Top picks: 10 perfect places to curl up with a good book in the UAE

To celebrate the Month of Reading, we scoured Abu Dhabi and Dubai for the ideal literary locations

The A4 space in Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz. Antonie Robertson / The National) 
The A4 space in Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz. Antonie Robertson / The National) 

Across the UAE, it’s officially the Month of Reading, an initiative promoting a culture of enjoying the written word among all segments of society.

“Reading is the characteristic of civilised societies, and a tool for measuring the strength of nations and the leadership of their people,” says Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, which has set in place a strategy and national reading law to help achieve these goals.

For those of us who have already discovered a love of literature, we recommend taking a good book to one of these spots in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.


Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - The Art House Cafe interior has a relaxed ambience, designed with warm colours, and supports the concept of protecting nature on March 12, 2018. (Khushnum Bhandari/ The National)
The Art House Cafe interior has a relaxed ambience. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

Art House Cafe

Unsurprisingly, this place is better known for the arts, as it’s located in the Etihad Modern Art Gallery – but it’s also a brilliant place to get stuck into a good piece of literature.

Not only is there comfortable seating and homely decor created from upcycled materials, as well as decent food and myriad coffee options, but you also get a 10 per cent discount when you’re spotted reading a book there (you’ll also get 25 per cent off if you arrive on a bike). Settle down with a cup of karak, a lotus sundae and a novel, and you’ll never want to leave.

Villa 15, Al Huwelat Street,, 02 666 0175

Cafe Arabia in Abu Dhabi boasts an impressive menu. Ravindranath K / The National
Cafe Arabia in Abu Dhabi boasts an impressive menu. Ravindranath K / The National

Cafe Arabia

“Cafe Arabia is a bridge between Arabia and the world, bringing communities together to appreciate Arabian culture through art, food and literature.” That’s how the team describes this welcoming little spot on its Facebook page. And it’s true. The wholesome vibes of this cafe make it the perfect city spot to curl up in with the latest (insert your favourite author’s name here) novel. From breakfast to brunch, lunch to dinner, the kitchen team has a range of tasty dishes for you to sample while you read.

There are also all sorts of wonderful-sounding drinks – including a unicorn latte and a bunch of mocktail and milkshake options. You can then perch yourself at a private or communal table and even pick one of the books already on display across the cafe’s shelves.

Villa 37, Airport Road, 02 643 9699

The Third Place Cafe

It’s no wonder that all manner of social groups choose The Third Place Cafe in Khalidiya to meet up in.

From book clubs to women’s communities and art collectives, it’s a lovely little spot to hang out, whether you’re having a group discussion or solo reading session.

A trio of coffee-lovers and cheese sandwich fanatics founded this place, with a vision to recreate the atmosphere of their own favourite coffee houses around the world. Making it a cosy spot in which to read a book was one of their main drivers, and they’ve certainly achieved that.

It has a relaxing atmosphere, great food and their own selection of books to boot. So pick up a papaya smoothie and some of those fluffy pancakes and absorb the words.

Villa T3, Corniche Road,, 02 681 1877

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - December 13, 2018: Al Umm Al Emarat Park, 15th Street, Mushrif Area. Pictures of different parks all over Abu Dhabi. Thursday the 13th of December 2018 in Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Umm Al Emarat Park offers plenty of greenery. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Umm Al Emarat Park

Surrounded by lush lawns and towering date palms, you can easily while away an entire afternoon reading at Umm Al Emarat Park, whether you’re at one of the many gardens or even perched on a step within the amphitheatre. When it comes to outdoor spots in Abu Dhabi, this is one of the best.

Take a picnic blanket and some snacks, or grab one of the benches, and enjoy catching up with all your favourite literary characters.

A render of the Abu Dhabi Children’s Library. Courtesy Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi
A render of the Abu Dhabi Children’s Library. Courtesy Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Children’s Library

This library is slated to open its doors this month at the newly refurbished capital landmark, Qasr Al Hosn.

It’ll span three floors and include everything from fiction to graphic novels and even audiobooks, so kids can immerse themselves in a rich world of literature.

Different programmes will explore art, film and music, while a children’s museum within the library is set to open, too. The decor will keep it fun, as children could be surrounded by plush camels and faux sand dunes or sat on top of a dinosaur.

“We hope to inspire a new generation of readers, starting them on a life-long journey of discovery,” Mohammed Al Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, told The National. We can’t wait.

Qasr Al Hosn Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum Street,


Dubai residents enjoy the calm conditions. Antonie Robertson / The National
Sunset Beach is charming without being too crowded. Antonie Robertson / The National

Sunset Beach

When it comes to finding a sandy spot to digest the latest bestseller, this is one of Dubai’s quieter beaches to head to – but rest assured, it doesn’t compromise on picturesque views.

Sunset Beach, also known as Umm Suqeim Beach, offers a vista that takes in the Arabian Gulf and the Burj Al Arab, but doesn’t tend to be as crammed with tourists and residents as nearby Kite Beach.

Take a deckchair or picnic blanket and set up camp for a few hours of reading, with semi-regular breaks to dip your toes in the refreshing, lapping waves. If hunger pangs kick in, there are several food and drink kiosks along the promenade, while there are plenty of dining options in and around the neighbouring Sunset Mall.

Sunset Beach, Umm Suqeim.

The books at Maison Assouline come with block-colour covers and surround you as you walk in. Courtesy Assouline
Maison Assouline is packed with impressive displays. Courtesy Assouline

Maison Assouline

Glossy coffee-table tomes encased in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves are what you’ll find at Maison Assouline, a new addition to The Dubai Mall’s Fashion Avenue – though its reputation preceded it.

The luxury lifestyle and culture brand, which was first founded as a publishing house in the 1990s, has expanded into collectibles and trinkets, with the Dubai concept store only the second in the world.

With a bar, restaurant and terrace overlooking the Dubai Fountain, the glamorous, retro-inspired surroundings are sure to stimulate the eyes, as well as the minds, of bibliophiles who like the finer things in life.

Fashion Avenue, The Dubai Mall, 04 438 4546,

It’s a multi-use venue, with a design that sits somewhere around “industrial, with a sense of luxury”. Courtesy Nightjar
Nightjar is a multi-use venue. Courtesy Nightjar

Al Quoz

As the city’s cultural hub, unsurprisingly there are more than a few locations in Al Quoz worth curling up in.

The area has numerous cafes, restaurants, galleries and creative spaces. Our favourites, however, includes A4 Space, a co-working spot open to the public, which features a cafe, donated library, free Wi-Fi and a regular offering of pop-up events amid its warehouse-chic interiors. If, on the other hand, you want to turn the pages with some of the best coffee in Dubai in hand, you can’t go wrong with Nightjar, a boutique roastery with eclectic, industrial decor.

Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz,

XVA Cafe

Nestled right in the heart of the historic Al Fahidi district, this quaint courtyard eatery fuses the best of indoors and outdoors thanks to the leafy tree bursting through a canopy at its core.

With the space also hosting a boutique hotel and contemporary gallery, there are plenty of little nooks to situate yourself in for a few hours of drinking in literature. A hearty, primarily vegetarian menu that includes dishes such as caramelised onion hummus, pumpkin kibbeh and saffron cheesecake ensures you won’t need to venture out to satiate any grumbling bellies before your chapter is finished, either.

Al Fahidi Street, Bur Dubai, 04 353 5383,

Comptoir 102

This concept store and healthy cafe offers a sanctuary in the city, tucked inside a charming villa amid a palm-tree-lined street.

With a tranquil, rug-strewn outdoor courtyard and chic eatery serving up nutritious, vegan-friendly fare, you can lounge away in Instagram-worthy style before browsing the spot’s curated selection of dainty jewellery and bohemian homeware.

102 Beach Rd, Jumeirah 1, 04 385 45 55,


Read more:

Netflix is turning Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' into a series

Nobel Prize in Literature to be awarded twice this year after 2018 prize withheld

When Labaki met Spielberg: 'He told me Capernaum was one of the best films of the year'


Published: March 7, 2019 03:37 PM


Editor's Picks
Sign up to:

* Please select one