Exclusive is a word used so often in Dubai, its meaning has almost been lost. From exclusive parties to exclusive restaurants, the word has become the city’s default prefix. But Emirati entrepreneur Mohammed Zaal is hoping to redefine what exclusivity means in Dubai with the launch of Nasab – the city’s first and only members’ club of its kind.
Traditionally, members-only clubs around the world are populated based on the size of their clients’ bank accounts or, occasionally, their social media following. But at Nasab, members are required to set a different benchmark, one that money can’t buy: they need to be interesting.
“If you apply, and tell me how many followers you have on Instagram, you’re out. The kind of person we are looking for is someone you might not immediately recognise, but once you hear about them or read their bio, you’d think: ‘Wow, that’s someone I want to have a conversation with,’” explains Zaal.
What to expect if you're a member
While Nasab has what you'd expect in a members-only club – from a gym and bar to multiple swimming pools and restaurants – recreation is secondary here. It is creation that's at the forefront of the Nasab concept. He also prefers the phrase "co-living" space to co-working space.
The three-level club is anchored by a large, open-plan room that feels like a modern-day library. Sprawling communal tables take centre stage, separated with carefully curated book shelves lined with titles from luxury publishers Assouline and Taschen. Surrounding the space is a warren of corridors lined with bespoke meeting rooms, each with a different design – one channels boardroom vibes, while others are suited for creative brainstorming sessions, laced with abstract art.
Outside, there are three pools – a family and adult pool in the gardens, and a rooftop lap pool, surrounded by massage rooms, an altitude chamber and a meditation room. Between the meeting rooms on the second floor, there’s a fully equipped gym offering a daily class schedule, alongside a bespoke photography studio.
When it comes to amenities, then, there’s little Nasab doesn’t have. But for Zaal, it’s the people who fill this space who will bring his vision to life. Nasab, he says, will be a place to bring together a certain type of professional – someone who can inspire and be inspired, who can collaborate and communicate, and someone who wants to work hard and play harder.
“I really want to blur the boundaries between live, work and play – that what’s co-living is about,” he says. “I’ve always imagined coming down from my office, and walking down here and seeing an event going on in the amphitheatre that catches my attention. And I want to stay and engage with the community, [to] sit down and find something or someone inspiring.”
Creating a curated community
Nasab, which is part of Dubai’s KOA Canvas development, is a place for “thought leaders and game-changers”, Zaal says, and a home for entrepreneurs, something he knows a thing or two about himself. The 35-year-old, who left his role as chief operating officer of Al Barari to create KOA Canvas, has designed the kind of space he wants to work in, and wishes he had access to as he was starting out.
“People traditionally work in a way where they are confined to their space, not just physically but mentally. You’re with the same people, you’re in an office and you’re stuck with this company ethos and this company way of thinking,” he says. “Here, people have a more outward look.”
Dubai, he says, has gone through huge periods of growth, and is now starting to mature on a social level. People are no longer coming from abroad, working for a couple of years and leaving – people are building lives for themselves here, and looking for communities they can build a future in.
The Nasab community will be a curated one. To become a member, you'll need to send an application, which will then be reviewed by the team. So what is it that Zaal and his team are looking for exactly? "I'll tell you who I don't want," he says. "We have a blacklist of people, and they are the normal socialites of Dubai who are invited to every event. We don't want someone who has come in and, yes, they are creative, but they are self-absorbed. This is a community and you need to be able to contribute."
For those who do make the cut, membership at Nasab comes at five levels. Nomad is the most basic, aimed at those who don’t live in Dubai, but visit often for work. From Dh750 a month, they can access Nasab for 10 days each month – including its three restaurants, calendar of events and social benefits. From Dh2,000 a month, you can access Suite membership, giving you access to fully furnished office space rental for two to 12 people.
It’s not an insignificant monthly outgoing, especially for young creatives who could just as easily take their laptop to their local Starbucks with the rest of their peers, but Zaal is confident the concept fits with Dubai. “It’s a very interesting time, and people are hungry for it,” he says. “People – the ones who we want to get it – get it.”