Immediately to the south of the Emirates Towers stretches the Dubai International Financial Centre, or DIFC, a purpose-built enclave of sober office blocks which now serves as the city’s financial nerve centre, home to the flagship NASDAQ Dubai exchange, as well as hundreds of other banks, investment companies and other enterprises. Opened in 2005, NASDAQ Dubai was promoted as a key element in the government’s attempts to exploit Dubai’s strategic location midway between European and Asian financial markets and to become the region’s leading financial trading centre – although progress so far has been slower than hoped for.
Approaching the DIFC from the northern side you’ll immediately notice the landmark The Gate building, a kind of office block-cum-triumphal arch. Further offices surround The Gate, forming a sheltered courtyard whose attractive raised terrace – known as the The Balcony – is lined with assorted cafés and shops, usually busy with energetic business types doing a power-lunch or number-crunching over coffee. Easily missed away on the east side of the complex lies a further cluster of buildings known as the Gate Village, now the epicentre of Dubai’s arts scene, with virtually every building occupied by assorted galleries (see p.000).