General 3am- Celebration Of Creativity, Community And Culture

Meet Rami Farooq- An Instigator Of Change


Saudi Gazette

General 3am serves as a creative collective and incubator for ambitious entrepreneurs, designers and some of the most influential artists of our time. It is the brainchild of Emirati artist Rami Farooq who has been in the Middle Eastern art scene for a long time, informing and shaping cultural movements. As a cultural shaper, he aims to implement impactful programs that can help the creative industry build relationships to be able to set and communicate a vision they can accomplish collectively.

“I’m 36 years old, father of two, an artist and producer,” Farooq introduced himself as he sat down with a cup of freshly brewed organic coffee from the café inside his store at Dubai Design District. He checks in on the food supplies for the day and is interrupted by customers who walk in to say hello. “Sorry about that but our customers are our friends so they sometimes pass by just to say hello. In fact even people behind the counter, designers and those who have artworks in the store are friends. We all hang out here. I’ve got benches outside too so people chill here at any time of the day or night,” he explained. Dressed in a casual grey thobe and a cap, Farooq wears an endearing smile that disarms one instantly, and helps you recognize that in fact, the welcoming attitude and helpful nature resonate with the values of his home country. Much like the UAE, he exudes positivity and a certain enthusiasm, which attracts a lot of artists and young creative minds to the spot. “Over 80% of visitors are under forty. We attract a lot of young minds and creatives along with locals to our café,” he revealed.

Initially Farooq bought the space with a partner but when things didn’t work out as planned, he converted the space into a ‘micro-mall and museum’. “It is somewhere between a store, café and public space, where we create content and I also display my art collection. In fact when you have to choose a category for your brand on Instagram, I didn’t choose retail or food, I chose community. Because that’s how we work. In fact you will see our designers modeling for other designers right here in the store. I really enjoy this project,” Farooq said cheerfully. Farooq works as a collaborator as opposed to a traditional retailer and entrepreneur. “We focus on regional clothing. I am looking for things are valuable, functional and durable. I run the whole thing because my background is in curating. I curated the first Edge of Arabia in Berlin for instance. Amir assists me on the daily with management.”

Farooq acts as an accelerator and has worked with art initiatives across the world. “I started the first design gallery in the Middle East called Traffic, which soon became an art gallery showcasing works of great Saudi artists including Ahmed Mater, Abdulnasser Gharem and many more. It eventually became a cultural center. I retired from it and went on a sabbatical in 2013, to focus on becoming an artist, curator and publisher. I went to Los Angeles and got into films and visual arts,” he said. “My projects took me to Jordan to a refugee camp where we started a computer literacy program, I also learned sound improv and looping in Brighton and then I went to LA and produced a film for Kenzo,” he added. Farooq also runs Cabin, a restaurant and an art hub in Dubai, alongside Satellite, which is an art gallery in Alserkal Avenue. “My philosophy is that if he is an artist, everything he does must be art. Check out our new space called Cabin on Instagram,” he said while pointing out to small post-its and drawings on the wall around the space. Born with an innate desire to create and express himself, Farooq’s inspiration stems from the need of freedom of expression. “It comes from a place of complete freedom. It’s not madness because its sanity, but one that gives an allowance for it.” With the dynamic art scene rapidly developing in UAE, innovators like Farooq are creating concepts that reflect a powerful diversity of experiences and creative voices to help push boundaries collectively.