Decoded spotlight on Dubai

In a new series, Decoded Magazine is travelling the world and speaking to Promoters, Artists and anybody that will give us the time of day to give us a run down on their city and lifestyle. Our first kicks off in Dubai with UK expat techno label owner Tobie Allen who relocated over a year ago to enjoy the sunshine and finer way of life. We wanted to know a little bit about some places to party, local food, bars and even things to do when sober.

So tell us, where is the best place to party?

Dubai is a hive of activity with many bars and clubs dotted all over the place. There is a general trend of bars and clubs playing house, deep house. However there are smaller scenes of techno and drum & bass.

The places that stand out that have been going for around 7 years are 360 at the Jumeriah Hotel. Dek on 8 is always a busy night playing all things house. The Basement is the latest club being put on the map with some great house, deep house and techno underground vibes. On the other side of the coin are places like Blue Marlin, Nasimi Beach and Provocteur that regularly have the big boys play such as Luciano, Dennis Ferrer, Jamie Jones and soon Paul Van Dyk.

School night clubbing is also gaining much support with nights like Secret Circle at the Basement run by Houssem, Bigmo and Aidin, with Subculture run by Dj Che & Maks at the Millenium Hotel also doing very well. For the glitz, glamour and the champagne sparkler lovers, there is Cavalli with Pacha Dubai also open here. Bar Q43 now run by old friend Bobby Chaggar from The White House days in London is packed pretty much every night of the week and is a credit to him and the team. They just celebrated their 1st Birthday with David Morales which is testament to their status in the Dubai clubbing scene

What promoters are really moving the scene, any parties we should keep an eye out for?

GROOVE ON THE GRASS (Custom)

Deian Markov – GROOVE ON THE GRASS, one of the best monthly techno nights – [Facebook] great venue on the Emirates Golf course in the middle of Dubai, DJs have included Carl Craig, Recondite and Stephen Bodzin. Deian is also running a night called CLIQUE at 360 Bar; more on a housey trip.

Blitz Promotions, run by Adrian Grech [Facebook] is packing in the numbers in to a warehouse shell on THE 41 FLOOR of the Media 1 hotel. They have great sound, great vibe and an awesome vibe. They recently had Ben Klock, and they have David August coming up in a couple of weeks. They have also started running the new 02 Club at the Soiftel Hotel on the Palm Jumeriah.

Analog Room hosted by Mehdi and Salar Ansari brothers [Facebook] host a very minimal, deep and techno based night in a basement of the Holiday Inn Al Barsha. Truly underground, in every sense it’s a dark club with limited lights and a thumping sound rig. It makes you dance like no ones watching! I popped down there the other week where they had the legend DJ Pierre playing which was a fantastic night.

Mike Bufton aka Mr Mr from Audio tonic [Facebook] is the man about town popping up around a lot of DJ booths around the UAE regularly. The Audio Tonic (his agency and promoter brand) crew hosts nights at the infamous 360 outdoor bar set out at sea next to the world famous Burj Arab. They also host a night called SHIBUYA alongside the SMOKINGROOVE brothers at the Basement.

never get out of the boat (Custom)

NEVER GET OUT THE BOAT is the best boat party running in Dubai – [Facebook] organized by the DUBAI UNDERGROUND MUSIC MOVEMENT, run by Matthew Charles – always rocking and known for its awesome vibes.

HOUSE OF AFRIKA is a weekly night run by CHARL CHAKA. A stalwart of the Dubai Music Scene, Charl who I knew around 15 years ago back in Cape Town is also the founder of INFUSION Magazine, one of two informative reads for the music scene here in the UAE. HYPE Magazine run by Mark Pickup; is the other leading music magazine here. They are both always on the pulse of things going on. Both are a must read to be in the know!

GLITCH at the Basement is another very busy night that basically informs you to leave your high heels and designer bags at home because you’ll lose them on the dance floor. They claim to leave your notions of “clubbing” behind as its not your typical club night. How right they are!

Award winning ELECTRIC DAYS are a true leader in the tech house and house scene here in the region. Always known for the rocking vibes. A vibrant crew that really put on regular busy nights in and around Dubai. Check out their website to get a feel of the carnage they create! http://electricdayslove.tumblr.com/

Every scene has them, what up and coming DJs we should look out for?

raxon (Custom)

Raxon [Facebook] has had his head deep in electronic music for over a decade now. A self-starter who soon rose through the ranks, he was regularly found in top clubs around Dubai. Soon after, one of the Top 100 Clubs in the world according to DJ Mag, namely 360º, became his regular home after the Audio Tonic crew installed the Egyptian as resident.

As a resident, it’s Raxon’s unpredictable track selection and ability to nurture the right vibes that have made him so well loved, spinning deep house and tech to adoring crowds on a regular basis. With his reputation growing, Raxon has now played some of the region’s best events, including Creamfields Abu Dhabi from 2009 – 2011 alongside the likes of major players including John Digweed, Hernan Cattaneo and Danny Howells. So too has Raxon played leading Berlin club Watergate and provided a guest mix for John Digweed’s influential Transitions Radio Show.

Before long Raxon was also hard at work in the studio fomenting his own unique sound. Since 2007 he has worked with respected people including Nick Curly, Tom Budden and many more. Recently he has signed to Moodmusic and Christian Smith’s legendary Tronic imprint with more new releases, and Raxon recently remixed Nick Curly’s ‘Underground’, out now on Cecille, which Diynamic’s Solomon has given regular play for months.

Whilst Raxon’s fan base and reputation continue to grow around the world, DJ Mag Middle East have been quick to recognise his efforts by placing him Number 7 in their Top 100 DJ Poll in 2010 and was voted Best Dubai DJ in 2013 by Time Out Dubai. But this is just the beginning; Raxon has so much more to give.

smokin brothers (Custom)

As two wise Chemically enhanced men once said, ‘The brothers gonna work it out’ and it’s an adage the Smokingroove Brothers [Facebook] have taken to heart as they’ve become one of the most in-demand production and DJ duos around. Production-wise, they specialise in deep, Chicago-flavoured jacking’ house, the sort that’s seen them sign records to Roger Sanchez’s Stealth Records and their own Illuminati Recordings imprint, the sort that has got them charted by every jackin’ DJ worth his salt (and tequila), the sort of infectious, funk-laden, booty bouncing music that you just have to get down to. And when they’re not busy crafting big-bottomed bass beauties, the brothers are busy working on their numerous Podcasts (all available through Apple’s iTunes), keeping the underground house scene very much alive and kicking.

They’ve hosted radio shows for over 10 years, featuring a diverse range of guests ranging from The Stereo MCs, Armand Van Helden, Roger Sanchez, Basement Jaxx, Derrick Carter, Mark Farina, Erick Morillo to DJ Sneak, Goldie Lookin’ Chain, Nic Fanciulli, Louis Osbourne, Mutiny, Steve Lawler and a lot more. But it’s perhaps on the DJ front that the brothers have made their biggest impact. With both Safe and Marko now based in Dubai, they hold down the most coveted residency in the Middle East at the much copied but never bettered Nasimi Beach, a 5,000 capacity venue nestled on the edge of the seen-from-space Atlantis Hotel.

Not only have they turned a once unremarkable patch of sand into a consistently sold-out club thanks to a soundstorm of beats and bass, they’ve played alongside (and often closed) for Faithless, Roger Sanchez, Derrick Carter, Armand Van Helden, Basement Jaxx and many, many more. Alongside that, the Marko and Safe played at their third instalment of Creamfields Abu Dhabi, dropped house bombs at Pete Tong’s Wonderland, El Divino Ibiza, Savannah Ibiza and Hed Kandi parties in Ibiza, spun at the legendary Turnmills, Pacha London, Ministry of Sound, Moneypennys in the UK & Ibiza and the world famous Miami Winter Music Conference.

The most recent developments might be the biggest yet: Smokingroove have compiled and mixed the first in a series of Pacha Dubai CDs, which are on global sale, while the duo have been representing their love for all things Chilled & Soulful at Cafe Del Mar in the region. Away from the clubs, the London-born duos are just as busy. With more and more chart-winning material pumping out of their smoke-filled studio, this year see’s them investing more revenue into more and more studio equipment and a huge increase in tracks being released on their own Illuminati Records Imprint.

For those who indulge (we don’t condone the drug use), what is the local laws on drugs and alcohol?

Before I arrived here I was under the impression that it was a very conservative culture and one couldn’t do anything without looking over your shoulder. However you can drink here in hotels and at various licensed events. Can even eat and buy pork. What seems very apparent is, I have not seen any fights, or any drunken louts falling around streets. You don’t get that usual melee in the streets that we often see in the UK. Regarding drugs it is a flat out no no.

Again I have seen people on drugs and know that it is around. I haven’t come across it personally but you do read of people getting locked up for possession of very very small amounts. It’s against the law and you get punished accordingly. In essence its a drinking bar culture where clubs normally close at 3am.

Away from all the usual the tourist traps, where do the locals usually eat?

The UAE predominantly is made up of expats. From Sub Asia (India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) , Philippino’s and then Westerners like UK and Americans. Dubai is known for its varied culinary experiences with so many cultures being here. Emirates frequent areas that tourist wouldn’t go to and also there’s areas where they keep to themselves.. I have heard of whole areas in the desert that no one knows about that are only catered for Emirates. Arabian food is the traditional food for the locals. Kebabs, Humus, Stuffed Camel, Shawarmas, Al Machboos (a rice and meat dish)

Any special local dish one should try when in town?

Camel is amazing – a camel tagine with tomato based gravy, dates and apricots is just awesome (Ed notes: doesn’t sound too nice)

Best place to grab a drink after a day in the sun and kick back?

Atmosphere-Dubai-91 (Custom)

I have to mention Atmosphere [Website] – Atmosphere is an exclusive fine dining restaurant and lounge located on Level 122 of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower – The views you can imagine are just out of this world. The attire is dressy so no flip-flops and shorts unfortunately but worth slapping on the lipsticks and the slipping on the loafers for a drink. The prices like any tourist place are on the higher side but not often you get to drink 1350ft in the sky.

Where would you recommend the best place to stay?

There literally are too many to 5 star hotels to mention but again one stands out thats if you can afford the price and get a room in advance. The Burj Arab – 7 star hotel. Dubai is mostly glitz and glamour however if you search off the main tourist drags and look around there are more reasonable priced hotels all around.

Ok, we have to ask, name us 5 things to do when sober?

Days trips to Oman –A great day trip is to go to Khasab in the Omani enclave of Musandam around 2 hour drive north of Dubai. We secured our own boat for 2 , the captain, snorkeling equipment for the whole journey (around 3 hours) for around 20 pounds each. The scenery is breath taking, the sea is warm and you get to snorkel with tropical fish. There is a promise of dolphins which we took with a pinch of salt knowing nature can’t be relied on however true to word on way back 3 humpback dolphins joined us. To top the trip off (as if it couldn’t get any better) getting back to port we witness the Iranian smugglers in full force. Yes you read that right and I had to check on this when I got back to Dubai. (Youtube and Google both have videos and articles about how and why this happens). With a sunset drive along the coast back to the UAE was a fantastic day.

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4 x 4 Dune Bashing – as you well aware we are surrounded by sand. One massive sand pit and a great pastime for people to go and do is go 4 x 4 dune bashing. About an hour out of town are miles and miles of sand dunes where you get the thrill of roller coasting up and down and nearly upside down these impressive pieces of nature.

Camping is another great pastime. We have only around 4 days of rain on average a year (its only rained once since I’ve been here around 10 months). Camping under the stars is amazing. You can pitch a tent pretty much anywhere you want and as long as you respectful of picking up your litter and not damaging the environment. Also you are pretty much left to your own devices.

With the sun comes, the beach and water sports to participate in. You are allowed to wear bikinis and just swim in shorts contrary to what people are told outside the UAE. The sea is literally like bath water and nothing better than jumping on a boat, going water skiing or paddle boarding looking back at the Dubai skyline, and getting a tan of course.

Shopping – Where do you start? We have the biggest mall in the world called Dubai Mall. The Dubai Mall offers an amazing mix of world-class shopping, dining, entertainment and leisure attractions, all designed with an eye to revolutionize the concept of the shopping malls industry. Some of the features that make The Dubai Mall the best tourist destination of Dubai include:
• 9 Million sq ft of prime shopping space with more than 1200 stores
• The Souk with 220 retailers
• Fashion Avenue with 70 stores dedicated to haute couture
• The Address Dubai, a 5-star hotel with 244 guestrooms
• Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
• An Olympic-size Ice Rink
• Oasis Fountain Waterfall
• Water Front Atrium
• SEGA Republic
• 22-screen Cineplex
• 120 restaurants and cafes
The Dubai Mall serves as a crowd-puller for Dubai tourism; so much so that no visit to Dubai can ever be declared complete without a trip to the famous Dubai Mall, one of the leading tourist places of Dubai.

Any local customs we should be aware of?

Don’t go to shake an Emirati Ladies hand, you will be left there waving your hand in limbo. Respect the culture. Old saying act like and idiot you’ll be treated like an idiot!

What languages should we expect?

Arabic / Hindi / English

Every city has a no go area, what is the one place we should avoid?

Don’t get stuck in the desert in the middle of summer as temperatures average for a few months over 45 – 50 degrees daily.

Lastly, what is the best way to get around town?

Taxi. Petrol is extremely cheap and there is only one metro line. It costs around 8 pounds to fill a small car and 20 pounds to fill a 4 x4.

About BSR:

Launched in 2009, BSR has grown into a record label that signifies the underground. Whilst its former roots predominantly lay in driving tech house, the label organically grew into into a matured techno sound along with a deeper side of house. Its events in Ibiza to Sydney to Snowbombing to Ministry of Sound have firmly cemented its reputation for unadulterated hedonism.

BSR has garnered major DJ support from industry heavy weights as Markus Schultz, Mark Knight, Richie Hawtin, Eric Morillo, Roger Sanchez, Sister Bliss, Pete Tong, Umek, Joesph Capriati and Marco Carola amongst others and supported by numerous leading radio shows around the world including Radio 1 UK, featured in Mixmag, DMC Buzz Chart as well as reaching No.1 for 5 weeks solid on Tracksource.

To find out more, head to their Facebook


Damion Pell
About the Author

Loves long walks along the beach, holding hands and romantic 80's power ballads, partial to electronic music and likes to make the odd mix or two.