Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown is a dark horse among Dubai staycation spots – but here’s why the art hotel should be on your radar.
For strangers to Dubai, there’s an outdated stereotype about the emirate. It often gets (unjustly) accused of being devoid of culture, with people thinking that beaches and brunches are the only possible weekend pastimes. But anyone who has actually spend time here, be it as a resident, business traveller or tourist, can quickly gather that the UAE is full of soul, and when you’re looking for it, you’ll find it tucked away around every corner.
This is something we recently rediscovered when invited to review Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown. Located in Business Bay beside Dubai Canal, it’s a great location for tourists – close to the airport, in eyeline of the Burj Khalifa, nearby to the Dubai Mall and the bustling city centre.
But it might not be the first location that springs to mind when it comes to staycations for existing city-dwellers; sandy landscapes usually top trumping the concrete jungle.
Yet having recently spent the weekend at Hotel Indigo Downtown Dubai, we’ve been swayed. A boutique-style art hotel, every nook and cranky is enriched with artistic expression. A source of creative inspiration or a way to reconnect with the traditions of Dubai, here’s why you should give it a stay.
Artistic interior design fusing together Dubai’s old and new
Like all Hotel Indigo outlets, this hidden gem aims to align itself with the history and culture of the soil (or in this case, sand) upon which it’s built. For this reason, many of the destinations are buildings of historical significance that have been restored, revived and transformed to Hotel Indigos, keeping heritage at its heart.
As for Dubai, however, that’s not the case – but that doesn’t mean Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown has skipped out on preserving local culture. In fact, the colourful structure ensures the history of its surrounding is fused into every fibre.
And it starts from the moment you enter. Hanging above the lobby is a multimedia art display by international artist, Refik Anadol. He recorded Dubai’s weather data, such as gust patterns and temperatures, to create an algorithm, which he then transformed into a digital art piece. Each time you stop by, Wind Of Dubai will look different, as it constantly changes; much like the weather.
This sets the tone for the entire hotel. The lobby stretches into a mini gallery featuring the art of both locals and Dubai expats in love with this city. Dhow boats that have been traditionally used for pearl diving in Dubai Creek have been repurposed to function as lobby seating. Majilis fabric has been transformed into a bedouin-inspired chandelier with a modern twist that hangs from the ceiling. Traditional handmade rugs that came into being due to the creative charitable projects of The Fatima Bint Mohamed Bin Zayed Initiative look and do go as they line the walkway.
With over 200 art pieces on display, we could go on, but that would take away the fun from the art tour diving into the details you need to sign up for during your stay.
Yet what you should know is that the creativity doesn’t end upon entry into the lift from the lobby, as every floor serves as an exhibition in its own right.
A collection of works from artists such Badr Abbas (the self-taught Emirati artist who explores his heritage and Arab culture with a nod to cubism) and Zahra Gulraiz (the British UAE resident who mixes colourful Pop Art style with traditional Arabic Calligraphy) hang between each room. Even the carpets that run along the corridors tell a story of Dubai, if you stop to notice the iconic Burj Khalifa shape protruding (among other symbols) from a hanging latern imprinted into the fabrics.
Naturally, the accommodation is an extension of this. Instead of white walls, our canal-facing room was painted with the cloudy sky at sunset – a flying camel featuring in the composition for good measure, too. A shisha pipe lamp is a stand out feature in every room, as are the tiny iridescent tiles within the bathroom subtly nodding to the pearl diving trade so integral to Dubai’s economic past.
Then comes the cargo-like design element, with walls stamped ‘fragile’ and a bedboard reminiscent of an old fashioned suitcase, buckled shut. An unsubtle reminder of the emirate as a key trade hub within the Arabian Gulf throughout history.
When it comes to the accommodation at Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown, thought and flair is apparent in every element, so an evening could well be spent simply enjoying the creativity encapsulated in the room itself.
But not to venture to one of the hotel’s three venues would be an injustice. Leading on from the lobby turned art gallery, Open Sesame is the restaurant serving up Middle Eastern – especially Emirati – inspired cuisine Delicious food and warm service, both the dishes and the design wowed us.
Light, urban-chic furnishings are surrounded by Muriel walls inside, and mosaic waterfalls overlooking the outdoor seating. Leaving without posing for a picture under the statement multi-fabric archway, created by French fashion designer Christian Lacroix, would be criminal.
During our visit, Off The Wall was closed to customers due to Covid-19 restrictions, yet we still managed to sneak a peek at the speakeasy-style bar. As you enter, the artwork is inspired by the back streets of Satwa in Old Dubai, with signs lit up reading ‘old is gold,’ and ‘taxi wait in line.”
Inside, brick-effect walls are covered in graffiti by Paul Bruwer of The Domino art collective. Cocktails served in spray cans using herbs and spices sourced from the local souks, once again bringing together the old and the new.
Finally, there’s Orange Feels – the laidback poolside spot ideal for shisha, light bites, cocktails and city views; the ideal way to end an evening.
One thing’s for sure, wherever you choose to spend your time at Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown, every corner turned will have a story to tell.
Looking for more Dubai hotel reviews? Read our thoughts on the Vitality Weekend at Swissôtel Al Ghurair, see a new side to Nikki Beach Resort & Spa, and find out why Rove La Mer Beach is the spot for affordable beachside fun.