Hisham Samawi

The entrepreneur following his heart to make things happen
ByJasmine BandaliWednesday , 05 March 2014
Ten years from now... I hope to have an Ayyam Gallery in New York and a few Clinton Street Baking Company restaurants scattered around the region
© ITP Images
Ten years from now... I hope to have an Ayyam Gallery in New York and a few Clinton Street Baking Company restaurants scattered around the region
© ITP Images
© ITP Images

In a region full of entrepreneurs, Hisham is somewhat in a league of his own. After initially visiting Dubai in 2002 from New York – he was studying for his MBA at Columbia University – for a DJ set, he returned following the completion of his studies and set up home permanently in 2006, eager to pursue business opportunities.

His first idea came to fruition in his home city of Damascus, Syria, in 2008, when he founded the Ayyam Gallery with his cousin Khaled. In 2011, however, in the wake of the Arab Spring, Hisham moved the gallery to Dubai. More remarkably, he was able to use his influence to move 15 artists and their families from the war-torn country to safety in the UAE, a mission that took two years to complete.

Hisham has also promoted regional art through Ayyam auctions, the Middle East’s first home-grown auction house. Its events, held at Ayyam Gallery several times a year, have seen him hailed an instrumental figure in the evolution of the emirate’s art scene.

Pursuing another personal passion, food, Hisham set about bringing one of his favourite New York eateries to Dubai. Believing he could fill a gap in the market for those seeking the ultimate all-day breakfast and brunch, he franchised the famed Clinton Street Baking Company & Restaurant last year. In a city that never sleeps but loves to brunch, the Burj Views, Downtown eatery appears to be yet another stroke of genius.