A Day in the Life allows you to step into the shoes of a UAE resident to experience a typical 24 hours in their work and home life.
Ibrahim Abudyak had a smash hit on his hands when he went for broke on a business plan borne out of a desire for destruction.
The busy Jordanian was inspired by a divorce and getting fired to co-found The Smash Room in 2018 – a popular entertainment site in Al Quoz, which has since branched out to Abu Dhabi.
The venue allows customers to let off steam and blast away their stress and frustrations on a variety of unwanted items, such as plates, glasses and old TVs, in a controlled environment.
Here, The National joins the flamboyant 35 year old on a typical day that includes ensuring there are sufficient numbers of DVD players to break, while also running a new streetwear fashion brand.
7.30-8-30am: Sartorial deliberations
Mr Abudyak isn’t a “morning person”. But with 100 pairs of trainers to pick from, there’s not much time for lying in.
“Some people say you’ve got to wake up at 5am because that’s when the magic happens,” he says. “That’s not true but also I’ve got a lot to do, so the sooner I start, the better.”
That includes being “cat daddy” to Siva, adopted shortly before the pandemic. And selecting what to wear.
“Choosing an outfit, including sneakers and accessories, is a big part of my routine,” says Mr Abudyak, who claims his last "proper job" was five years ago.
“I manage my own time. No amount of money can take me away from this kind of freedom and lifestyle.”
10am: Pumping iron
It’s a short drive from home in Downtown Dubai to the gym in DIFC. But Mr Abudyak requires motivation.
“I have a personal trainer to help me get my workout done,” he said. “Otherwise, there’s always a reason for me to ditch the gym. If you don’t come, you get charged anyway.”
11am: Caffeine and planning
Mr Abudyak chooses a “nice coffee shop” to have breakfast and compile his daily goals.
“I have a few favourite spots in the city,” he says. “I open my notebook and write down bullet points of matters I have to take care of.
“I don’t spend all working hours in The Smash Room … the environment is very noisy.
“For me to focus on strategy or creative process, I need a bit of quiet but I am in touch over the phone, WhatsApp and Zoom.”
Mr Abudyak studied mechanical engineering and worked in the car industry on moving to Abu Dhabi 13 years ago.
He said The Smash Room is about enabling people to express themselves in a safe, controlled environment, while his clothing brand, Jokes Aside, enables people to express themselves visually.
“This reflects my own journey from boring corporate person to someone who experimented until he developed his own visual identity.”
12.30pm: Room with a crew
A chat with the team ahead of The Smash Room opening at 1pm for customers to unleash their frustrations or just have fun by destroying redundant tech. Visitors span many nationalities, ages and backgrounds.
“We’ve had from five year olds to ladies of 70-plus,” Mr Abudyak said. “A lot of team building happens here – companies, government entities. Breaking stuff bonds people … the whole place is about energy.
“We have four rooms. Now and then I go into the spaces, see if there’s anything I would like to change or update the look and feel.”
A meeting sometimes follows with potential collaborators or suppliers.
Before launching The Smash Room, Mr Abudyak cut deals with Ajman and Sharjah junkyards for old electronics stripped of valuable components.
“Our inventory management system triggers an alarm saying we’re running out of old computers, printers, or TVs. The team then messages the yard,” he says.
“I always wanted to ensure we don’t contribute to the problem and are part of the solution. Every year we smash 13,000-15,000 items.”
Debris is collected by recycling partners or artists working on creations.
“We believe in sustainability and want people to come with a clear conscience. We clean the items up, make them look nice, but they’re scrap … we don’t smash anything that works.”
2pm: Appetite for destruction
Reviews are important to Mr Abudyak who takes time to examine ratings and comments.
“What shocks or upsets me is a Google review of less than five stars,” he said. “I would interrupt anything to understand what happened."
Sometimes Dubai’s tourism department sends guests, such as influencers. Bollywood actors and Arabic celebrities have also smashed.
“Sixty-65 per cent of customers are here for fun,” Mr Abudyak said. “The rest for different reasons: somebody is going through tough times at work, a break-up, or maybe lost someone.
“They can come and be themselves, cry it out or scream and smash something. It’s one form of therapy.”
Mr Abudyak also inspects the so-called freedom wall to which customers stick notes written after a session.
“You find a lot of interesting messages and thoughts,” he said. “Some are personal, perhaps about work or a person. It’s a form of customer feedback as well.”
4pm: Make or break
Time for meetings either on-site, in a cafe or at Jokes Aside’s headquarters in Dubai Design District.
“I’ll go through fabric choices, maybe content for social media,” said Mr Abudyak. “I’m not a fashion designer, I come up with concepts, ideas, the aesthetics.
“Soon we will be stocked at a couple of retailers, but for now it’s online.
Back in The Smash Room he’s exploring the franchising programme – Abu Dhabi is the first – and further expansion.
“When we started in 2018 we had just enough money to open the door for the first day,” he says.
5pm: Cracking new ideas
Mr Abudyak works on new ideas, chases progress on new projects or researches.
“I look at YouTube, read stuff online … I find inspiration everywhere for what’s next,” he said. “I dreamt of filling a room entirely with bubble wrap and we did that a couple of times.
“Sometimes we have a new item – I want to see how it feels to break … for research purposes. I actually smash much less than I should.”
8pm: Breaking bread
Not a fan of cooking, Mr Abudyak uses a healthy meal plan or orders in and watches TV shows such as Shark Tank while remaining in touch with his Smash Room team.
“I’m connected to the business until we close,” he said. “Whoever closes reports daily sales, so I wait until I receive that message, usually 10pm-11pm, and around midnight, I’m in bed.”