How The Waterfront Market Is Evolving Into A Cultural Destination

Dec 13,2018

The Waterfront Market in Deira is one of Dubai’s leading shopping destinations and a premier fresh food marketplace. The 120,000 square meter market builds on the longstanding reputation of the Old Deira Fish Market that has been serving fresh catch and produce to consumers at the Dubai waterfront since 1958.

However, recently the market took a positive but rather unconventional turn by announcing a nationwide mural competition that seemed to be a conscious effort at evoking arts and culture within its domain. The market aims to transform itself into a cultural destination that both Dubai residents and tourists must note on their list of places to visit in Dubai.

The competition received a phenomenal response and was won by 36-year-old UAE resident Shahul Hameed from India from over 100 submissions and 10 shortlisted finalists. Hameed won a cash prize of AED 30,000 and had the privilege to paint his iconic art piece on one of the Waterfront Market’s main walls.

We sat down with the panel of judges Khalil Abdulwahid Hassan, Director of Fine Arts Department at Dubai Culture; Maitha Al-Marri, one of the UAE’s upcoming visual artists; and Lachlan Gyde, Executive Director for Retail, Residential, & Commercial at Ithra Dubai, the developer and operator of the Waterfront Market to understand the vision behind this progressive transformation.


Arts and Culture

The newly launched Dubai waterfront property represents a fusion of traditional Emirati souq and the multicultural spirit of the city, the structure also showcases the shift in Dubai's real estate. “Culture is very important and since Dubai has had an explosion in modernization it is important to keep their culture alive in the community,” said Lachlan Gyde, Executive Director of Ithra Dubai. “Ithra is here to enrich Dubai and we are interested in understanding how art and culture penetrate the market, so that if you are visiting you walk through art, culture and fashion” he added.

Property developer Ithra has also turned the waterfront into a shopping experience by enhancing 770 underground parking spaces and more than 470 outdoor parking spaces along with a designated fish auction area.


A Mural Competition

The Waterfront Market is expected to serve more than 500,000 visitors, tourists and shoppers per month. “The Mural competition was meant to combine old and new Dubai. The art competition is a great opportunity for the community and it will also help people understand the past of the UAE." said Gyde.

(Left to Right - Lachlan Gyde, Maitha Al Marri and Khalil Abdulwahid Hassan)

“Most of the submissions that came in were good but didn’t meet the theme, so we invited the artists for a tour of the facility and then asked them to resubmit their artwork,” said Maitha Al Marri, one of UAE’s upcoming visual artists and a judge at the competition.


Choosing a Winner

The winner Shahul Hameed’s proposed mural was selected for its creativity, which accurately captured the theme of the competition, ‘Leave Your Mark’

Competition Winner Shahul Hammed (third from left) stands below his winning mural with the judges

“Dubai Culture is happy to be involved with private and government entities that support art," said Khalil Abdulwahid Hassan, Director of Fine Arts Department at Dubai Culture. "When we chose a winner we looked at how the proposed design will look on a wall. But more importantly, we considered how older UAE nationals that come here will interpret it. It is their culture and it should represent them" 


The Future

The Waterfront market has sought out the right time to rebrand itself into a cultural hub that will soon be marked a tourist attraction in Dubai. Its newly opened shopping and dining experiences tie in well with its ongoing events and support for arts and culture in the country.  The destination has a promising future as a tourist spot and we are definitely keeping an eye out for this exciting cultural escapade.


For more information on the Waterfront Market visit