas of the past and possibilities for the future reside.
My ambles through Bastakiya are amiss without dropping in to say hello to the XVA Gallery. Quite possibly the pick amongst Bastakiya's embarrassment of art riches, the XVA dons many an avatar, and does so with considerable ease. When the weather's all gorgeous, its charming central courtyard serves as both backdrop and seating area for film screenings. There's a lot to be said for evenings spent under a billowy silk canopy, with an independent flick for good company. Lest one forget, the gallery also houses some great art.
It’s the courtyard on which my attentions are focussed currently, as it unveils itself to be a restaurant of award–winning credentials; the freshly-prepared vegetarian fare is a guaranteed antidote to Dubai’s usual raging temperatures. I move on to another treasured discovery: the XVA’s Boutique Hotel is an exotic stunner, its traditional rooms having been converted into stylish art-boutique residences. Clean, hip and with just the right dash of ethnic roughness around the edges, it’s an atmosphere of Arab nostalgia that has succeeded in making XVA a hidden gem amongst the discerning pack.
I linger, I uncover: three laidback open courtyards; six designer rooms conceptualised by well-known designers and artists; the restrained opulence that has made this Art Hotel part of the Chic Retreat. XVA encourages artists to take up residence in these rooms on occasion, and you're inclined to believe that any painter who says yes to the offer wouldn't find inspiration to be too much of an issue.