United Arab Emirates

Pavilion title: Afaaq Al Mustaqbal

The word cafeteria dates back to the mid 19th century and its direct translation is "coffee shop” in Spanish. The essence of its origin was to have a self-served experience to economise time and cost. However, the evolution of this word and its understanding relative to place has evolved into unique variations in every culture and country.

Cafeterias are ubiquitous and have somehow become an integral element of the Emirati cultural experience. Moreover, the cafeteria is a cultural concoction — a mélange of disparate tastes, visuals, and ideas coming together to form a multicultural singularity.

The UAE Pavilion draws inspiration from the cafeteria in an attempt to highlight the many layers of this cultural phenomenon.

Curators: Salem Al-Qassimi & Maryam Al Qassimi

Salem Al-Qassimi is a graphic designer, and entrepreneur based in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (UAE). He graduated from the American University of Sharjah (AUS) with a Bachelor of Science in Multimedia Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design. Salem is the Principal of Fikra Design Studio which he founded 2006, and is an Assistant Professor of Art and Design in the College of Architecture, Art and Design at the AUS. His work investigates cultural elements from the UAE through lens of design.

Maryam Al Qassimi is a graphic designer and visual artist based in Sharjah, UAE. She graduated from the American University of Sharjah (AUS) with a Bachelor of Science in Visual Communication. She previously worked at the Sharjah Art Foundation and was an artist in residence at A.i.R Dubai in 2014. She is currently Principal at Fikra Design Studio. Her work references various imagery and material found in the local community. It is an exploration of the vernacular of the United Arab Emirates, and the artifice in the portrayal of its culture.

Designers: Salem Al Mansoori, Tarik Zaharna, Ric Hernandez

Salem Al Mansoori is a graduate from the interactive design-centric Interactive Telecommunications (ITP) master’s program at Tisch School of the Arts, NYU in New York. Salem practices in creative programming, physical computing, computer-aided fabrication, and VR.

Tarik Zaharna is the Founder and Director of T.ZED Architects, and is a graduate of the Bartlett School in London. He has a wide range of professional practice, whereby he worked for Urban A&O in New York and Bolles+Wilson in Germany before moving to the UAE. T.ZED Architects is the second Architecture and Design practice founded by Tarik in Dubai.

Ric Hernandez is a graduate of the University of Florida where he holds a Bachelor of Design and a Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. He is the principal and founder of ROCK3RS, a multi-disciplinary design studio in New York City where he focuses on providing spatial identities to a wide range of clients in the hospitality and corporate sectors. Ric also serves as Art Director for Fikra Design Studio in Sharjah.

Supported by 


Design Partner 

Fikra Design Studio