Sink your teeth into Dubai’s delicious cuisine with these authentic foods.
A sumptuous platter of yellow rice comes topped with tender chicken, all of it simmered in chicken stock with special Arabic spices. This classic dish is Machboos, and it’s a surefire way to tap into authentic Dubai cuisine.
The food scene here has exploded in recent years, with dishes that draw on Middle Eastern and Asian cultures. Ancient trade routes brought Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian, Jordanian, Egyptian, Pakistani, and Indian cooking here; today, Dubai offers multi-cultural tastes in everything from its street treats to its luxury dining.
“Dubai dishes up flavors from around the world,” says Arva Ahmed, founder of Frying Pan Adventures, a Dubai-based food and culture walking-tour company, “but the foods to focus on are Emirati classics like machboos.” Here are some can’t-miss dishes for your trip.
Ahmed’s tour company specializes in lesser-known establishments, like Qwaider Al Nabulsi, a restaurant that’s made a name for itself with flavorful falafel and authentic Palestinian fare. Don’t be deceived by the simple décor; come by and dig into its complex falafel, stuffed with onion and chili paste. In the mood for sweets? Try the kunafa, a dessert of cheese, shredded wheat, and butter, covered with sugar syrup.
This classic Emirati dish is often prepared with chicken, though you can find it with other meats or fish as well. The rice is traditionally seasoned with the juices of the meat and bzar, a spice mix of cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, and flavored with dried lime and sometimes raisins or lentils. Dubai-based blogger Natasha Amar recommends trying machboos at the popular Al Fanar Restaurant and Café, which focuses on authentic Emirati cuisine.
“Dubai dishes up flavors from around the world.
Inside the opulent Jood Palace Hotel is Handi, a fine-dining restaurant specializing in North Indian cuisine. Outfitted with its own tandoori oven, Handi delivers succulent curries, kebabs, tikkas, and masalas. Try the Lazeez Kheema Boti, tenderized mutton chunks cooked with onion and green spices sprinkled with coriander.
One of the best places to discover Dubai’s sweet side is at Sadaf Iranian Sweets, a bakery popular with locals and tourists alike. Cool off with bastani, a Persian ice cream delight traditionally made with pistachio nuts, saffron, clotted cream, and rose water, and sometimes topped with a wafer cookie.
Every visitor to Dubai should sample one (or more!) of the many interpretations of shawarma, a type of sandwich featuring marinated chicken or beef, cut from the spit, with garlic aioli or tahini and onions, all snuggled into pita or lavash bread. You can find sit-down restaurants and street vendors serving it up all over the city. Try Automatic Restaurant & Grill, a long-standing Lebanese eatery dating from the 1970s.
Book your flight on Emirates Airline and eat your way around Dubai.
Dubai’s otherworldly landscapes make for picture-perfect sunsets. Here’s where to see them.
Out in the desert, the sun slips behind sand dunes, where it blasts bright orange and gold for a few minutes before disappearing. Over the sparkling azure waters of the Arabian Gulf, silhouettes of soft clouds glow purple and pink as the sun sinks into the horizon. And from the world’s tallest building, the view of the sunset is like nowhere else on earth.
Here are four incredible spots in Dubai that can turn golden hour into the experience of a lifetime.
Every evening starting at 6 p.m., the famous Dubai Fountain puts on a breathtaking show on the 30-acre Burj Lake. Watch it from the Waterfront Promenade. As the twilight sky glows orange, water shoots more than 500 feet into the air, while a dazzling array of light effects and synchronized music add to the spectacle. The lights are visible from 20 miles away, but seeing this show up close as the sun goes down is truly a bucket-list experience.
Watch the sunset in style at this newcomer beach club with an all-white design. Grab one of the curtained Bali beds overlooking the Arabian Gulf; it’s the perfect place to lounge with loved ones as the colors of the setting sun begin to shift. Up to four people can share the massive, super-soft beds while sampling the restaurant’s globally inspired fare.
Three hours from downtown Dubai, this resort sits in the world’s largest stretch of uninterrupted sand desert—the perfect place for a sunset camel trek. From the back of one of these magnificent animals, you’ll watch the dunes light up in amber and gold tones, stopping at the most picture-perfect hour for refreshments. For a more relaxing experience, dine at the resort’s upscale Suhail restaurant, where plush armchairs face the night sky.
Words can hardly begin to describe the experience of watching a sunset from the world’s tallest building; you’ll feel like the whole world is stretched out in front of you. Appreciate the perspective from the base, then hop on the superfast elevators, cruising up to 10 meters per second to the At the Top, Burj Khalifa SKY lounge, and check out the sinking sun from the outdoor observatory.
Let Emirates Airline whisk you off to witness Dubai’s spectacular sunsets.
One of the most authentic experiences in this desert city is a water taxi journey.
They look like stripped-down pirate ships, with wood railings bleached by the sun and the seawater, rough decks, and rustic flags waving in the breeze. You can climb aboard a traditional abra boat to cruise Dubai Creek—an inlet connecting the two city-center districts, Bur Dubai and Deira. On these inexpensive journeys that last mere minutes, you get a waterway view of mosques and minarets and skyscrapers, and easy access to the souks for spices, gold, and perfume. You’ll also have an opportunity to meet the locals, as these abras are among the main means of traversing this exciting and vibrant city.
Despite their weathered appearance, abras are safe and motorized, making your journey cool and steady, with terrific breezes that temper Dubai’s famous heatwaves. Each boat holds up to 20 passengers. You’ll sit facing the water, shaded by a peaked canopy. The fare is a single dirham (approximately 27 cents), and you pay the boat driver upon arrival.
There are two main routes on the Creek, and four stations. You can board an abra on the northern side at Diera Old Souk Abra Station or the Sabkha Abra Station. On the southern side, you want Bur Dubai Abra Station or Dubai Old Souk Abra Station. The Sabkha and Dubai Old Souk abras run 24 hours a day; the others cruise 5 a.m. to midnight daily. If you have a special occasion or particular journey in mind, it’s also possible to book an abra by the hour for personal use. You won’t need advance reservations, either. Simply go to a station and discuss your wishes with a driver.
“You'll get a waterway view of mosques, minarets and skyscrapers.
A cushier but equally cool abra experience can be had by visiting the Arabian-designed, lush, and luxe hotel complex of Madinat Jumeirah. The property has four grand, boutique hotels—Jumeirah Al Qasr, Jumeirah Al Naseem, Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf and Jumeirah Mina A’Salam—as well as 27 traditional summer homes for rent and seven villas. Everything is connected by 1.8 miles of bright, sea green waterways. The abras here feature plush Arabian styling, from striped seat cushions to flat awnings, with room for only 10 passengers. You can board them daily at the Souk Abra Station for 20-minute tours of the resort.
Did you know that Dubai has been a nexus for trading since the late 19th century? It’s actually the only Emirate of the seven United Arab Emirates that has created wealth from marketplace sales in the souks, instead of oil alone. A favorite of visitors to the city, these souks require some time to explore and shop along the abra routes. At the Old Souk, you’ll find shaded, traditional tiled walkways with wooden doorways inviting you into stalls that sell vibrant textiles in cashmere, silk, and cotton. It’s also a great place to shop for slippers.
Book your flight on Emirates Airline and experience abra rides, souks and more in Dubai.
Find everything you’re looking for—and more—at these world-famous markets.
Dubai’s vibrant and buzzing marketplaces fully immerse visitors in a unique cultural experience. With a mix of traditional trading and contemporary shopping, these must-visit souks are as diverse as their offerings, promising that every shopper in your family will find something they love.
Dubai’s spectacular Gold Souk—easily the area’s most popular market —nearly bursts at the seams with gleaming gold, shining silver, and sparkling gemstones. This market is a must: Dubai is known for its inexpensive gold, and this is the best place to get it. Haggling is expected here, so negotiate wisely. Check the daily market price for gold before you arrive, and use that as your starting point. Be bold, and be willing to walk away—if the trader is serious about selling, he won’t let you go.
The Spice Souk, just a few steps from the Gold Souk, is an experience that appeals to all the senses: Bright, colorful baskets of herbs, teas, rice, fruit, flowers, and spices fill the narrow passageways, all transported daily from India, Pakistan, Iran, and other countries. Whether you’re a professional chef, a home cook, or just looking for a new flavor, you’ll find something to your taste in the market’s myriad of overflowing sacks. Not sure where to start? Ask the seller for a sample, and don’t be bashful about getting the best price.
From pure perfume to heady essential oils, the olfactory experience at Deira’s Perfume Souk—on Sikkat Al Khali Road—is unmatched in its extravagance. Explore the rich and exotic scents until you find the one that’s just right. You can even tap an expert to help you create your own signature scent. Store your perfume or oil in one of the ornate, collectible jars you’ll see for sale.
Located beside the massive The Dubai Mall, Souk Al Bahar is a modern take on the traditional marketplace, with incredible views of the waterfront to boot. Here, shoppers will find ornate jewelry with glittering stones, fluffy pastries drizzled with honey and speckled with nuts, and sultry incense that awakens the senses. After shopping, head upstairs for a VIP view of the brilliant light show at the The Dubai Fountain, or relax at one of the restaurants, cafés or lounges on site.
The stalls at this souk offer a bit of everything. After visiting merchants trading in souvenirs, art, and more, tuck in at one of the more than 40 eateries featuring an international variety of food. Not hungry? Feast your eyes, instead, on the beauty of this bustling bazaar. A faithful recreation of an ancient marketplace, this striking space is rich in stunning details, including the elaborate Arabic architectural design that allows bursts of sunlight to peek through intricate carvings in wooden archways.
Book your flight on Emirates Airline and experience Dubai’s souks.
Discover the City of Gold’s cultural riches in these neighborhoods, full of gallery stops that’ll delight the whole family.
Veer off the beaten path of Dubai’s most popular and historic neighborhoods and you’ll find endless offerings of modern and contemporary art. What began in 2005 with a few galleries popping up in the warehouses of the Al Quoz district has become an Emirate-wide trend, which in turn has spurred the advent of such world-renowned art gatherings as Art Dubai, which includes the Global Art Forum, and the SIKKA Art Fair. Here, explore three of the city’s most art-filled neighborhoods.
The art scene of this primarily industrial neighborhood in Dubai’s west has grown so much that its Alserkal Avenue has come to be considered a significant hub of contemporary art worldwide, with 250,000 square feet of art space and more than 20 creative organizations. A few hot spots, on Alserkal and close-by, include the contemporary Carbon 12 and Art Sawa galleries. Or try thejamjar, which offers a unique, public DIY painting studio along with creative learning and youth programs. Delight the little ones by swinging through The Cartoon Art Gallery, the only gallery in the region dedicated to the art of cartooning and animation.
The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is a chic district that plays host to some of the biggest business dealings in the world. DIFC Gate Village—so called because of the distinctive Gate Building that marks the residential district—is also a budding center of blue-chip art collections. Spots not to miss include the Opera Gallery, Ayyam Gallery, and the Empty Quarter, a gallery dedicated entirely to fine art photography. Stop by the Dubai International Art Centre with the little ones, where kids can take a drawing or painting class and browse various seasonal exhibits, or help them craft their own keepsakes at pottery painting studio Café Céramique.
“Veer off the beaten path and find modern and contemporary art.
You’ll get a taste of the city’s past as a remote fishing village when you take the family to this historic neighborhood packed with traditional open-air markets called souks, set apart from the modernity of the DIFC and the industrial Al Quoz. The neighborhood is home to several galleries and museums, including the Dubai Museum, dedicated to the emirate’s history and located what is believed to be the oldest building in Dubai. You will love the vibrant, colorful, community-oriented Mawaheb from Beautiful People, a fine arts studio showcasing the work of talented young adults with special needs. For an all-inclusive stop, visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, where you’ll enjoy cultural meals, creekside tours, art competitions, and even Arabic classes.
You can simplify the challenge of seeing as much art as possible in Dubai with resources compiled by ArtintheCity, a regional project dedicated to curating the art and cultural offerings of the UAE. It offers a comprehensive cultural guide called ArtMap, and the ArtBus, which provides guided tours of galleries, studios and art centers and fairs throughout the region.
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