The United Arab Emirates (UAE) offers a diverse and vibrant dining scene with a wide range of culinary experiences. Here are some popular dining experiences you can enjoy in the UAE:
- Emirati Cuisine: Explore the traditional flavors of Emirati cuisine, which includes dishes like machbous (spiced rice with meat), harees (slow-cooked wheat with meat), and luqaimat (sweet dumplings). Visit local Emirati restaurants or try food stalls in traditional markets like Souk Al Bahar in Dubai or Souk Al Arsah in Sharjah.
- Arabic Mezze: Indulge in a variety of Middle Eastern mezze, which are small dishes perfect for sharing. Enjoy hummus, tabbouleh, falafel, moutabal, and other delicious appetizers. Restaurants like Al Nafoorah in Dubai or Al Fanar in Abu Dhabi offer authentic Arabic mezze.
- Fine Dining: UAE is renowned for its upscale dining experiences. Dubai, in particular, is home to numerous world-class restaurants run by renowned chefs. You can enjoy exquisite international cuisine, fusion dishes, and innovative creations in stunning settings. Examples include Pierchic, Zuma, Nobu, and La Petite Maison.
- Street Food: Explore the vibrant street food scene in the UAE, especially in cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. You can find food trucks, food stalls, and small local eateries serving a variety of international cuisines such as Indian, Lebanese, Pakistani, Filipino, and more. Al Mankhool Street in Dubai is known for its street food options.
- Brunch: Experience the famous Friday brunch culture in the UAE. Many hotels and restaurants offer lavish brunch buffets with an extensive selection of international dishes, live cooking stations, and free-flowing beverages. Some popular brunch spots include Saffron at Atlantis The Palm, Bubbalicious at The Westin Dubai, and Yas Viceroy’s Friday Brunch in Abu Dhabi.
- Seafood: Given its coastal location, the UAE is known for its fresh seafood. Enjoy seafood specialties like grilled hammour, prawns, lobster, and crab at restaurants such as Bu Qtair in Dubai or Al Sayyad in Abu Dhabi.
- Cultural Dining: Immerse yourself in traditional Arabian hospitality and cultural experiences. Enjoy dining under the stars in Bedouin-style tents, while being entertained by live music and traditional performances. Al Hadheerah at Bab Al Shams Desert Resort in Dubai offers an authentic desert dining experience.
Remember, the UAE is a multicultural country, so you’ll find a wide range of international cuisines including Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Thai, and more. Whether you’re looking for fine dining or casual street food, the UAE has something to cater to every palate.
ARABIAN TEA HOUSE
Shady palms and fragrant frankincense smoke are enticing reasons to lounge in this lovely café on Sharjah’s Corniche, but the main draws are the huge Emirati and Arabic breakfast trays loaded with halloumi, zaatar, and rose jam. Add a spiced karak tea or Arabian coffee and you could easily spend a whole morning here. Arabian Tea House also has branches in Dubai.
The dizzying views from the world’s tallest restaurant—it’s situated on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa—are matched by serious prowess in the kitchen. Lunch à la carte brings artfully plated rocklobster thermidor and veal cheek tortellini, while a delicate peach melba or French cheese selection nicely rounds things off.
HELIPAD SUNSET SUPPER
A head for heights is a prerequisite for The St. Regis Abu Dhabi’s monthly Helipad Sunset Supper, located on the top of the highest active helipad in the Middle East. Cocktails, canapés, and cakes are served to just 20 diners at a height of 255 meters above sea level, accompanied by helicopter’seye views of the capital (marriott.com).
Bu Qtair does only two things—fish and prawns— but it does them oh-so well. Though this lowkey eatery at the Umm Suqeim Fishing Harbor on Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach may have upgraded from a modest shack to a more substantial building a few years back, the kitchen continues to turn out the same Keralanspiced fresh seafood that has attracted crowds since the 1980s. Go hungry and be prepared to queue—it’s definitely worth the wait.
Dine with the fishes at the underwater restaurant at Atlantis The Palm, where the residents of an 11,000-liter aquarium—sharks and rays included—glide past your table. The food is as mesmerizing as the views, with creative and colorful 15- or 18-course progressive menus competing with the marine life for your attention.
1484 BY PURO
As far off the ground as At.mosphere may be, the title of the highest restaurant in the UAE goes to this mountaintop venue near the summit of Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah. Grab a table on the terrace, order the 1484 burger, topped with a stack of onion rings, and take in the views, which at 1,484 meters above sea level extend across the peaks and valleys of the Hajar Mountains. (puro.ae)
FOUQUET’S ABU DHABI
For après-art dining, nothing beats this fine French brasserie at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. It’s a branch of the legendary Parisian restaurant of the same name, with a menu—designed in collaboration with three- Michelin-star chef Pierre Gagnaire—that impresses as much as the chic surrounds: think duck foie gras terrine with date chutney, sole meunière, and classic beef tartare prepared at the table.
Hidden deep within the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, Sonara Camp sparkles with twinkling fairy lights, live music, fire shows — and serious food. The dune-top bar lounge is the spot for sunset cocktails and shisha, while the open-air kitchen turns out flavorful fatoush fusion salad alongside pulled lamb shoulder with ras el hanout and vegan shawarma.
QUEEN ELIZABETH 2
When it resumes normal operations in the months ahead, this floating hotel will once again offer visitors the chance to dine aboard a historic British ocean liner. First launched in 1969 and permanently moored at Dubai’s Port Rashid for more than a decade, the QE2 offers several distinct dining experiences, from mod British bistro Queens Grill and sundowners on the Pavilion deck to the Golden Lion, which lays claim to being the oldest pub in Dubai.
Overlooking skyscraper-flanked Sheikh Zayed Road, Himanshu Saini’s 20-seat private kitchen is one of the most exciting food experiences to appear in Dubai in recent years. Playful, flavorful, and beautifully photogenic, the Delhi-born chef’s modern Indian cuisine bursts with creativity and flavor. Tasting menus change frequently and collaborations with big-name global chefs, such as Ana Roš from Hiša Franko, are often on the cards.
Tucked away in the heritage district of Ajman, capital of the UAE’s smallest emirate (it’s surrounded by Sharjah on all sides except along the coast), this new concept store named for the country’s international dialing code acts as a showcase of local brands and makers. Ranging from children’s clothing to perfume, jewelry, coffee, and candles, 971 offers a highly shoppable insight into today’s local creative scene.
The homegrown chocolate maker’s Abu Dhabi store is the perfect place to try its exquisite creations, all made from bean to bar in the UAE. Inspired by tales of old Arabian trade routes and the Silk Road, ingredients include Emirati honey, orange blossom, and date syrup. Pick up a coffee and nibble your spoils as you admire views of Qasr Al Hosn across the square. The company also operates a shop and factory in Dubai.
Running from October to April each year on the outskirts of Dubai, this vast outdoor themed “village” manages to combine kitsch sights and surprisingly sophisticated shopping choices into a big, fun excursion. It’s a one-stop shop for everything from Yemeni honey to Syrian cheeses, Senegalese fabrics, Turkish lanterns, and more, with great food stalls for refueling midspree. (globalvillage.ae)
In the Al Seef area on the edge of Dubai Creek, this friendly, no-pressure store is the perfect place to browse handmade rugs and antique carpets. Syrian owner Mahmoud Khsayem can often be seen weaving freestyle contemporary tapestries on his loom — give it a try yourself at one of their regular workshops.
This mosaic-adorned villa turned– concept store in Dubai’s upscale Jumeirah neighborhood stocks homewares, pottery, and accessories from around the world. Look out for Tunisian ceramics, Emirati kaftans, and Colombian beaded bracelets, and don’t miss the hidden room in the back for regular popups, ranging from plants to pottery to bamboo toothbrushes.
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