A Suez Canal scene by Egyptian painter Abdul Hadi El-Gazzar fetched $1.02 million – nearly eight times the guide price – at auction in Dubai on Wednesday night. In total $10.6m was spent.

The watercolour, which depicts workers building the Suez Canal, was the top lot in auction house Christie’s sale of modern and contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish art at Jumeirah Emirates Towers.

The spectacular sale – a record for the late artist’s work – coincided with the opening night of Art Dubai. The auction house brought its spring sale forward to align with Art Dubai, the premier art fair in the Middle East.

Michael Jeha, managing director of Christie’s in the Middle East, said the date change would “provide a more convenient, single moment for visiting international collectors to see the very best of art from the region in one week”.

Art-lovers from around the globe have flocked to the city for the eighth annual fair, which is showcasing the work of more than 500 artists this year.

Before last night, the highest figure fetched by an El-Gazzar creation was $746,500, according to businessweek.com

El-Gazzar [1925-1966] was a part of the Contemporary Art Group. Founded in 1946, the group’s members were inspired by folk symbolism and popular traditions.

Tonight Christie’s will auction 120 prestigious watches, including a Patek Philippe 5971 fitted with 42 emeralds and valued at up to $350,000.

Also up for grabs is a mint condition Opus X by Harry Winston, estimated at $70,000 to $100,000.