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Story of a Timeless Space

In a city that's ever-shifting, there's something reassuring in the stability of The Courtyard, a community centre and social hub that evolved organically in many ways, coming into existence as a response to the wants and desires that flowed from the surrounding community. It arrived at a time during the early 1990s when opportunities to interact with art and creatives in the UAE were scant—a time when artists sought spaces for their creative endeavours, and expatriates familiar with cultural scenes in London, New York, Paris, Damascus, Beirut, Tehran, and Bombay craved a place to connect with culture and like-minded individuals on their home turf.


The Courtyard is a shared story, the open house of Shaqayeq and Dariush, partners both in life and work, who found a connection rooted in a shared appreciation for preservation and environmental consciousness. Raised with a sense of mindfulness for their surroundings and a commitment to minimising waste. This shared ethos permeates every facet of The Courtyard, from its design predominantly relying on natural and repurposed materials to its day-to-day operations. Whether engaging with new friends, installing the latest exhibition or finding a place for the latest salvaged treasure, Shaqayeq and Dariush are deeply intertwined with the pulse of The Courtyard. It's no wonder that faces integral to the fabric of the centre since the very first day can still be encountered there.

Art & Community Center

The Courtyard is located in the Al Quoz Industrial area of Dubai. The Courtyard houses an art gallery, a theatre with a 70-seat capacity, coffee & juice bar, an incubator business center, a bistro, flower boutique, unique home accessories and gift shop, printing, film and photography studios and spaces for interior designers and artists.


Al Quoz is home to numerous factories and workshops. Since the opening of the Courtyard in 1998, the area has changed significantly and many galleries and art studios have now established themselves here or relocated to the neighborhood, which has flourished in recent years to become an artistic and cultural hub.

The Courtyard's concept was to create a viable multidisciplinary community center, which could house a variety of functions, exhibitions and cultural activities in a city that is home to many different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. It was created to be a place for people to meet, interact and learn about each other while engaging in art and culture.


The Courtyard narrates the story of Dubai itself, its society and culture in an abstract language created by inspirational architecture gated by façades of steel and glass. The Courtyard seeks to act as an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and provide a gateway to art and culture.


Dariush Zandi’s love of art began during university while studying architecture and urban design in New York City. He became an active member of the arts scene of downtown New York in Soho in the 1970s, including museums, art galleries and artists.


Some years later, Zandi moved to the UAE, where he joined Dubai Municipality as a Senior Architect and Town Planner in 1981. His work included the restoration of historical buildings and their conversion into museums – such as Sheikh Saeed House, Naif Fort and Dubai Museum. He also created urban masterplans for the emirate of Dubai and worked on projects for famous landmarks such as Safa Park and Mushrif Park.


Currently, Zandi works in the capacity of an architectural advisor/consultant for international firms. Zandi designs with people and the environment in mind, creating optimum living spaces that seek to combine leading architectural and technological innovation with eco-friendly design. His projects work in harmony with both natural and traditional urban landscapes. Drawing from a geographically and culturally diverse background, Zandi has made significant contributions to major design and planning projects in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Zandi’s role in the UAE arts scene dates back to his arrival, when, alongside a group of close friends and colleagues, he developed the first art institute in Dubai, “Dubai Art Center”. Zandi served as Vice-Chairman of the UAE Architectural Heritage Society for years. He is the founder of two establishments, the multi-disciplinary creative studio Total Design, and a gallery, Total Arts.


Through Total Arts, he has sought to create a platform in which emerging and established artists can share their work with the public and each other, encouraging dialogue and exchange. Total Arts is housed within Zandi’s vast architectural masterpiece, the Courtyard. Originally opening in 1998, it was created as a cultural and artistic oasis in what was then an emerging arts scene in Dubai.


Zandi is also an acclaimed photographer, having studied film and photography in New York and California, traveling extensively and capturing images around the world. His expansive collection of over half a million images of various photographs have been featured widely in publications and photo agencies around the world, including the Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World, and Architectural Heritage of the Gulf, of which he is co-author. He has also authored the five volume Off-road in the Emirates book series, inspired by his love of exploration and the wilderness. His fine art photography has appeared in over 20 books and numerous magazines, and can be found in corporate collections such as Reuters, Land Rover, Nestle, Emirates Airlines and more.


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