IN THE UAE
It’s a great day for new beginnings. On Akshaya Tritiya, Friday talks to a few of the UAE’s changemakers – from a trio setting up a unique car rental company to a duo selling affordable art.
It is an annual date when couples wish to get married, long journeys are traditionally started and men go out to buy gold in the hope of good fortune. And, this year, that date – as dictated by the lunar cycle – falls today: Friday April 28. The Indian festival of Akshaya Tritiya is being celebrated across the UAE and all around the world even as we speak.
It is known as a golden time for eternal success. Anything which is started before midnight – whether that be opening a new business, trying a new hobby, beginning a new relationship or simply having a new idea – is, tradition dictates, destined to be prosperous and fruitful.
And, whether you celebrate Akshaya Tritiya or not, there’s surely something inspiring about that.
Friday certainly thinks so. And, as such, today we toast the occasion by bringing you a selection of UAE residents who are all following their dreams and, from an independent cinema to a healthy ice cream, launching something new and exciting in 2017.
In 2015, while in the US, Sylvain Perret found himself in need of a car. Instead of going to a hire company, however, he looked online and found a specialist website where people rented out their spare vehicles.
‘It was like Airbnb but for cars,’ says the 37-year-old French tech entrepreneur based in Business Bay, Dubai.
‘It was exactly what I needed on that trip. I remember thinking this kind of app would be perfect for Dubai.’
So, he roped in a couple of Dubai-based tech partners – that’s Ahmad Arab and Upmanyu Misra – and the trio set one up themselves.
Rydr will officially go live this summer, and it could well transform Dubai’s car economy. It will link people who want to borrow a motor with people who want to lend theirs out.
‘So, on the one hand,’ explains Sylvain, ‘it will provide tourists and transient workers with an affordable way of accessing temporary vehicles. And on the other, it will allow residents who have spare cars sat in garages to monetise their vehicles.
‘But it’s not limited to those groups. There’ll be a whole range of cars on there. If you’re a guy looking to rent out a really nice set of wheels for the weekend or a job interview or even a romantic evening, you’ll be able to log on and find that.’
The cost of renting could be anything from Dh70 for a reliable little number up to Dh1,500 for a high-performance model. All insurance will be automatic. Any fines charged to owners while their vehicles are being rented will be paid by Rydr and then clawed back from the renter.
‘The website goes live in late April and we’d like to have 300 cars on there,’ says Sylvain. And after that? ‘We’re ambitious and we’d love to roll it out across the Middle East. There’s no reason why this can’t be a success all over the region.’
‘The SLATE will be completely varied,’ says BUTHAINA. ‘We want to INSPIRE and enlighten. We want PEOPLE to come here, WATCH the films, feel part of a COMMUNITY and take part in conversations’
A FILM FIRST
For three years, Buthaina Kazim has wandered Dubai with a metaphorical screen on her back and projector in hand. She is the Emirati culture-lover behind Cinema Akil, the UAE’s only nomadic cinema.
Since 2014, she and cofounder Mishaal Al Gergawi have showcased arthouse and independent films in a variety of unusual venues around the city. Think art galleries in Al Quoz, basketball courts in Dubai Design District and courtyards in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. ‘The first time we did it was at The Third Line gallery,’ explains Buthaina, a one-time cultural projects manager from Jumeirah. ‘We set up some beanbags, had some popcorn and hoped people would come along. And they did. I think they really understood what we were trying to do: it was about cinema not just as content but experience.’
Now, she and Mishaal, 36, also from Jumeirah, are about to take things one step further. In autumn this year, Cinema Akil will open its first permanent venue.
A one-time warehouse in Alserkal Avenue is being transformed into a two-screen complex. It will be the first independent arthouse cinema, says Buthaina, in the GCC.
‘The UAE has one of the largest multiplex distribution per capita in the entire Middle East,’ she. ‘But we don’t have anything dedicated to these kind of films. I just thought that had to change. A city this rich in culture and diversity should have a cinema that was offering something equally rich and diverse. And the pop-ups sell out so often we know the appetite was there.’ Screenings will take place seven days a week, and audiences should expect Middle Eastern and international dramas, documentaries, cult movies and occasional classics.
‘The slate will be completely varied,’ says Buthaina. ‘We want to inspire and enlighten. We want people to come here, watch the films, feel part of a community and take part in conversations.’
The first screening is set for October, with details to be announced at cinemaakil.com.
As for those who prefer their films in unusual venues? Don’t worry – the pop-up screenings will continue even after the new venue opens.
NEW START WITH ART
Peter Goodwin has been in the fine art industry for 13 years but when he talks about its elitism, he doesn’t hold back. Too often, he reckons, galleries – and the works they display – are inaccessible, incomprehensible and expensive. ‘In Dubai, I hear people talk about affordable art,’ says the 34 year old, who runs Mestaria, a cultural management company. ‘And by “affordable” they mean $3,000 [Dh11,000] a painting. I mean, really?’ He has, he hopes, a solution. This month, he and business partner Rami Al Awssy are launching the Affiche Gallery, an online and pop-up exhibition space they hope will take fine art to the Middle East masses.
It will exhibit around six works each by an initial roster of 10 highly regarded or up-andcoming regional and global creatives, including Iraqi calligrapher Wissam Shawkat and Bahraini painter Abbas Al Mosawi. But here’s the real USP: the work will be printed in high-quality, limited edition poster format with just 99 of each available.
‘The limited number makes them collectable and the quality makes them desirable,’ explains
‘The LIMITED number makes them COLLECTABLE and the QUALITY makes them desirable. But, because we’re not just SELLING one of each, we can make the work AFFORDABLE too’
Peter, who is from the UK originally but lives in JLT. ‘Prices will start at Dh250.’
‘I was going to join the army before I was offered the chance to work in this industry, and I’ve spent most of my life since trying to break down barriers. That’s what this gallery is all about.’
The initial plan is for the website (theaffichegallery.com) to go live at the start of May with the pop-up appearing at events and festivals twice a month across Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It made its debut at last month’s DIFC Art Nights event.
Rami, who also runs ING Creatives, an events and networking company, said: ‘At that first event, people were saying how it felt like a cross between something cool and accessible and a high-end gallery which is exactly what we wanted.’
By the end of the year, they hope to have 100 artists on their books – meaning a choice of 600 works for buyers.
Cinema Akil’s permanent venue will be the first independent arthouse cinema in the GCC, says Buthaina Kazim
Rami Al Awssy and Peter Goodwin are trying to break down barriers and make works of art affordable for all