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Books, books and more books. The Archive is lined with them and they litter every table.

In the age of the iPad, a commitment to old-fashioned print is a rare and wonderful thing – and in Dubai, a city of global brands and corporate skyscrapers, independent art cafes are similarly rare and wonderful. So imagine the city’s collective delight when The Archive opened in an old toilet block in Safa Park.

Japanese designers have transformed the previously grimy space into a light-filled community centre by partially removing the outer walls, replacing them with glass and lining it with books. Considering most people in town are obsessed with building new, the repurposed Archive is a breath of fresh air.

“We have a collection of art, culture and design books, some of which date back 200 years,” said content coordinator Bethany Hopper. “We want to nurture a new generation with literature and education, while creating a space of exploration and entertainment.”

A worthy mission to consider over your weekend brunch overlooking the palm tree-lined park, where you can choose a full English breakfast (with veal bacon) or dishes such as grilled chicken with chilli and lime sweet potato.

With large open tables and a laid back atmosphere, The Archive encourages like-minded people to mingle. It also organises events and classes, such as Arabic, calligraphy, yoga, photography workshops and film screenings. One visit you might be watching people do downward dog on the springy grass, the next a lively screening of film shorts.

Considering Dubai sits between sand dunes and the beachy shore, a chance to hang out on the grass is a lush idea – one that’s keeping Dubai’s hipsters coming back for more.

Georgina Wilson-Powell is the Dubai Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes the hotel review blog sogoodtogetoutofthecity.wordpress.com.

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