Dubai: A Guide from a South African Traveler

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My writing follows a natural process; everything that impacts on my experience of life is expressed in these posts. My approach is to see everything that I can digest and sharpen my capacity to appreciate more. And during this discovery, I manage to find that one magical moment when a destination ‘reveals’ itself to me. That is the experience that I relate to others when they ask me how my trip was.

And when you don’t want the experience to end, you know that you’ve had a good holiday.

Few cities in the world can boast the energy and excitement of Dubai. Once you look past the creeping skyscrapers and glitzy commercialism, you can begin to appreciate a country that embodies the true essence and hospitality of Arabia.

Travel to the UAE has become synonymous with South African travelers. This guide should assist you if you’ve never traveled to the UAE or looking on any additional information on what to do whilst you’re there.

How to get there:

Most families need take into consideration the school terms before making any plans to travel to Dubai. Whilst there is never a ‘bad’ time to travel, Dubai only ever experiences two seasons; hot and hotter. During the winter months, the city sees blue skies and primo beach weather. However, this is also peak tourist season, so expect plenty of company on the public and private beaches. You can escape the crowds if you visit during the summer months, but be prepared for triple-digit temps and high humidity levels. The most favourable time of the year to travel to the UAE is between April to October when sun-seekers from around the globe flock to Dubai to take advantage of the Emirate’s desirable weather, so you should plan on making hotel reservations at least two to three months in advance to ensure availability.

Once you decide on a date, booking your airline tickets is the next step. Travelers from South Africa have a choice of 2 airlines, with Emirates being the preferred carrier as it’s direct route has you there in 8 hours, in comfort even in their Economy cabin. If you are able to plan in advance, subscribe to the Emirates newsletter and enroll as a member to the loyalty club; Skywards. You will be notified of any special offers including Companion fares (partners travel at 50% off the rate or at their discretion) or discounts throughout the year. You will earn ‘miles’ and have your ‘tiers’ upgraded with the frequency of your travel.

We traveled in Business Class using their facilities on our trip to Dubai, Turkey and London. Once confirming your route, visit the website to begin creating your experience. Travelers can select their preferred seating, choose their meal based on dietary requirements (remember to select a children’s meal as the catering staff usually go out of their way with the presentation) and explore their lounges before departing or arriving at your destination. You are also able to book your complimentary Chauffeur-drive online through ‘Manage a booking’ link on the Emirates website. This can be done up to 48 hours before your flight. A suitable car will be sent to collect you from your door and, when you land, they will be there to take you to your final destination.

A Visa may be arranged through a travel agent or using their online links. Remember that visa requirements can change with little or no notice. Please double-check foreign entry requirements for travelers from your country of nationality by contacting the local embassy or consulate of your destination country. Ensure that you make 3 copies of your Visa and place them in 3 different pieces of luggage, with one of them being easily accessible (in your travel bag or hand luggage).

If you are traveling with young children, I recommend leaving home a little earlier than planned to ensure that there are no discrepancies with their passports or documentation. As of late, South African travelers with young children are required to present an ‘Unabridged Birth Certificate’ before departures. The copy needs to be certified and issued by Home Affairs, but note – certified copies are only valid for 3 months. Please ensure that you apply for this ahead of time, and before booking your tickets, in the event of the original not being delivered before you travel.

It is always preferable to leave home a little earlier during busier periods and spend your time in the Lounge to avoid any last minute rushing around before a holiday. The lounge facilities usually include complimentary food and drinks, clean bathroom facilities and magazines and newspapers to keep you occupied. Wifi in the lounges are also complimentary. The passwords are usually located on the tables so keep your eye out for them. Announcements are usually made when it comes to boarding times, so be sure to sit in the area that’s not the ‘quiet’ lounge or ask the attendants to notify you when it’s your time to board.

Once on-board, familiarise yourself with your space and take note of how to operate the touch screen tablets and to adjust seating and in-flight options. There are usb slots located in each seat, so you can charge your smartphone when traveling. You can also connect to the on-board WiFi, ask an assistant to explain the process to you or consult the in-flight magazine for directions. Select your meals and notify your air hostess ahead of time so you can rest or begin enjoying the in-flight entertainment. You can also opt to sleep throughout your flight, in which case a coloured sticker may be placed alongside your seat so the assistants are aware.

If Dubai is your final destination, proceed directly to immigration. You will be required to present your Visa and the details of your stay. Be sure to stand in the ‘fast track’ queue if you have traveled in the Business Class cabin. Your chauffeur driver will be ready to assist you in obtaining your luggage and having you checked out and proceed to your hotel. If you need to get a local Sim card, you may do this at the airport. There are also counters to change your currency, but be mindful of the rates provided, although they are generally around the same rate at most currency converters.

Most Hotels offer a shuttle service or chauffeur drive. Inquire what your options are when booking and also look into using their public transport. They are honest and usually charge the same rate whether it is a larger vehicle or a smaller one.

Where to stay in Dubai:

Once you have determined the style of holiday and budget that you have, you may then decide on the type of accommodation that you require. Also bear in mind the travel time that you are willing to spend getting to and from your hotel daily. The best ‘beach’ resorts are located on JBR, a waterfront community located in the Persian Gulf in Dubai Marina. We have stayed at Sofitel previously and appreciated the proximity to the beach. “The Walk at JBR” restaurant and shopping strip, which is adjacent to the beach behind JBR, is a very popular location for ‘Al Fresco’ dining. Be aware that many taxi’s prefer to drop you off on the ‘side’ street of your Hotel as it’s almost impossible to enter the main road during peak times. This is not problematic as it is extremely safe and it’s always great to take in the buzzing atmosphere during the day or night.

Another popular hotel choice are the Jumeirah group of Hotels. Visitors have a choice of 8 of their luxury Hotels in the Gulf. Having stayed at the Burj Al Arab and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel on  2 separate occasions each, both these Hotels boast traditional Arabian hospitality and each offer a different and unique experience of Dubai.

The beachfront setting, overlooking the Arabian Sea, offers tranquil views and access to a range of water sports, including deep-sea fishing, snorkelling and scuba diving. Guests can enjoy access to one of Dubai’s most spectacular private beaches, set between two of the city’s most iconic buildings. With additional benefits, beach access packages at Jumeirah Beach Hotel include beach access to the resort’s two private beaches.

On this occasion, we opted to stay at Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach. Set on a pristine, natural beach, Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach blends Arabic design with cool, contemporary style – creating an atmosphere of light, sophisticated luxury. The road leading up to the property is unassuming. The palatial lobby leads to a jaw-dropping courtyard, pool and beach area. The dramatic resort entrance manages to satiate your expectations right from the start. A rare view of the sea from the elegant lobby leaves a lasting impression and guests can enjoy drinks and Shisha in the lounge area upon arrival.

The check-in process was seamless and I was immediately led up to our Deluxe Sea-View Room, with a connecting room of the same category for our children. With partial views of the Arabian Gulf from our private balcony, the Deluxe Sea-View Rooms overlook the lush greenery and two swimming pools below. Notify the Hotel upon booking that you require your rooms joined; giving the perfect balance of togetherness and privacy.

Other than the breathtaking setting, the resort should be known for its charismatic service and standout food offering.

The classy setting is relaxed and meant for all ages with special attention paid to children. On arrival in our room, our children received their own welcome treats which were pre-plated in the dining area, which was an exceptionally thoughtful gesture from the Hotel. The kids were extremely excited to see their names written on the bathtub with bath crayons! It is this level of service that well-traveled kids appreciate and look for in the Hotels that they travel with their parents to. The first reaction that my son expressed was that this was one of the coolest things that any Hotel has done for them – and the appreciation goes a long way in building and maintaining relationships with these future travelers.

We were welcomed by an impressive selection of pastries, chopped and whole fruit and cold juices in our dining area, along with hand-written welcome notes and gifts from Vivel Patisserie. Of course this level of personalisation exceeds most experiences that I’ve had with Hotels, with the Four Seasons group encouraging a personal relationship with their clients wherever possible.

The rooms are sleek and stylish. The floorplans are open with ample space between the two rooms to accommodate a family of 6 comfortably. A small passage way divides the two rooms and if the rooms are both left open it creates an open-plan feel to the living area. Each room had it’s own closet area so our luggage was always neatly tucked away and not obtrusive. I like to unpack all of our luggage the minute that I arrive at a destination so we are able to settle into our space. There is plenty of storage in the cupboards and draws with additional storage below the tv.

The bathrooms are massive and clad in marble and mosaic. There are two vanity sinks with a built-in television in the mirror. The dramatic free-standing oval tub and separate rain shower are kitted with product by ‘Rajasthan by Etro’ bath amenities. I especially loved the packaging where “Pattern is, as always, at the heart of the collection”. I wouldn’t bother much about carrying much toiletries as most products are provided – carry your own products if you’re very particular about what brand you use.

Both rooms open into a large balcony with seating, so you can enjoy breakfast or drinks outside, weather-permitting.

The Four Seasons group are never afraid of technology. Guests can make use of the mobile app, ‘a multi-functional global app which acts as a ‘do-everything concierge’, catering to guests’ every whim – from checking in and out, to ordering room service, housekeeping and laundry, to requesting a car from the valet. Guests can also book luggage pickup and airport transfers or use the content-rich application to peruse local recommendations on individual destinations, curated to their ‘moods’.‘ We tested the app on a stay at Four Seasons The Westcliff earlier this year. It streamlines and limits ear to ear contact leaving guests with more time to relax. In addition, each room comes with standard complimentary Wi-Fi (available throughout the resort), iPad Mini to access resort services, 55-inch flat-screen TV, on-demand TV options, direct USB plug-in for computer recharging, a PlayStation/XBox on request (our children used this on one of the evenings) and a Bluetooth speaker.

We opted to dine in on a few of the mornings (due to getting in late the night before). The service is prompt, with our request being delivered at exactly the time that has been selected. The portion sizes are large, so be cautious when ordering.

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This also gives you an opportunity to enjoy the comforts of the Hotel and getting a late start to the day, as most locals only get going in the afternoon once it’s cooler.

Suq is a vibrant, market-style restaurant mixing cuisine from the Middle East, Asia and the West. Quick and casual, it’s a place where everyone can find what they like – then relax in the bright, spacious interior or outdoors in the pool-view gardens. The buffet breakfast offers plenty of variety, but I found myself having the same breakfast – everyday! I loved their crisp waffles with chopped fruit and a light dusting of icing sugar. Guests are spolit for choice, and I suggest sampling each variety of food every time you visit and for Muslim patrons, everything is Halaal.

The restaurant offers à la carte choices for lunch and dinner and are prepared fresh on the spot at island cooking stations. It’s a delicious experience of Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, especially with the backdrop of the ocean and shading from the Palm trees in front of you. We ordered a selection of items to share between the 4 of us (adults). The couscous salad with Pomegranate fared the best, with the Margarita pizza with a fried egg being our next most preferred meal. I don’t usually lean towards sweet and spicy flavours combined, so i wasn’t very fond of the soft crab which was deep fried and a sauce drizzled over. The biryani was well spiced, which we all enjoyed. I highly recommend rounding off your meal with a cup of their cappuccino.

Chic, relaxing and right on the beach, Sea Fu serves a menu of modern seafood in a cool, loungey atmosphere with refreshing breezes. We had dinner there one evening and were seated in-doors (guests can opt to be seated outdoors on the shaded terrace, or in a sunken lounge with a fire pit) All seating areas boast spectacular views of the Arabian Gulf.

For starters we ordered the Black Truffle Toast which was Rye bread, arugula salad and a truffle dressing. The plating was simple, with a slight after-taste of the truffle – not intense or pungent. The Poached Langoustines with white and green asparagus and Hollandaise yuzu sauce was flavourful and prepared to perfection. The langoustine melts in your mouth and the asparagus was cooked el-dante.

For mains, we order Lobster Macaroni with Matsutaki mushrooms and a crustacean sauce. The sauce was very seasoned with heady notes of seafood. The sauce coated the lobster well and was not runny. The meat was fleshy and buttery. This was by far the nicest of the main courses that we ordered. Along with this, we ordered the Lobster Club Sandwich with a Salicornia Salad, and French Fries – plating was neat and simple with a great combination of flavours. The Seafod Paella was presented in a large skillet and our waiter dished each portion in front of us. I felt that it lacked flavour and could have been moist with more intense seafood notes.

Dessert was a recommendation by our waiter. It was a basalt board of all of their desserts in miniature versions. I wish the trend would catch on in other restaurants as it’s a fantastic way to sample everything from the sweet selection but without the guilt of having a full sized portion.

The ambiance is fantastic with the sound of the ocean in the background. The service is a bit slow later on in the evening but the experience was enjoyable.

The active pool in located in view of the beachfront. Young guests can enjoy the use of complimentary swimming aids and even have a menu (with eating utensils and crockery) designed for them. The pool area caters to families looking for lots of amenities without sacrificing style. The various depths are suitable for kids of all ages ensuring that everyone is able to enjoy their time at the Four Seasons. We were also offered complimentary Sushi during our time at the pool, while the younger guests opted for more substantial meals. Even though the heat was intense, it was a good way to get some respite from the 40+ degree temperatures that we experienced. I would prefer spending our time outdoors in the cooler months as it tends to feel more enjoyable. I suggest cooling off after a day out in Dubai towards late afternoon. The heat becomes more bearable and makes for relaxed pre-dinner snacks by the pool.

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It would be very difficult to travel to a destination and not stay at a Four Seasons resort. The level of service and luxury that one experiences surpasses all Hotels in its category.

What to do in Dubai:

Aside from the beaches and resort pools being in pristine condition, Dubai has carved a reputation of being  child-centered with something to do at every turn in the city. Here are our list of attractions for adults and children in Dubai (please note that not all attractions will suit both genders or render the same service that we received). Listing in no particular order:

1- Hello Kitty Spa, Dubai Mall, UAE

Followers of the kitsch Japanese brand know that the ‘cat’ is all about loving pink, being girly and extravagant. The Hello Kitty Spa was one of the must-do items on our list for the girls on this holiday. When a gap opened (while the boys were off at Sega world), we immediately booked them in expecting their time to be memorable and worthy of a return. The time felt short, and rushed – even though they were not busy. The girls were given a robe to wear and asked to choose a paint colour for the nails. Nothing felt special about the experience – according to us. The place itself is beautiful, with decor centered around the Parisian theme of French cottages, shabby chic interiors, and Marie-Antoinette. The service slacks and perhaps new staff should be employed who are able to create a more welcoming and inviting environment for little girls. The treatments are over-priced and soon forgotten. If it weren’t for the ‘cat’ and the shrieking girls at the end of it, I’d rate this as one of the poorest experiences we’ve had in Dubai. Other readers digress saying that ‘they loved the experience and will return.’ Perhaps the other branch will be able to provide better service, or at least extend a smile. Walk-in bookings accepted, please check during peak periods.

2- We purchased a ‘Dubai Summer Pass’ ticket for the kids. Each pass entitled the bearer discounts or complimentary access to the following attractions at The Dubai Mall:

Dubai Ice Rink (This pass entitles its holder to one public session entrance to Dubai Ice Rink at The Dubai Mall. The adults bought an additional ticket using the Mastercard promotion so we were able to join the kids. The penguins are available to hire so little kids can also join in on the fun)

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Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo (This Pass entitled the holder to one ticket entrance to Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo at The Dubai Mall)

KidZania (A grown-up world in miniature where children can play being adults for a day. This Pass allows one child entrance to KidZania at The Dubai Mall – plan an entire afternoon to take them in)
Reel Cinemas (This Pass entitles its holder 2 regular tickets to Reel Cinemas at The Dubai Mall)
SEGA Republic (A computer-game theme park with more than 170 rides and games. This pass entitled one child with an AED 100 card to spend at SEGA Republic, The Dubai Mall – the girls gave the boys their credit so they were able to go the The Hello Kitty Spa instead)

The saving was over Dhs200 per child, and they managed to utilise the pass throughout their stay. Visit the website next Summer to see the new and updated Summer Pass specials: Summer Pass Link

Each of the attractions took a full afternoon to complete (exception of the movie). Arrange to do them at intervals between shopping, dining and other activities in the Mall.

3- Visit Wild Wadi Waterpark or Atlantis for waterpark/marine activities if you’ve exhausted the facilities at your Hotel.

I found the former a better experience based on having younger kids with us. Not only is there more activities for the kids to enjoy, Aquaventure and Wild Wadi are linked to beach hotels, with free admission for hotel guests. The same is true of hotel beaches, which may otherwise charge non-guests an entrance fee. If staying at any of the Jumeirah establishments, you can get in based on a complimentary rate arranged with your package. Wild Wadi offers 30 rides and attractions for all the family. Wild Wadi is themed around the tale of Juha, a known character from the Arabian folklore. The Park has the best and widest selection of water activities in the UAE with rides to suit all ages and sizes.

Marine and Waterpark located in Atlantis The Palm allows guests to visit the Aquarium, The Waterpark for rides and water facilities, swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Bay, you can get up close and personal with the adorable South African Fur Seal at Sea Lion Point and Scuba Dive with the marine animals.

4- Ski Dubai, Mall of the Emirates

Situated in the Mall of the Emirates, Ski Dubai is the Middle East’s first indoor ski center. Here, kids can ski, toboggan, play in the snow or enjoy close encounters with penguins. Ski Dubai is a one-of-a-kind, mountain-themed attraction, offering the opportunity to enjoy real snow in Dubai, whatever the season. Remember to wear, or carry long-sleeved clothing with longer trousers (preferably thicker quality) and socks. If you have your own gloves, you can take these from home too). Ensure that you arrive slightly earlier so you can get kitted up. It takes a while to fit on the suits. Very little kids may not enjoy the cold, so if you have younger children, I suggest that you spend some time in the Mall while the older kids are inside, or watch them from the large glass panels.

5- Burj Khalifa’s Observation Deck

This is the highest outdoor observatory in the world, spread across levels 148 and 125 of Burj Khalifa. The journey begins when you step into the At the Top, Burj Khalifa SKY lounge, from where you will be personally escorted to a dedicated elevator. Inside, watch in amazement as specially designed projections give you the feeling of flying over global landmarks as you ascend to Level 125. A special elevator brings you up for the crowning experience at level 148. At 555 meters, you can now access the world’s highest outdoor observation deck and enjoy the breathtaking views as your bask in the luxury of one of their lounges. Witness a pioneering concept in interactive experiences with a life-size screen that envelops you as you explore different corners of the Emirate. Level 125 offers you a spacious deck to enjoy the stunning 360-degree view of the city. This level also houses one of the newest attractions, Dubai – A Falcon’s Eye View that allows you to explore the city from a unique perspective.

6- The Dubai Fountain at The Dubai Mall

The choreographed fountain system performs daily, with a performance repertoire of approximately 35 songs with the signature piece of world-renowned Andrea Bocelli, Con te Partiro (Time to Say Goodbye). The schedule is daily except Friday: 1:00pm & 1:30pm  and Friday: 1:30pm & 2:00pm. The Evening shows are daily: 6:00pm to 11:00pm (Every 30 Minutes). Try to get in earlier so you can get the best view, although the best view is from the restaurants alongside. You can also enjoy the fountain on-board a traditional Abra and enjoy the breathtaking sights and sounds. Bookings can be made at the Waterfront Promenade. In the busier tourist season it’s almost impossible to get a great view, so be sure to plan and get in early or book a table at the restaurants alongside.

7- Retail-tea Therapy; High Tea at Fortnum Mason, Dubai UAE.

If you like your high tea with a dash of retail therapy, tea at Fortnum and Mason is the one for you. Located in bustling Downtown Dubai, directly opposite the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, Fortnum and Mason Dubai offers world-famous products plus a range of hospitality options. The entrance is through the Mall so ask around for directions on how to get there.

The ambiance of the lobby is elevated with an air of formality infused with a sense of ritual. Its English décor also complements the product offering, both of which are adorned with gilded framed-packaging, wooden shelving and fresh floral arrangements. After sampling the teas upstairs, you can always buy what you have tasted as a reminder of how superb your experience was.

Served daily in a beautifully appointed dining room filled with natural light, chandeliers, artwork and plush seating at the Tea Salon & Restaurant on the First Floor, the first-class service and unrivalled views of the Dubai Skyline are sure to please.

It’s evident that high tea is a popular affair at this venue, with more than half of the dining room occupied by fellow tea goers on this particular afternoon.

Our first decision of the afternoon was which tea to have. Following that was the impressive selection of carefully crafted cakes and finger sandwiches – go hungry! The quality of all the food was unquestionably excellent. The sandwiches all light and tasty, and the scones provided a wonderful balance to the indulgent selection of cakes.

The menu doesn’t restrict guests to a formal High-Tea. If you’re feeling peckish and not in the mood for anything as fancy as their tiered stands, you can order a gourmet sandwich off the menu.

Something else worth noting is the brilliance of the service at Fortnum and Mason. One cannot help notice the distinct sophistication of the staff as they quietly navigate between tables. The service is expedient.

The café is surrounded by a wide veranda which is spacious and airy, which I would imagine to be a treat dining outdoors when it’s a bit cooler.  A very carefully thought through High tea in everything from the food to the design on the menus to the tea selection, this is one to treat yourself and someone special. This is a remarkable High tea to say the least.

I believe the salon delivers what you expect it to. Leading up the staircase, one can almost envision the afternoon you’re about to experience. The menu is extensive and caters to all palates. What’s more important for me is that the ritual of tea takes center stage. Don’t expect to find teabags. Tea is brought in individual pots (with tea leaves) and poured out onto a strainer. I like that you’re also able to take away anything that you might have not finished which also includes a slice of their Victoria sponge. If your guests aren’t keen on experiencing the Afternoon tea, they are free to order anything else that they would like.

On the ground level, you’ll find the retail space, selling a selection of products made especially for Fortnum & Mason, from traditional English jams and biscuits to a selection of fine teas from around the world.

There is also a small room dedicated to a range of candles, as a nod to Fortnum & Mason’s origins. Upstairs on the first floor is the tea salon, with a terrace directly opposite the Burj Khalifa, serving breakfast, afternoon tea and high tea.

To book: Call 04 3882627 when in Dubai.

8- A desert dune safari

We went on a Desert Dune safari on our first trip to Dubai. I recommend that all first-time visitors book a Dessert safari as its a great way to experience the dessert. Trained safari guides driving 4×4 vehicles lead the thrilling journey – over the sand dunes, and through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve – deep into the heart of the desert. A feast under the stars includes a Middle Eastern selection of grilled meats, fresh salads, delectable sweets and beverages at traditional Bedouin-style camps. The tour also includes dune driving through the desert with and sunset photo stop, camel rides, henna hand painting with aromatic shisha and belly dancing. If you are pregnant, have very young children or have any medical conditions, I recommend that you leave this activity off your itinerary. Be sure to wear loose comfortable clothing (unless you are planning on riding a camel, in which case avoid a skirt or dress) and it is preferable to wear sandals or open toe shoes as the sand gets in-between your toes. Avoid socks and closed shoes for this reason. Remember to carry a sunhat and a lightweight jersey for the evening. Refreshments are provided, so there’s no need to carry any water with you. Inquire packages with the concierge at your Hotel. There are many tour operators and I’m certain that they will be able to best advise you on your specific needs and budget.

9- Reserve a table at a fine-dining restaurant

La Petite Maison is a Parisian-inspired upscale French bistro ranked number 81 in ‘The World’s Best Restaurants’ of 2014.  Their cooking style belongs to “old Genoese” (a city in Italy), serving French-Mediterranean cuisine. The plush seating and soft lighting takes you on a sensory discovery of the quintessential French lifestyle. There is large use of local produce such as burrata and tomatoes with its dishes mainly comprising of seafood, meat dishes and fresh pasta. Allow their chefs to delight your palate with their culinary skill. Imbued with flavoursome ripe tomato dishes (cut and seasoned directly off the table) their impressive listing of starters are not to be missed. Our recommendations:

The quality of their produce is just so good, it will be the highlight of your dinner conversation.
Starters (following on the Middle Eastern principal of shared dining):
Slicing their centerpiece tomato and seasoning with salt. Serve alongside their fresh bread, dipped into Balsamic.

Poivrons Marinés á l’Huile d’Olive (sweet peppers in olive oil), Ratatouille avec Féta (mediterranean vegetables marinated in olive oil with feta), Burrata et Tomates (burrata and tomatoes and basil – Each mouthful should have a mixture of all of the components to appreciate the flavour). Deep fried baby squid Enjoyed with the freshly cut green chili and a squeeze of lemon juice

For our mains, we suggest:

Arrabbiata (pasta with tomato and chili), Cotelettes d’Agneau Vivienne (grilled lamb cutlets with smoked aubergine), Coquelet au Citron Confît (roast baby chicken marinated in lemon), Gratin Dauphinois – Pommes Frites (baked gratinated potatoes or french fired potatoes).

And the encore, their Créme Brulée á la Vanille (vanilla créme brulee).

Dining here doesn’t come cheap, and not suited to taking kids with. Reserve this as a special occasion dinner and make an evening of the experience. I recommend dressing up and wearing your best perfume!

Contact Details: Gate Village No, 8, Dubai International Financial Center – دبي – United Arab Emirates

Phone:+971 4 439 0505 | Hours: Open: 12:00 – 3:30 PM, 7:00 – 11:30 PM

At Zuma, dining is not about the trend but about the lifestyle. This edgy lounge and restaurant offers a dynamic dining experience following the Japanese izakaya style of dining where food is meant to be shared. Zuma is located in the same building as La Petite Maison above. Zuma is a classy Japanese retro-bar-lounge with an unassuming entrance, and almost ‘club-like’. A lift takes you up to the Bar area, and once you weave to the formal dining area, your experience at this cosmopolitan restaurant begins. Whilst there aren’t fire-blowing or spectacular dance-shows to enthrall you, the quality of the food shines through making this a must-eat at venue whilst in Dubai.

The dishes are steadily brought to the table creating an informal yet sophisticated style of eating and drinking, with a contemporary twist. Guests are able to view the Chefs freshly preparing their meals. We recommend beginning your experience by ordering a platter of their sushi. Be sure not to over-indulge and spread your meal through the evening. Order a few dishes between you so you are able to taste most of what’s on the menu. The flavours aren’t over-powering or a shock to your tastebuds.

We recommend:
Starters:
Crispy fried Squid with green chili and lime. (Be sure to add an extra squeeze of lime to heighten the flavour)
Edamame beans coated in a red chili paste. (I’d expect this to be a great snack back home too!)
Tempura prawns with a dipping sauce. (Certainly the best I’ve tasted. The batter is thin and fluffy)
I particularly enjoyed the Sushi. I think the Sushi needs to be highlighted and more recognition given to the quality and inventiveness. The Spicy tuna and Coconut coated California roll was one of my favourites off the menu.

Main Course:
Grilled Chilean Seabass with green chili ginger dressing and cress salad. The fish is so moist and compliments the contrasting flavour of the salad.

Roasted whole potato with shiso chilli ponzu butter and lime. The potato literally melts in your mouth with the delicious citrus flavoured buttery sauce that brings with it a lovely vinegary punch.
Japanese sweetcorn
The glaze on the corn (served on the cob) has much the same flavours as the roasted potato but the differing texture of the corn makes it distinctive enough to order both dishes.

Dessert:
Special chocolate with vanilla bean ice cream. (Picture a Chocolate Fondant with oozing sauce)

Green tea and Banana Cake
The cake is served with a side of coconut ice cream and a rich toffee sauce. The base appears to be a pistachio cake with heavy flavours of banana coming through. Presentation of this is attractive.

And keep your ear open for some South African accents whilst there; there are a few expats working there and they are always keen to strike up a conversation!

Expect to see mainly foreigners or expats, dressed for an evening out. I recommend not taking any children with as there is a club level upstairs and the music tends to get louder as the evening progresses.

Contact Details: Gate Village 06, Podium Level, Sheikh Zayed Road – Towards DIFC Parking – دبي – United Arab Emirates

Phone:+971 4 425 5660 | Hours: Open 12:30 – 3:30 PM, 7:00 PM – 1:00 AM

10- Smoke Shisha after dark!

This is a great way to unwind after a day out in Dubai if you are traveling as a couple, or as a group of adults. Finding a Shisha Bar won’t prove to be very difficult with most cafes and Hotels offering Shisha as part of their menu. Always consider the location; great ambiance and good view. Be mindful of closing times and variety of Shisha flavours when making your selection as this will dictate the vibe of the place. Most Shisha Bars are located outside, as it tends to be cooler in the evening. Find your flavour and experience what Emirati’s consider to be a social norm.

11- Visit the Souk’s (markets) for Abaya’s, evening-wear and other interesting textiles

If you don’t wear Abaya’s often and prefer not spending a fortune on them as they are seasonal, Naif Souk located in the old Deira district of Dubai has a huge selection of Abaya’s and evening wear. The stores are located inside a shopping center, and not outside as one would expect from a Souk (although there are a few on the roadside). We suggest going in the evening, as it’s cooler to walk through, and if you’re females, it’s advisable to wear an abaya. The main traders of the Souk are men, so it’s more respectful if you were to cover up. Bargaining is mandatory but not to an extent that the seller is not making a decent enough profit. If you’re feeling thirsty, there’s a great store making fresh juices and smoothies outside. I don’t think that you would need anything more than 2 hours at the Souk, as the Abayas and merchandise tend to get repetitive. Don’t waste your or your husband’s time going to ‘look’. It will be a wasted evening and you’re better off visiting the Souk in Dubai Mall or Souk Madinat Jumeirah if you’re looking for a ‘marketplace’ experience that’s slightly more nicer. This is an authentic re-creation of an ancient marketplace with traditional Middle Eastern style and ambience, located in the heart of Madinat Jumeirah. The walk-though is pleasant and there are plenty of places to stop for a meal and have a drink along the way.

12- Charter a private yacht

We spent an afternoon out in the Marina and watched the Dubai skyline settle into the sunset in the distance. There are plenty companies to choose from and ask your concierge for one that suits your needs and budget. A nice-to-have is a jacuzzi onboard with shower facilities so you can freshen up before getting off. We dipped into the ocean, which is very salty. Remove your contact lens if you wear any before going in. We spent the afternoon on board a friends, so I cannot provide any recommendations of who would be a suitable carrier to go with.

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13- Informal dinner and drive-through’s at El Greco and Bayat al Fataayer!

What’s better than the food at El Greco is the service in which it’s presented. This small canteen-style Greek restaurant serves up fantastic fresh food. Ask for your gyro (preferably chicken) with spicy sauce if you prefer added heat, and select the crispy chips as an accompaniment. Indoor seating available for up to 10/12 people at a time or seating outdoors (non air-conditioned). Be sure to have the Karak Chai next door at Bayat al Fatayer when you’re done. It’s served in polystyrene cups which is the authentic way to drink it. Priced at AED2 per cup. Locals drive past and pick up a cup from their car windows.

Seating is minimal in El Greco, but the staff always seem to make a plan. This is a great place once you’ve exhausted all the other food in Dubai.

On my next trip, I plan to skydive at Sky Dive Dubai I can’t wait to tell you all about the experience!

So “how was my trip?” I finally felt at home.

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A portion of this article was feature on my Instagram account as ‘Places to Eat at in Dubai’.

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2 Responses
  • tasneem
    December 19, 2015

    lovely!