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Gulf Today - 2021

Talks, workshops and films among Warehouse421’s summer offerings


Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Warehouse421, the home-grown arts and design centre dedicated to showcasing and nurturing creative production across the region, has announced its summer programme, running till September.

It caters to children, adolescents and creative practitioners in the UAE.

Collaborators are Makerspace Al Zeina, Cairo-based film festival Film My Design, Dubai’s Cinema Akil, and also individual creative practitioners such as  Rand Abdul Jabbar,  Hala Al-Ani, Fatima Al Zaabi, Noora Al Awar, Afnan Saeed Amin (Studio D04), Dima Srouji, Suzy Sikorski of Mid East Art, Riem Ibrahim, Faysal Tabbara and Zuhoor Al Sayegh.

The programme also sees a permanent architectural intervention by artist Talin Hazbar titled ‘bah-rah’. Workshops include those dealing with Mapping and Tablescaping (online and in-space) and shoemaking.

The talks programme begins with Acts of Recognition, in two parts, by Jabbar (July 10).

The artist showcases an initial presentation that provides an overview of the conception and development of her latest work, Every Act of Recognition Alters What Survives. It explores the varied and often conflicting shades of diasporic experience through a research-based participatory process, involving a multi-generational group of contributors from London’s Iraqi and Arab communities.

She will then be joined by a small group of project participants and contributors, to examine personal and collective attitudes towards remembrance, migration and legacy. Every Act is commissioned by Shubbak Festival 2021 and supported by Warehouse421’s Homebound Residency.

The programme also features Dukkan421 talks, a design-focused series on critical design approaches and theoretical and conceptual articulations of design and its role. It aims to situate our knowledge and cultural production in a global context.

The talks series will feature designers such as Hala Al-Ani (July 14), Studio D04 (Fatima Al Zaabi, Noora Al Awar, Afnan Saeed Amin) and Dima Srouji (Aug. 25). Iraqi designer Al-Ani’s work has been shown at several internationally recognised exhibitions, including Sharjah Biennial, Istanbul Design Biennial, Amman Design Week, Jogja Biennial, and Dubai Design Week.

She co-founded the Dubai-based Möbius Design Studio in 2010, working with Du, Tashkeel and the UAE National Pavilion at Venice Biennale.

Studio D04 focuses on producing designs that are niche in nature and unique, while leveraging indigenous elements and concepts to achieve progressive, modern designs.

Al Zaabi is an Emirati architect and designer. Her work focuses on digital technology, exploring different material processes with advanced digital fabrication methods.

She is a founding partner and a managing director in studio D04. Her work spans a range of scales and materials that incorporate interior design, installations and products, exploring traditional local crafts and culture.

Al Awar is an Emirati architect and designer. Her work focuses on exploring different material processes through traditional concepts derived from her surroundings. She is a founding partner and creative director in studio D04. Srouji is a Palestinian architect, designer and artist.

Her work explores the power of the ground and its artifacts in revealing forgotten, silenced or hidden narratives, in historical Palestine. She is a graduate of the Yale School of Architecture. Dukkan421 is a store design, inspired by the architecture themes of Warehouse421 and Mina Zayed. 

Additionally, the summer programme also includes Whistle While You Work, a series of discussions led by Suzy Sikorski of MidEast Art (Apr. 25 – Oct. 17). It is dedicated to humanising the artist and embracing diverse interdisciplinary activities, thoughts and frames of mind during the pandemic. The programme is part of the Warehouse421 Conversations Series.

Faced with a heightened sense of awareness of their emotional and technical functions during the quarantine, artists and creatives from across the GCC share their newfound ideas, paying attention to their mental and physical processes, as they channel them through daily habits, movement/dance/play, fantasy/myth-making/childhood memories and identity (sense of place and collective and individual consciousness).

How does daydreaming, fantasy, myth-making and childhood nostalgia impact creativity? In what ways does fantasy reinforce an understanding of our realities? How much of this impacts artwork production? Is it a constant part of the thought process? Sikorski discusses these questions and more with artists Maitha Abdalla and Hassan Meer.

Abdalla’s work oscillates between the diaphanous, vibrant and surreal, and is always marked by an atmosphere of reminiscence and nostalgia. Theatre is particularly influential in her work, as she further explores the difference between the imaginary and the real; she plays out many questions of social and cultural identity.

Meer was born in Muscat, where he lives and works. He is very much inspired by the changes in culture identity and studies individual identity and the community in a globalised age, through installation works and artworks. Sikorski is an art researcher based in Dubai, running Mid East Art, a digital storytelling platform covering modern art analysis and contemporary practices.

It seeks not only to contextualise the contemporary within regional modern art history, but also attempts to bridge Western and Middle Eastern audiences, within global art historical discourse.

Exhibitions at Warehouse421 included the just-concluded Total Landscaping (April 10 – July 4), curated by Murtaza Vali. It investigates the ways in which plant life is commonly understood, encountered, represented and consumed in the Gulf, and in similar urban spaces in the global South.

Makers in the Sun is a series of Egyptian designed shorts in collaboration with Film My Design, a Cairo-based film festival of screenings and talks that spotlight local design studios, artisans and craftspeople. The screening series (Aug. 1 – Aug. 28) focuses on locally produced original shorts and includes pre-recorded conversations with the filmmakers and directors of the festival. It is held in partnership with Cinema Akil.

The National - 2021

Printed Press | Published June 24th, 2021 | The National

Warehouse421 summer programme: shoemaking, tablescaping and design-focused workshops

The programme, which includes design sessions and film screenings, will run from July to September

Abu Dhabi arts and design centre Warehouse421 will begin its summer programme in July, which features film screenings, talks and workshops for all age groups.

The programme includes collaborations with Makerspace Al Zeina, an open-access workshop space for creatives in Abu Dhabi; Film My Design, a Cairo film festival; and Dubai’s Cinema Akil. Warehouse421 is also working with a number of artists and designers, including Rand Abdul Jabbar, Hala Al Ani, Fatima Al Zaabi, Dima Srouji, Zuhoor Al Sayegh and Talin Hazbar.

Summer Club: the Design Edition
Every year, Warehouse421’s Summer Club provides themed programmes for children and adolescents that include animation, crafts and cooking sessions. Last year’s version was held online due to the pandemic, and the format will remain for 2021.

This year, the virtual programme, held in collaboration with Makerspace Al Zeina, focuses on building design capabilities. The five-day workshop will teach participants to better translate their ideas into 2D and 3D material creations, as well as verbal communication. Those who sign up will receive a programme kit from Warehouse421 to use for the session.

A series of online and in-person workshops cover various activities, including shoe-making, tablescaping and zine-making.
Product designer Ban Hawamdeh will take participants through the process of making shoes from scratch using materials such as foam and fabric. The two-part workshop, which runs on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 27 and 28, covers sewing techniques, as well as creating patterns and designs for the products. It is suitable for ages 15 and above.


Pakistan Christian TV - 2021

«421» launches a summer program for children and adolescents – our lives – culture


Warehouse421, the local arts and design center dedicated to showcasing and nurturing creative production across the region, has announced the launch of its Summer 2021 program for children, teens and creative practitioners in the UAE. The program is held in partnership with several creative institutions and creative practitioners, including: the Makerspace Foundation in Al Zeina area in Abu Dhabi, the “Film My Design” festival, which is based in Cairo, Cinema Akil, the Iraqi artist Rand Abdul Jabbar, the artist Hala Al Ani, Fatima Al Zaabi, and Noura Al Awar, Afnan Saeed Amin from Studio D04, Dima Srouji, Suzy Sikorsky from Mid East Art, Reem Ibrahim, Faisal Tabbara and Zohour Al Sayegh. Gallery 421 also presents the architectural intervention “Bahra”, on a permanent basis, by artist Taleen Hazbar.

What's On - 2021

Website | June 9th, 2021 | What's On |
9 wow things to do in Abu Dhabi this weekend: June 10 to 12
Things that’ll make you go ‘wow’…

You deserve wow. Look at you, you fine specimen of humankind. Wow is your birth right, your destiny. And so wow your weekend will be.


Walking on the sun
2021-06-09 solar.jpg

Makerspace offers an amazing variety of short courses and workshops for both adult and children learning. On Saturday eight to 15 year olds can take part in a class learning all about how to build a solar-powered motor. Involving a strong collection of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) aspects, it’s a fun way to sneak a bit of worthwhile education into the weekend. You can find the full list of kids and adult courses on the Makerspace website.

Unit C1-04, Al Zeina, Al Raha Beach, Sat 10am to 2pm, Dhs200 for members, Dhs250 for non members. Tel: (02) 558 8624

Time Out Abu Dhabi - 2021 (May, June & July)

12 nifty things to do this week in Abu Dhabi

Exhibitions, football, fancy restaurants and more

Top 5 coolest art classes in Abu Dhabi
Classes, workshops, and artsy to-dos in the capital

If you’re an artist, creative or you’re just looking for something fun to do this summer, you’re going to love this list.

Abu Dhabi is a hub for culture and creativity, so of course you can find an incredible range of art classes, activities and workshops across the city.

Here are five of the best that you should definitely try this week.



You heard us right, there’s a class for making your own shoes from scratch happening in Abu Dhabi at Warehouse 421 being run in partnership with Makerspace Al Zeina. In the workshop, you’ll learn the process of making a pair of shoes from scratch using different materials such as foam, fabric and threads. You’ll learn hand-sewing techniques such as ladder and blanket stitching, and how to paint your own shoes. The class runs from Tuesday July 27 to Wednesday July 28 from 2pm to 5pm. It costs Dhs300.

The workshop will be delivered in two sessions. The first session starts with cutting out the template of your sizes, folding and ironing the parts, and painting your geometric pattern. The second session will have you pinning the pieces together and stitching. You’ll also create a rope-like pattern on the edge of your shoes to glue onto the base. To participate in the workshop you’ll need your own scissors, iron, and ironing board. You will also need to be older than 15.
Dhs300 (two sessions); virtual class.

Top Eid Al Adha 2021 deals in Abu Dhabi
Eid Al Adha classes deals in Abu Dhabi

Are you and your best mate looking to learn you tricks? At Makerspace Al Zeina, you can get creative and take advantage of a two-for-one promo on all Maker’s Meet Ups at Makerspace Al Zeina for the month of July. Classes include ceramics, sewing, knitting and crochet.
Two-for-one. Until Sat Jul 31. Makerspace Al Zeina block C1, Al Raha Beach Area (02 558 8624).

Best things to do this Eid Al Adha in Abu Dhabi


Get creative at Makerspace Al Zeina

You’re never too old to learn a new trick and at Makerspace Al Zeina you and a friend can enroll in a two-for-one promo on All Maker’s Meet Ups. Mastering ceramics, sewing, knitting and crochet? Seems like a cool thing to do for Eid Al Adha in Abu Dhabi if you ask us. Two-for-one. Until Sat Jul 31. Makerspace Al Zeina block C1, Al Raha Beach Area (02 558 8624).

Yalla - Abu Dhabi Life 2021

Website | April 26th, 2021 |

Abu Dhabi freelancers and creatives… something’s brewing at Makerspace Al Zeina

You’ll have all the tools to launch your project here… and freshly brewed coffee!

BRDG Concept Café and Makerspace Al Zeina! BRDG and Makerspace Al Zeina join forces in this super exciting initiative to provide the best possible launchpad for Abu Dhabi’s creative minds.

There’s going to be cup-fuls of freshly brewed coffee to get that old grey matter sparking new ideas at the MAKERSHOP.

And when the caffeine kicks in, there’s an array of state-of-the-art tools and equipment to get your ideas rolling.

Not only that, there’s even an opportunity for start-ups to showcase their products.

BRDG Concept Café and Makerspace Al Zeina are powering the ideas and innovations behind a new wave of SMEs.

2021-04-26 Yalla - BRDG IG.JPG

The project aims to support the community at every stage of the start-up process, a shared goal of both BRDG and Makerspace Al Zeina.

“By collaborating on what we can offer, we have an opportunity to provide makers and innovators the tooling and machinery needed to fabricate an idea at the start of their journey – but also a retail destination for those products to reach the customer: The MAKERSHOP” explains Omar Al Farran, Founder of BRDG Concept Café.

Makerspace Al Zeina, the wide range of equipment allows all members access to making in areas as diverse as woodwork, textiles, metalwork, electronics, or ceramics, where the creative possibilities are limitless.

 2021-04-26 Yalla - MAZ IG.JPG

You’ll also get the chance to sip on BRDG coffee right alongside the workbenches!

Whether your coffee of choice is a smooth espresso, a creamy cappuccino, or a rich flat white, your favourite caffeine boost is now freshly brewed onsite.

At the heart of BRDG, the MAKERSHOP provides space for workshop members and local independent makers to sell their products designed and manufactured here in the UAE.

This showcase for handmade, low volume, artisanal, and custom-made products give a supportive and uncomplicated route to market for start-ups and SMEs.

“This partnership between BRDG and Makerspace Al Zeina aims to support not only the current maker community, but also to encourage a younger generation to design and create” says Paul Duggan, CEO of Makerspace Al Zeina.

Through their shared values and collaboration, both organisations are providing a pathway for good ideas: the practical resources of a world class makerspace facilities and a retail opportunity, but also a place where makers can come together to make dynamic connections and build a supportive network along the way…all with a strong mug of coffee in hand of course!


If you want to get involved or just know more information, call 02 558 8624 or email or visit

Abu Dhabi Science Festival 2019

Innovator 2019.pngInnovator 2019 is a strategic initiative by the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK), bringing together individual innovators, academic institutions, government entities and private sector entrepreneurs in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, contributing to the fulfillment of the UAE’s innovation strategy which aims to position the UAE amongst the most innovative nations in the world. Now in its 5th edition, it is an exciting 10 days event targeting audiences aged 13+ across the UAE. The innovator 2019 is a “Do-It-Yourself” (DIY) inspired event and will showcase homegrown projects by innovators from across the UAE in the categories of Art & Design, Sustainability & Life Science, Aerospace, Automotive, Mechanics, & Digital Fabrication, Robotics & Electronics.

Workshop 1 - Tote Bags

Attendees will learn how to transfer an image or writing from stencil to a fabric. Using the silk screen techniques. A set of screens will be present, each with different color and attendees will have the chance to choose the color and design they desire.

Workshop 2 - Coin Sorter

Attendees will have the chance to make a coin sorter help organize their coins, a laser cut wood pieces will be pre-cut and attendees will need to assemble them according to a set of instructions, and they will get to paint them or color them.

Workshop 3 - Electric Dough

We love Play Dough! We love science. The basic premise is that the play dough acts as both an insulator and a conductor of electricity in order to form shapes and add with lights, sirens, and motors. This exercise teaches attendees basic circuits principles. You can teach a simple circuit or build on that knowledge to include parallel and series circuits, electrical load, and even squishy sound music! The possibilities are endless.

Workshop 4 - Paper Circuit Buzzer

Create your own doorbell through learning all about circuits. In this hands-on workshop, attendees will understand the principle of using a soldering alloy to join wires (known as soldering), as well as populating PCB's, use twist-ons, strip wire, use crimping tools, apply and heat shrink tubing, as well as other basic principles of electronic work/assembly.


Innovator 2018

The INNOVATOR 2018 is a key initiative under the ADEK’s Innovation Strategy. It is a “Do-It-Yourself” (DIY) inspired event, which demonstrates homegrown projects across the UAE. The 7-day event targets an audience aged 13+ across the UAE combined with Abu Dhabi Science Festival for exiting workshops and activities. 

TechShop Abu Dhabi participated with three workshops - Prototyping (Hover Board), Electronics (Buzzer) and Woodworking (Mallet). See our gallery for more photos. 


Workshop - Prototyping

Putting things together and bringing parts to an operational order require a variety of skills such as the ability to use measuring devices, understand tolerances, and being able to assess structural and functional aspects. In this workshop we expose attendees to the process of putting together a functional prototype.

Learning Outcomes

In this hands-on workshop, attendees will experience the use of hand tools, measuring devices, fasteners, simple design calculations, work holding devices, along with bigger fabrication machines such as a drill press and/or a manual press.


Workshop - Electronics

Projects nowadays can seldom get away with no electronics in them. Hence a combination of light, movement, or intelligence is often a fundamental ingredient in any innovative project. In this workshop we scrape the surface of electronic assembly in a fun way that is accessible to children and adults alike.

Learning Outcomes

In this hands-on workshop, attendees will understand the principle of using a soldering alloy to join wires (known as soldering), as well as populating PCB's, use twist-ons, strip wire, use crimping tools, apply and heat shrink tubing, as well as other basic principles of electronic work/assembly.


Workshop - Woodworking

Everyone has engaged in some form of woodworking at one point in their lives either at college or with an older family member. In this workshop we allow attendees to experience a bit of woodworking to the end of making a functional and a structurally-sound outcome.

Learning Outcomes

In this hands-on workshop, attendees will gain an understanding into working with the wood, using various hand tools to attach and shape the structure, and finishing the piece to enhance the natural beauty of the material.

Abu Dhabi World - Website 2017

Website | Aug 10th, 2017 |

Yes you could call. But if you want to get handy and reap the rewards, read on. DIY is doable in Abu Dhabi


When it comes to acronyms, DIY is definitely not one of the most well used ones in the UAE.

We understand. We really do. Most of us live in flats. We don’t have access to a garage. Power tools are expensive and if you move, you’d just end up selling them anyway. It’s just easier to call someone else to fix this or build that.

Okay, fair enough. DIY and expat living do not necessarily go hand in hand.


But wait! It doesn’t have to be that way.

What if we told you that you don’t necessarily need a garage to be handy? It will cost you less than you think and will almost certainly lead you to saving money in the future. You can also start with a very basic tool kit that can increase as your tinkering and pottering instinct evolves.

Not nailed down the desire to DIY just yet?

Then note that it can help boost your brainpower with active problem solving and lead to some illuminating self discovery as you (hopefully) uncover some natural talents you didn’t know you had. Also, knowing you can rely solely on yourself – even if it is just for the odd job around the house – can boost self-esteem.

“Doing things yourself and making things is fun,” Ismael Touq, general manager at creative community hub and facility TechShop Abu Dhabi, tells Abu Dhabi World. “You can solve your own problems without having to depend on someone else.”

“The benefit of DIY is also that it allows you to just be creative, to bring ideas that you have to life and learn more about materials and tools.”


The knowledge gained and experience of being able to solve problems with a few tools is something that’s been an essential part of human development over centuries.

“It’s in our nature to be makers. It’s in our DNA, it’s what sets us apart from other animals: we make things, we use tools and we create,” adds Ismael.

“In the industrial environment we live in, lots of things are mass produced and we’ve lost the sense of how things are made, we’re out of touch and it’s good to bring back the relationship we have with materials and be involved in making.

“We can play with materials, and the more you work with materials and tools the more you understand about the work that goes in to making products and there’s so much more satisfaction when you make something than to just go somewhere and buy it.

“So why wouldn’t you want to try it?” asks Ismael.

Getting started

You could go it alone. Or you could learn from the experts. Here are some options:


TechShop in Al Zeina is a great place to start. Even during the summer the team is running a host of exciting classes. Some are more on the expert end of the scale with laser cutting and etching, as well as 3D printing, but there are plenty that will help start you down the road to DIY dominance. For instance, we like the sound of the basic metal workshop; starting project – a bottle opener. Want to know how to build your own shelf, before installing it yourself? The hand tool basics workshop, which is being held throughout August, is perfect for you. Visit:

Abu Dhabi World - Print Issue 2017

Print Issue | Aug 10th, 2017 | ADW online eBook - Past Issues

"TechShop in Al Zeina is a great place to start. Even during the summer the team is running a host of exciting classes. Some are more on the expert end of the scale with laser cutting and etching, as well as 3D printing, but there are plenty that will help start you down the road to DIY dominance. For instance, we like the sound of the basic metal workshop; starting project – a bottle opener. Want to know how to build your own shelf, before installing it yourself? The hand tool basics workshop, which is being held throughout August, is perfect for you. Visit"

Zayed University 2016

17 Aug 2016 | College of Arts and Creative Enterprises 

2016-08-17_Zayed University Photo 2.jpgAnn-Maree Reaney, Dean of the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises, was present at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with Ismael Touq, TechShop General Manager, during a signing ceremony held at TechShop Abu Dhabi.


Ann-Maree Reaney, Dean of the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises, was present at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with Ismael Touq, TechShop General Manager, during a signing ceremony held at TechShop Abu Dhabi.

Zayed University established a new partnership with TechShop Abu Dhabi. TechShop Abu Dhabi is the first facility in the GCC, initiated in partnership with the Innovator program; an initiative by Abu Dhabi Technology Development Committee (TDC). It is a ‘making’ space accessible to public, with grade equipment and staffed by professionals where tinkerers, crafters, and makers of every level can work and share inspiration. It offers access to fabrication machinery and prototyping technologies, as well as provides a communal learning environment where professionals and amateurs collaborate to turn their ideas into reality.

Design & Build TechShop (Innovator) class as an elective course in the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises, Zayed University, Abu Dhabi

The focus of this course is to introduce 15 participant students from CACE to the concept of the ‘Maker-Culture’ and design. The course will ask students to identify problems within their communities or immediate environments, and will encourage the exploration of creative solutions; to deliver products and spatial proposals. This is in par with today’s global technological advancement and rapid paradigm shift toward self-sufficiency and personal digital fabrication.

For the first three weeks of the course, students will undergo induction sessions on machinery user, operation and safety procedures, followed by practical project implementations. The access and fabrication knowledge is expected to enable students to take their design to the next level; from design proposal to design prototypes.

The course is aimed at providing the enrolled female design students seven days a week supervised access to machinery currently unavailable on campus premises. This type of exposure is expected to raise standard of design output of our students, which will promote innovative use of materials and equipment, and will enable the students to realize their designs and turn them into quality prototype. These are important skills needed as the students prepare to become part of the workforce of the developing Creative Industries in the UAE.

The above have been facilitated by the kind support of CACE Dean’s office specially Dean Ann-Maree Reaney and Zayed University upper administration, and the generous sponsorship of TechShop management all agreed on a MOU between Zayed University and Techshop.

TimeOut Abu Dhabi - Website 2016

Jack Dignum | June 27, 2016 11:29 AM | 

TechShop in Abu Dhabi

From soldering metal to creating 3D chocolate moulds it is time to get skills

TechShop in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is synonymous with growth and development, whether it’s building impressive skyscrapers or creating an eco-friendly city (Masdar), the capital is at the forefront of improving life for everyone who lives here.

But these are mammoth projects requiring years of training and skill to complete. However, we all need to start somewhere, right? Welcome TechShop, a new spot in the capital that starts at the foundation of creation. This self-dubbed “playground of creativity” is giving you the opportunity to learn and develop hand-crafting skills, as well as create ideas in a safe environment.

TechShop is not just a space for you to play around with wood, though, it’s so much more than that. It provides professional equipment to aid you with your project, as well as giving you access to a host of classes: electronics, 3D printing, plastic fabrication, sand blasting and powder coating to name a few. Hopefully dodgy dad builds could be a thing of the past.


TechShop has been set up by Innovator. This is a government innovation support programme run by the Abu Dhabi Technology Development Committee and the creators are already rolling in.

The team at TechShop are great for two things: safety and expertise. Everyone who wishes to sign up for a monthly or annual membership needs to complete an equipment-specific safe and basic use class. This is to ensure both you and those around you don’t come a cropper. The staff are qualified in just about every area you could think of when it comes to the workshop and are there to answer any questions you might have.

Not only can they teach you new skills and offer tips on how to improve your work, they are also there to inspire creativity. It’s also their job to run the corporate team-building classes, birthday parties and even themed events for group gatherings.

If that wasn’t enough, TechShop has organised the SumoRobot Building competition, where you build and battle your own automaton against other teams.

But if that’s a little too aggressive for you, try the 3D chocolate mould class. Yes, you’ll make your own chocolate figure, then get to scoff it. Nice.

TechShop isn’t just for adults, as there are children’s classes, too. Soldering for Kids is an introduction to the technique where they’ll get to create a figure of paper clips, soldered together. Blinky Bugs will involve your youngsters building a simple, electro-mechanical insect that responds to movement, air and vibrations. So whether it’s your rugrats looking to learn a new skill, or the adults of your family looking to get creative, this place may be worth visiting.
Dhs450 per month. Open daily, 7am-10pm. Al Zeina, Al Raha Beach, (02 558 8624).

The National - Website 2015

Welcome to Abu Dhabi’s Al Zeina innovation workshop, where your tech dreams take shape

November 22, 2015 | Adam Bouyamourn | 
2015-11-22_The National Photo.jpg

The Al Zeina workshop, supported by the Abu Dhabi Technology Development Committee, is a government-backed effort to help end the UAE’s dependence on revenues from hydrocarbons. Irene García León for The National

In a glass-fronted workshop in Al Raha Beach’s Al Zeina complex, 3D printers, sand blasters, sewing machines, injection moulders, sawmills, a steel mill, a four-jaw chuck, a vinyl cutter, an electronics lab – and an endless supply of coffee and popcorn – await curious and amateur technologists looking to build something new.

One workshop user built a very small jet engine from scratch, which he used to roast coffee beans. Another pair, Yves Rossy and Vince Reffet, built the jetpacks that allowed them to fly alongside an Emirates A380 just above Dubai.

This workshop, supported by the Abu Dhabi Technology Development Committee (TDC), is a government-backed effort to help end the UAE’s dependence on revenues from hydrocarbons. As the oil price falls to its lowest level in real terms for more than a decade, the government wants “innovation” to fuel growth – and that means workshops and tech spaces like this one, backed with government cash, are popping up around the country.

The non-oil economy accounts for about 50 per cent of overall economic activity in Abu Dhabi, and approximately 94 per cent of economic activity in Dubai.

Anish Alex, to his understandable chagrin, has the job title lead dream consultant with TechShop, which operates Al Zeina workshop. Its aim, he says, is to “train, support and help people manufacture almost anything that can be built in wood, plastic, textiles, and metal – and anything that falls broadly into digital”.

He continues: “There’s a million things you can do if you just come in and learn how to do them. It’s a well-equipped space to do training and prototype manufacturing.”

In a workshop environment like that built in Al Zeina, you end up with a dedicated core of about 40 hardcore devotees, and a larger group of occasional hobbyists, Mr Alex says.

“They are hidden someplace, but the thing is to get them out of their shells. When that community builds up, it’s fun,” he says. “They’re goofy and they take risks. It’s a select group, but they’re out there.

“Locally, there’s a large community playing with robotics of all kinds, from drones to small projects for home automation. In Ajman there are kids as young as eight being trained in how to build clapper circuits from scratch, and being taught basic optical video recognition.”

Membership costs Dh350 per year for Emiratis, and Dh450 for everyone else. Discounts are available for women, children, students, serving members of the armed forces and families. The workshop has space for about 700 members, and will train budding technologists in milling, welding, woodworking, electronics, bookbinding, and 3D printing, among a host of other things. After mandatory safety classes and training in how to use machines, workshop-goers are free to explore.

The workshop’s youngest member is 12 years old, and the oldest is in his late 70s. And it has received a stamp of approval from at least one local tech firm. Mr Alex says: “The general manager of YahSat came in here the other day, and said, ‘Man, this is cool’.”