My Trip to Dubai
Dubai has been on the top of my list of “Places I need to Visit” for some time now. I have heard so many great things, but always thought it was something I might do eventually. Little did I know that an email would show up in my inbox with a golden ticket to Dubai! I could go on with excitement, but I’m sure you all want to read about where to go, what to do, and everything in between. See below for what we did!
I arrived in Dubai a full day after I left Miami. The time change is pretty brutal; it’s about 9 hours ahead. The Emirates flight was everything you would expect it to be. Although I didn’t get the double decker plane (the A380 does not leave out of Fort Lauderdale yet), it was still an absolute dream. Business class offerings include an array of culturally and regionally selected food items, unlimited sommelier selected wines from various regions, a mattress for your lay-flat seat, imported chocolates, Bvgari gift bags, and iPad controlled movie screens. What more could you want?
The first and business class lounges in the Emirates airport is something straight out of a movie. The 2-floor lounge has everything you could possibly want and more. From a champagne room and cigar room to a sushi bar and game room for the ps4 lovers (or grown men who play Fortnite), Emirates has a way of pleasing everyone. You are able to take showers in the bathroom, get a massage at the spa, purchase alcohol and perfume through duty free, take a nap in the sleep rooms, and even board your plane without leaving the lounge. In all, the lounge is an escape from the hustle of regular airport activities from arrival to departure.
Let me also take the opportunity to squash a few misconceptions if you have never flown to the Middle East. While most Middle Eastern countries abide by specific dress code regulations, Dubai is not one of them. People are dressed in shorts and dresses as well as burkas or Abayas. There is no strict policy when it comes to dress code. Feel free to show your shoulders and knees or wear open toed shoes. The only time you need to be covered is when entering a mosque or any religious area. While you are able to dress however you like, you should always remain respectful in another persons home. There are a few other rules you should be aware of. PDA is not allowed in Dubai. While an affectionate hug or kiss may seem harmless, it is considered illegal and could result is imprisonment or deportation. Another rule to abide by are the photography laws. While most places allow photography, certain religious areas, mosques, and government buildings forbid photography. You don’t want your camera taken from you so just be aware of the signs!
Now lets get into the fun stuff! Below are a list of areas you must visit while in Dubai. Although there are a few I was unable to visit, they come highly recommended!
On the beachfront of Jumeriah there lies a modern strip of restaurants, shops, and beach activities collectively called La Mer. From burger shops to fine dining and from bungee jumping to water activities there is something for everyone. I highly recommend bringing the family here to spend the day. They have just recently opened a beautiful water park for the kids to enjoy while parents can rent beach chairs and relax.
This outdoor retail complex comes highly recommended amongst the locals. With its upscale dining and retail it is no surprise that it is popular amongst tourists as well. Take a few hours, walk around this area, and maybe grab lunch with family or even a business partner. While alcohol is not served in most areas around Dubai (unless associated with a hotel), City Walk offers a few restaurants that will serve alcoholic beverages. Check out cocoa kitchen to satisfy that sweet tooth or Farzi Cafe for some great modern Indian food.
If you planned on visiting the Burj Khalifa (which is probably the first thing you learned about Dubai) your entrance would be through the largest mall in the world. It is no surprise that in addition to having the largest building in the world, Dubai would also have the largest mall. The mall is definitely a must-visit if you wanted to go skiing, visit the aquarium, or see an indoor waterfall. Yes, the mall has all of these things. Take an hour to go up the Burj Khalifa and see the view from 128 stories up. It also has the fastest running elevator. After, spend some time roaming the mall and check out all of the restaurant offerings. Parkers comes highly recommended and is a fun place to break your diet.
Dubai Old Town
One of my favorites areas to visit was Old Dubai. Get away from the modernity that is Dubai’s stigma and head to the outskirts for some raw history. Check out the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood with its beautiful architecture and hidden shops/restaurants. In my opinion, I would skip the Dubai museum. I believe you can learn a lot more wandering on your own. It is also cramped and vaguely reminded me of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney.
If you have ever seen the Sex and the City movie, this is where you will begin to relive Samantha’s Souk journey. Pass through the textile souk and make your way to the creek where numerous boats await to take you across to the Spice and Gold Souks. Keep in mind that the main purpose of the Souks is to barter. Feel free to haggle the price as low as you can. While purchasing knock off purses and watches are considered safe, despite having to be taken in back rooms or even cars to other parts of the city, it is still illegal so be careful.
Another one of my favorite experiences in Dubai (or maybe my overall favorite) was the trip into the desert for the desert safari. While it is definitely a tourist experience, it is far from a “trap”. It is a must-try while in Dubai. Arabian Adventures takes you out about 45 minutes outside of the city. They take you sand dune riding for another 30 minutes which is something I had never experienced before. If you get car sick easily, this may not be for you. Although, it is definitely something you should try! Its soooooo fun and surprisingly enough, you feel like you’re in good hands despite feeling like you might tip over at any moment. After the ride, you reach a flat area with camels for camel riding. After you have said goodbye to your new furry friends, your guide will take you back to an area where you can watch the sunset. I HIGHLY recommend taking the sunset tour so you can watch it. Its like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
Below are a list of recommended restaurants, food-related activities, bars, and lounges. Again, I was unable to attend some of them, but they come highly recommended
When I visited the Dubai Mall, I had to check out Parkers. I had specific dishes in mind, but unfortunately I got there while they were still serving breakfast. They do not serve lunch until 12:30pm. Regardless, the breakfast menu looked great and I decided to order the Mac n Cheese Grilled Cheese. While I don’t usually have Mac n cheese for breakfast, I knew it would photograph well and it WAS vacation sooo why not. My friend got the Nutella babka which was OUTRAGEOUS. If you’re looking to photograph your food, this is the place for it. The decor is also beautiful and bright. The food was delicious and a must-try while in the Dubai mall. Some other recommended dishes are: Pistachio donuts, Pull Me dessert, Shakshouka, and if you’re feeling up to it, Cheetos Mac n cheese.
While you might not think to visit a Jamaican restaurant while in Dubai (I feel like most peoples’ minds go to Middle Eastern food), this was my favorite restaurant of the trip. For me, hospitality goes a long way. Having a friendly staff could actually make the food taste better. However, the food COMPLETELY spoke for itself. Ting Irie, the first Jamaican restaurant and lounge in Dubai, was opened by Jamaican Expats and has quickly become one of the most popular restaurants in Downtown. The staff are some of the nicest people you will ever meet- telling you to put your dancing shoes on, grab some rum, and hit the dance floor. Like I said before, very few places in Dubai have licenses to sell alcohol unless it is part of a hotel. Ting Irie is recently licensed, adding some spice to the Downtown nightlife.
Now lets get into the food. My favorite dish of the night were the Jamaican Patty Crust Nachos with Oxtail and cheddar cheese fondue. Did that make your mouth water? You can’t leave a Jamaican restaurant without trying their 24 hour marinated, slow braised, Jerk Chicken so get an order of that. The Jerk Hummus is also a great starter if you want to include some Middle Eastern Flair in your meal. Regardless if what you order, I am sure you will leave happy.
One of the most recommended restaurants to visit while I was in Dubai was SALT. This burger joint started as a food truck and has quickly grown into, what I would say is, the Shake Shack of Dubai. The burgers are extremely small, but delicious nonetheless. They are packed with flavor and can be accompanied by an assortment of fries or softies. Their famous softie, the Lotus, is a dulce de leche based soft serve cone and is the perfect size.
I visit the La Mer location and ordered off their secret menu. Their BIG SALTER is a double wagyu patty situated between two black buns. The size was perfect for me and the burger itself was DELICIOUS. I order the Cheetos fries on the side which I could have done without. The Lotus softie was the perfect sweet treat while walking around the beach afterwards.
Arabian Tea House
My apologies, I’ve been going through the Dubai food scene and have yet to mention Middle Eastern food! My favorite breakfast experience was hands down Arabian Tea House. The atmosphere itself will start your day off on the right foot. The whites, greens, and blues create a beautiful and bright atmosphere while the staff add an extra brightness to the experience. We all started by ordering the Lime and Mint juice, which is a famous drink in Dubai. It is refreshing and light. We then ordered three platters with different foods so we were able to taste everything. We ordered the Local breakfast tray, Special breakfast tray, and Arabic breakfast tray. All had different plates but were all recommended by the waiter. We were able to try things like: Dango, Bajella, moussaka, Labna, Makdous, and all came with warm Arabic bread. This is a great spot to try right before walking through Old Dubai.
Frying Pan Adventure Tours
If you want to visit some authentic restaurants while in Dubai, I suggest taking a Frying Pan Adventure Tour. While Dubai is known for its glamour and shine, there are a lot of wonderful places outside of the city that you probably wouldn’t try unless on a tour like this one. Below are the places we visited and the things we tried!
- Sultan Dubai: Falfel. I will tell you right now I am not a huge fan of falafel. For me, its always on the dry side. This was hands down the best falafel I have ever had and was probably my favorite dish on this tour.
- Qwaider al Nabulsi (Palestinian): Falafel Pita, Hummus, Fried eggplant and cauliflower, Palestinian chicken and caramelized onion pie, and Kanafe. The owners of Sultan opened this restaurant right next door for a more sit-down experience. We were able to make our own Falafel pitas and watch the chef make the special dessert, Kanafe. Kanafe is a cheese based dish with noodles, sugar water, rose, water, and butter. It is delicous!
- Al Samadi Sweets (Lebanese Baklava Shop): Arabic coffee (made with Cardamom) or ‘gahwa’ paired with a ‘pressed’ date cookie, baklava. This spot was great to sit and relax after the big meal at the Palestinian restaurant. Drink some coffee and take some Baklava to go for the family!
- Al Amoor Restautant (Egyptian): Egyptian flaky pizza filled with cheese, tomatoes, olives and the Egyptian version of beef pastrami. At this stop you can watch the chef flip dough like a professional. It is mesmerizing!
- Al Tawasol Restaurant (Emirati and Yemeni): Lentil soup, Chicken simmered with rice and the local spice mix, Slow-cooked goat. This spot is your second full meal of the tour. It is also the most culturally shocking. At this restaurant, you will take off your shoes, sit on the floor, and enjoy a meal without utensils. You will eat with your hands by mixing your food together with sauces and grabbing “balls of food” with the tip of your fingers. This is definitely something most people are not accustomed to but a cool experience nonetheless!
- Iranian Sweet Shop: Persian sundae with saffron ice cream and rosewater-spiked frozen rice noodles. This is the last stop of the evening and of course, it is for dessert. The ice cream is really sweet, but I couldn’t stop eating it! The texture is addicting.
More Recommended Restaurants/Bars
- Nomad, Jumeriah: American
- Farzi Cafe, City Walk: Indian Fusion
- Babu, Jumeriah: Indian
- Maison De Juliette, Jumeriah: French
- Slider Station/Cocoa Room: American
- IceLab: Dessert
- Al Hamidieh Restaurant: Arabian
- Zou Zou Restaurant, La Mer: Turkish and Lebanese
- Cereal Killer Cafe, Dubai Mall: Breakfast/dessert