From fitness classes to meditation, the unassuming Jumeirah centre brings together faiths
Inside the House of Om, Dubai's remarkable spiritual centre
Behind the colourful gates of a villa in the back streets of Jumeirah, a Korean brain healer, a Syrian hypnotherapist and host of guests meet. They each have their own challenges and goals - quitting smoking or getting fit - but most are trying to find calm in a hectic world.
Welcome to the Taijitu House of Om, a multi-faith spiritual centre that seems miles away from Dubai's noisy traffic and packed malls.
Here, city residents, tourists and travellers of every background meet to meditate and promote tolerance, in an atmosphere more akin to a commune than the pricey therapy centres dotted around the city.
In fact, founder Wissam Barakeh, has more or less phased out cash - and urges those attending his classes to tip low paid workers, give to labourers or exchange services.
"It's a home with a big heart that aims to reach out to people and spread happiness, positivity and well-being," said Mr Barakeh.
“By exchanging energy, we are reducing the use of money, back to pure energy exchange,” he said, adding: "I fix my car for free, I can do acupuncture for free and I go to the dentist for free. These yoga pants I’m wearing are a gift."
Mr Barakeh, 42, from Syria, was a regional finance manager for a pharmaceutical company before he decided to escape the rat race of the corporate world and found the House of Om last year.
> Take a look inside: Behind the coloured gates of Dubai's Taijitu House of Om - in pictures
"I grew up in a culture of Arabic hospitality and I strongly believe our personal happiness comes from spreading happiness around us.
“I am asking people to balance their energy, by doing something good elsewhere and spread the positive experience to others; you receive and you need to give."
He is now a certified hypnotherapist and reiki practitioner.
Despite the unassuming surroundings, he said 13,000 people have come through its doors since last June. There have been 350 events since then, from meditation and fitness classes to spirituality and sessions to help smokers quit.
Mr Barakeh asks visitors to "pay forward" the Dh20 to Dh30 to less fortunate people.
“This is the unity of all religions, the tolerance I am promoting,” he said.
Some visitors come to the house to see its surroundings, which includes a boat in the leafy garden, while others come to experience the sense of calm.
“Here you see Surat Al Fatiha (from the Quran) next to Virgin Mary; there is the astrology sign of the universe, the energy crystal for people who believe in energy and healing with crystals," he said during a tour this week.
A normal day at the House of Om begins with sunrise meditation at the pool or beach - which is a four-minute walk from the house. Most people there visit for the day, while others are travellers on layovers that stay overnight.
“We do our own spirituality, our own thing, we have events, we prepare for it, some people come to the altar just to pray. Some guy came the other day with his family to pray at the altar, I didn’t ask what religion," he said.
“Sometimes people just come to play music and paint.” So popular has the centre become that people arrived an hour early for a workshop on brain sensitising by the Korean brain trainer Daae Kim.
“We focus on operating the brain power, we already have a brain power, but people don’t know how to use it, when you know how to use u control emotion and thought and try to make your life better and become master of your life,” Kim told a group of 20.
At a time when the government created positions for happiness and tolerance ministers and has pursued a national drive based around 'happiness', Mr Barakeh appears to have tapped into something.
"I invite everyone to come in and discover it with their own eyes," he beams.