A different class: 10 unconventional courses in UAE to beat the post-holiday summer blues

The post-holiday summer blues are a great excuse to get out the house. Mitya Underwood looks at a range of unconventional courses, from magic to sculpture, to give your life a little more variety.

Arty manoeuvres: sessions three times a week at the XVA Gallery in DIFC combine the regular relaxing effects of yoga with the introspective influence of being surrounded by art. Courtesy of Urban Yoga
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The post-holiday summer blues are a great excuse to get out the house. Mitya Underwood looks at a range of unconventional courses, from magic to sculpture, to give your life a little more variety

Summer is slowly on the wane, and as UAE residents settle back in from the holidays, real life begins to take over again. But life doesn't have to be just the same-old, same-old; instead of slouching back on the couch, maybe it's time to try something new.

Here in the Emirates, there are ample opportunities to go beyond the usual fitness, language, arts and cooking classes that all your friends and colleagues take; just a cursory search of the internet reveals a surprising number and offbeat variety of learning opportunities, from one-off courses to ongoing, in-depth and hands-on classes.

Here are just 10 examples of upcoming or ongoing classes that will either satiate a desire for new skills or stretch your comfort zone and interest levels; who knows, you may even enjoy one of them. And, if nothing else, it would be an interesting topic of conversation for your next dinner party.


Take in the beauty of art with yoga classes at the XVA Gallery in Dubai. This class promises to refresh your creative energy.

"Art seems like a great thing to combine yoga with just because art is very introspective," says Kimberley Stokes, an instructor. "You don't really need to be an expert on art to be touched by it. Yoga is a little bit the same, you can have a really great practice one day and it affects the rest of the day or the rest of the week."

The XVA Gallery is near La Petite Maison in Gate Village, DIFC.

Classes are Monday and Wednesday from 6.30pm-7.30pm, and Saturday from 10am-11am. Drop-in classes are Dh50 or a package of 10 for Dh450. Contact yoga@urbanyoga.ae or visit www.urbanyoga.ae for further information


Read minds, perform card tricks and master the art of presentation under the guidance of the Indian magician Benjemen Elengovan Irwin. He teaches students the basic principles of magic and illusion so that they can create and develop their own identity as a magician.

"It's not a cookbook recipe; most of the training will be about how to invent a trick," says Irwin. "It is the art itself.

"I make sure that at the end of the course they can invent their own tricks, they can invent an identity with their own tricks."

Irwin apprenticed in India with the magician and hypnotist Vadivel. By day, Irwin works as a quality health safety coordinator in Abu Dhabi.

"In this region we don't get many opportunities to do magic shows but the one thing I can do is to share it."

Courses cost Dh75 to Dh150 for beginner and advanced levels. Contact 056 225 9586 or benjemenbme@yahoo.in


Javeria Chauhan teaches the delicate art of henna to women, from her home in Ajman. Students start with simple lines on paper and progress to Arabic, Sudanese designs and the intricate patterns of Pakistani bridal henna. Students learn how to create a child-safe, organic henna paste and how to make their own application tubes. Classes are scheduled according to the Islamic calendar; class times are arranged to suit students. New courses will be offered in September.

Chauhan learnt henna at her mother's side and at professional courses in Pakistan. "Eventually I thought, why not benefit other people?" she says.

The two-month course costs Dh250. Contact jamoaka@gmail.com

Basic Swedish massage

This four-hour course will set you back Dh600, but promises to teach you the art of Swedish massage. The techniques (effleurage, petrissage, friction, vibration, percussion, and passive and action movements, to give them their official names) will be taught in their proper order and the class will finish with pupils performing the full sequence from beginning to end. Swedish massage is intended to manipulate the deeper layers of muscles and tissues and enhance circulation, as well as release muscle tension. The teacher, Sunita Teckchand, has 16 years' experience in the field of holistic medicine, and the centre's courses are accredited by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.

Courses cost Dh600. Contact The Holistic Centre, in Jumeirah Lake Towers, 04 450 3525

Mastering mosaic

South African Kathleen Hoare will be running mosaic classes, with all the materials provided, in Dubai, once the slow summer is over. "Once you get to know how to mosaic, your creativity is boundless," she says. "You can mosaic using many different things, and onto different bases like a bottle, a board or a frame. It's very rewarding and enriching." Hoare started mosaicking as a hobby six years ago when she was living in Bahrain, but has now decided to start sharing what she has learnt with others. All the materials, including a 30cm by 30cm frame, tiles, tile cutters, goggles and glue, will be provided.

Classes will cost between Dh400 and Dh600. Contact Kphoare@gmail.com to find out more information, including location and dates

Knife skills

Learn to slice, dice, chop and debone a chicken, and carve a roast like a pro.

This three-hour knife skills class at the School of Culinary and Finishing Arts in Dubai teaches you how to avoid the bloody dangers of dull knives and poor handling. Learn how knives are made and which ones to buy. This class will teach you about proper knife usage for each task, storing, handling, safety and sharpening. Bring your camera, comfortable clothes and shoes, a pen and notepad.

The three-hour class is Dh450. Contact info@scafa.ae or visit www.scafa.ae to learn more

Stand-up comedy classes

Learn to be confident enough to call yourself a comedian at these comedy improvisation and writing classes. Hosted by the Dubomedy comedy and urban arts school, the adults-only classes will be held for six weeks, every Saturday, starting on September 28. Teachers will include Mina Liccione, who goes by the title of Dubai's First Lady of Comedy and who has performed at festivals all over the world, including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and headlining in New York. Ali Al Sayed, an Emirati comedian, will also help pupils hone their craft. At the end of the course, students will take part in a final performance.

Courses cost Dh1,000. Contact Dubomedy on 04 374 6789 or email LOL@vivadubai.com


The master sculptor Svilen Petrov teaches sculpting classes in Abu Dhabi for all levels. Petrov, a soft-spoken Bulgarian, teaches the basics of drawing and perspective. With dedication, students can learn to sculpt in clay, plaster, bronze, wood and marble. "If you're coming for fun, we'll have fun. If you're coming for learning, we'll have no fun but you'll learn," says Petrov. "With artists, there are no beginners and there are no advanced. We cannot say, 'I'm perfect'."

Classes cost Dh600 a month and run Sunday to Wednesday from 10am to noon. Contact 02 657 6355 or visit the National Theatre off 15th Street and Airport Road, or Petrov's website www.svilen-petrov.com


You don't have to be in heavy industry to learn how to melt metals together with this course, offered at Proclad Academy, the Middle East's largest welding training centre, in Jebel Ali. Made for beginners or experienced welders looking to brush up on their skills, certified instructors start with the basics of shielded metal (stick) arc welding, with the option of progressing to more advanced Mig and Tig welding. All the safety gear, including gloves, overalls, shoes, safety glasses, masks and helmets are supplied; you just need to show up and start welding. The centre also offers electrical training for beginners and up, health and safety and first-aid courses.

Classes run every Friday from 1pm to 4pm; Dh500 for five classes. For more information, visit www.procladacademy.com


Immerse yourself in the beauty of Arabic script with calligraphy classes from the renowned Emirati calligrapher Mohammed Al Mandi in Abu Dhabi. Al Mandi's script is on Bahraini, Emirati and Syrian banknotes, it decorates the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and is on the passports of UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.

Registration requires one passport copy and a personal photo. Women's classes are on Sunday from 10am-12pm and 6-8pm. Men's and advanced classes are on Wednesday from 6-8pm.

Courses are Dh300 a month. For further details, call 02 657 6355 or visit the National Theater off 15th Street and Airport Road


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