What's up in Dubai?
So, May has been an epic month for me as I have finally moved away from Dubai for good to Germany. I am looking back onto 16 amazing years in this sparkling city. Emerging from a small little desert village into the mega city of today. Dubai is inventing itself every day and it was really a memorable journey to witness this spectacular growth for myself. Areas that were just covered in desert sands on my arrival years ago, are now complete new neighborhoods with stunning high rise buildings and a skyline resembling that one of New York or other well known cities around the globe.
My farewell from Dubai was not an easy one, but I left with the feeling that Dubai will always stay my second home and for sure I will come back on visits frequently. Just alone out of curiosity to see all the new projects that are now in the pipeline to get finished and of course the up-coming EXPO 2020 (www.expo2020dubai.com) will be a mile stone in Dubai’s history.
So let’s have a look on the recent developments and some of my all-time favorites for tourists and expats alike exploring this bustling city.
New in the city
The past couple of month have seen some spectacular hotel openings.
New to Dubai’s shores is the stunning Ceasars Bluewaters Hotel (www.caesars.com), which is located on a complete new island – Bluewaters Island (www.bluewatersdubai.ae). The Ceasars Bluewaters Hotel is divided into a hotel and an apartment section. It also hosts the famous Cove Beach Club (www.covebeach.com), which has moved from its previous location at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Check their website for special packages plus parties and ladies watch out for Wednesdays, when Cove Beach is hosting its popular ladies day.
Bluwaters Island is connected via a bridge to the mainland, just opposite the Marina and JBR. You can also take the footpath right in front of the Double Tree JBR Hotel, which will lead you onto a pedestrian bridge crossing over to Bluewaters. From the bridge you can take spectacular pictures on the JBR skyline as well as on Ain Dubai.
Ain Dubai will be the world largest Ferry Wheel once it is completed in 2020. Now you can already take a walk around the island and indulge in one of the many restaurants and cafes.
Another big opening was seen on the Palm Jumeirah – with the W Hotels (www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/dxbtp-w-dubai-the-palm) opening their first futuristic beach side hotel in Dubai. The architecture is a mix of traditional Arabic elements merged into the well-known modern contemporary features of the W chain. Also here you can find a bustling beach club (Wet Deck) and my special recommendation is a sundowner drink at the iconic SoBe rooftop bar followed by an excellent dinner at their signature Torno Subito restaurant – feels like you are somewhere at the Italian Rivera.
Not totally new, but newly re-opened after the huge fire during New Years Eve two years ago – does the Address Downtown Hotel (www.addresshotels.com) welcome guests again. The hotel has a modern and fresh new outlook and dining on the outdoor terrace facing Burj Khalifa is still an impressive must-do. Food on the terrace is now contemporary Asian cuisine – delicious and considering the location with a fair price range. The ever popular Neo’s Bar on top of the hotel has re-opened its doors as well – mixing amazing cocktails (try the Rabbit Hole) with spectacular views. You can’t be wrong with this option!
Already open since a while we have another glamorous design hotel in town – the Bulgari Hotel (www.bulgarihotels.com). Also located on a man-made island this hotel is spread over a huge area inclusive of its own Marina and Yacht Club. If a full stay over there does not match your budget, I would recommend to go for the Italian tradition of taking an Aperitivo at the hotel’s Il Bar. The nice bartender will mix you a chilled Aperitivo, which comes along with some delicious finger food.
For a different kind of hotel experience try the Queen Elizabeth 2 (www.qe2.com), which has now found her permanent home at Port Rashid. You can check into their cabins which have all been refurbished and are quite spacious considering that you are on a ship. All the F&B outlets are open to non-hotel guests as well and the ship-integrated theater offers various shows and events. The whole atmosphere on the ship might feel a bit out-dated and not “very-Dubai”, but that in the end is part of the experience and the history. In front of the ship you can find the entrance hall with the reception and an interesting small museum about the ship’s history.
Other new locations in the city to have a look:
Drift Beach Club (www.driftbeachdubai.com)– not in a new hotel (as it is at the One & Only Royal Mirage Hotel), but the beach club itself is fairly new. Very stylish and with a feel good ambiance as it is a bit more chilled and relaxed than its competitors – however I personally consider it as heavily overpriced.
Talking about beach clubs I still like some of the “older” ones like Zero Gravity (www.0-gravity.ae) – still the Saturday Beach Brunch is a big bash there. Food has improved and it’s anyway all about the drinks (which are included of course) and the mega-fun pool-party. Also Nikki Beach (www.dubai.nikkibeach.com) is still a very nice option with its beautiful beach cabanas and the groovy vibes from the Dj'ane and live percussion and saxophone. Ladies gather your gals on Tuesday, where you have 5! drinks included into the entrance price (and come early to secure your sunbed 😊)
And the last beach club to recommend here would be the Banan Beach Club (www.bananbeach.com) out in Jebel Ali. The theme and vibes are a bit more casual and relaxed than in the other beach clubs around the city. So girls can leave their fancy dresses, high heels and layers of make-up at home and enjoy real beach club vibes. The theme is a mix of Mediterranean and Bali inspired features and you can even rent a tent or larger bungalow. It is encouraged for the tents and bungalows to bring your own supplies, but also a mini-market and a beach side restaurant are on hand during the weekends. A perfect place for a relaxed hang out with friends!
A complete new development within the Palm Jumeirah is The Pointe (www.thepointe.ae) opposite the Atlantis Hotel. Here you can find a huge number of outdoor restaurants all lined up around the lagoon plus some shops in between – sure this place will become popular among Palm residents, but also for all others it is worth a visit. Later in the year the Palm will also see the opening of a new Mall and Apartment/Hotel Tower (www.nakheel.com/en/retail/nakheel-mall).
With all its modern developments Dubai is in urgent need of some traditional and historic neighborhoods, so the government has established the very ambitious Shindagha Project (www.dubaiculture.gov.ae/en/Live-Our-Heritage/Pages/Al-Shindagha-Museum.aspx) - located in the old center of Dubai beside the Dubai Creek this historic area will be transformed in a large museum area – once completed it will host around 40 small museums all integrated in the restructured historic windtower houses. At the moment only a handful of museums are open – like the Dubai Creek or Perfume Museum. All worth a visit and still quite unknown – so you can expect less fellow visitors than in the over-crowded Dubai Museum.
Also not exactly new, but unfortunately still quite overlooked is my favorite stop en-route to Abu Dhabi right after Jebel Ali – Last Exit (www.lastexit.ae/jebel-ali-north) – an innovative rest area that looks like from another planet. Beside that every corner here is perfect for your Instagram, they do serve some real good junk food out of various food trucks that seem to come from a movie. And don’t forget to go on the toilet – as this will turn out to be a full entertainment. Coming back from Abu Dhabi you will also find a Last Exit on the other side, Dubai bound.
What’s new on the nightlife and dining scene?
In terms of food outlets and bars, Dubai is the city of never-ending options and almost every week you have some newbies in the market. So you have the hard task to choose and unfortunately there are only 7 nights per week ☹
So my recommendations here are all not the latest openings, but still pretty new and definitely worth to try:
On the food side…..
Mama Zonia at Pier 7 (www.pier7.ae) is an Amazon inspired restaurant and bar. In the lush greenery of an urban jungle you can enjoy creative cocktails and Asian Fusion food. I was just missing some snakes and monkeys jumping out of the trees for some further entertainment 😊
Asia de Cuba (www.asiadecuba.com/dubai). You can practice here your dance moves in the Latino bar up-stairs, while you can enjoy delicious Asian-Latino Fusion food downstairs in the restaurant area.
Fogo de Chao (www.fogodechao.com/location/dubai), which is not the first authentic Brazilian churrascaria in town and also not the best in terms of design and entertainment, but they score big time with their delicious buffet and professional Brazilian cuts.
folly by Nick & Scott (www.folly.ae) serves modern contemporary cuisine in a picturesque location at the Souk Madinat. If you are not up for a full dinner, I can highly recommend their gorgeous rooftop terrace for sunset drinks along some tasty finger food.
On the drinks side…..
Not new, but currently my favorite place for drinks is SOHO Garden with their large indoor and outdoor areas and bars. A real fun place for a night out with friends (www.sohogardendxb.com). You can actually start your party here already at SOHO Beach during the day and then move further into the night as two of Dubai’s most famous night clubs are just next door – Drais (www.draisdxb.com) and White (www.whitedubai.com). Be reminded that when you are coming in a group or you are guys only, a reservation is required at most of the night clubs in Dubai plus guys should follow a smart casual dress code.
Still my favorite bar with a view is the Penthouse rooftop bar at the FIVE Hotel (www.fivehotelsandresorts.com/nightlife/the-penthouse) for stunning views over the Marina Skyline. Cocktails and service have space to improve, but you are basically coming here for the view or the popular Saturday pool party.
Also La Mer (www.lamerdubai.ae) became one of my favorite new spots for a sundowner as some venues over there are licensed now and serve alcohol. I really like the buzzling atmosphere of Stars’n Bars (www.starsnbars.ae) or the delicious cocktails at the Central Asian restaurant Osh (www.oshrestaurant.com), where you can stay after sunset and enjoy some delicious Uzbek food as well.
On the nightlife side…..
Dubai has a new super club – Sky 2.0 (www.skydubai.com), which is another Lebanese import from Beirut. Yes, Lebanese not only know how to do delicious food for me they are also the best when it comes to nightlife. The open-air club Sky 2.0 has a stunning design and the LED screens and technology inside makes every party night a real experience. Located in the Dubai Design District it is now a serious competitor for its established neighbor club BASE (www.basedubai.com).
Otherwise I still like to dance my nights away at INDIE (www.facebook.com/indiedifc) on Thursday nights with a mix of English and Arabic music or on Monday when they have their Latino nights – and I don’t think I have to mention that this club is also managed by Lebanese 😊
Cheap Eats in Dubai – yes, they do exist!
In a city that is mainly known for its glittering lifestyle, its 5* hotels and luxury restaurants we do sometimes forget that Dubai has excellent food for a very low budget and I am not talking about Mc Donald’s.
I will give you here a listing of my favorite budget restaurants that don’t leave your wallet empty, but offer you excellent and real quality food. Please note that most of these restaurants are street restaurants and therefore don’t offer alcohol:
Tania’s Tea House (www.taniasteahouse.com) for healthy all-day breakfast and sandwiches and less healthy but even more delicious cakes and bakeries. Very cute interior as well.
Arabian Tea House Al Fahidi (www.arabianteahouse.net) is another of my favorite breakfast spots. Situated in a historic courtyard (which is covered and with AC during summer) you can enjoy delicious Arabic food here. Try the authentic Emirati breakfast plate! Lunch is also great with a large choice of salads, sandwiches and local dishes.
Also located in the historic district of Al Fahidi is the XVA Gallery (www.xvagallery.com), where you can indulge in tasty vegetarian food. They also have rooms for an authentic overnight stay and during winter they offer a monthly Yoga session on their rooftop.
Ayubowan (www.ayubowan.ae), excellent and authentic Sri Lankan food in JLT.
Calicut Paragon (www.paragonrestaurant.net) in the heart of the Indian neighborhood of Karama offers delicious Indian fish dishes since 1939.
If eggs are your thing, you shouldn’t miss another famous Karama eatery – Raju Omlett (www.rajuomlet.net) - this tiny little restaurant knows how to do eggs at their best.
In the same road of Raju you find some other of my cheap eats favorites – one is Yalla Momos, where you can munch on delicious Tibetian dumplings and the other one is a stop for dessert – the Kulfi House (www.kulfihouse.com), which serves the Indian all-time favorite ice cream Kulfi in various flavors. Soooo yummi!!!!!
Same street in Karama (which is basically behind the Park Regis Hotel) -as you can see this place is my foody hot spot 😊 - hosts another tiny eatery – Zagol. Here you can eat very fresh and authentic Ethiopian food served on the large Injera bread and best eaten by hand. You will find mainly Ethiopian expat diners here, which stands for their quality.
My long time number one budget eateries should be mentioned here as well, which are Bu Qtair Restaurant for the freshest fish ever. But be warned the Chefs here are all from India, so food is rather spicy (www.facebook.com/pages/Bu-Qtair-Restaurant/124562554280485) and then Ravi (opposite Bur Juman Shopping Center) for equal delicious but also equal spicy Pakistani food. Al Ustad Special Kebab for the best Iranian Kebabs in town (in Meena Bazar Area off Bank Street). This street restaurant is a long established family business and despite its small size and simple food it became so famous that even occasionally royal dignities from the ruler family are coming here to eat. You can see all their famous and non-famous guests pictured on the wall.
Miss Tess (www.misstessdubai.com) funky Asian restaurant. Beside some excellent Asian street food, you are very well entertained from their fun-loving crew and artists. Alcohol is served here.
Mr. Miyagi`s (www.mrmiyagisdubai.com) – also here people mainly come for the entertainment like quiz and karaoke nights, all hosted by their lovely Lilliputian crew. Almost on every day of the week they do have special food and drink deals (alcohol is served here).
For a different food experience I would also recommend a visit to the Deira Waterfront Market (www.waterfrontmarket.ae) – in the huge market halls you can see all local and imported foods that end up on the plates of Dubai’s residents. The fish hall is more than impressive and if you choose to take your catch home, they will clean and portion it up for you directly there. You won’t find any other place in Dubai with fresher and cheaper food. If you feel hungry after your exploration tour and cooking is not your thing, you can also enjoy your choice of fish at one of the market restaurants (one is an Arabic restaurant and the other one is a Filipino eatery).
What events to look for this year?
Dubai’s event calendar is always filled throughout the year with concerts, food events, international shows and sport events. Only during Ramadan and the hot summer month life is slowing down, but even then you will stay entertained. For all things that are happening in the city check out www.visitdubai.com or also the weekly magazine Time Out Dubai www.timeoutdubai.com
My favorite events to look for this summer and autumn:
Will be the opening of a brand new concert and multi-purpose arena in Dubai - the Coca Cola Arena (www.coca-cola-arena.com). The opener will be comedian Russel Peters on June 6 with his “Deported World Tour”, followed by Maroon 5 on June 14 and West Life on August 29.
Then the re-opening of Dubai’s favorite seasonal shopping destination the Global Village (www.globalvillage.ae) which is growing in size with every edition and gets more and more quality food outlets every year. My last years favorite restaurant spot was the Bosnian Restaurant, which did excellent Bosnian kebabs accompanied with tasty freshly made bread.
The Indian Festival of Lights – called Diwali is also getting a fixed spot in Dubai’s event calendar. The festival has been always one of my beloved seasons in Dubai when all the balconies in the Indian neighborhoods of Karama and Meena Bazar get lighted up with thousand of lights – all in different colors and shapes. If you walk the streets of Meena Bazar on the main festival day you can observe Indian expats dressed with beautiful Saris (Indian traditional dress) and you can taste from street stands some delicious Indian sweets. Nowadays the tourism makers of Dubai have spotted Diwali as a marketing tool to bring in more Indian tourists and thus you can also see fireworks and some official celebrations around town at this time (October/November).
A long time favorite in Dubai’s sporting calendar are the Rugby Sevens (www.dubairugby7s.com) – a huge three day party in the specially constructed Rugby Sevens stadium. Even if you don’t have any clue about this sport – like me 😊 you will enjoy a visit there as the games themselves are just a side entertainment. It is mainly all about the food and bar stalls around – partyyyyyy all day and night long and best come with your friends in some funky fancy dress to match the crowds!!
A day that I also always liked in Dubai is the National Day on 2nd December. On this day you can always find a lot of entertainment and fireworks around the city. For some special experience head to the capital Abu Dhabi, where they do every year a huge official ceremony at the Sheik Zayed Sports Stadium – quite impressive and one of the few times where you will be surrounded by a majority of native locals and not expats (tickets can be bought online through the common ticket websites).
My all time Dubai favorites…..
As we have talked so much about all the new things in Dubai it’s time to have a quick look on my long time favorite pass-times in Dubai.
So number one would be a walk through the Meena Bazar/Al Fahidi area. I still enjoy these walks a lot and although I have done them so many times, I always find new corners and discoveries. What I like most about these walks is that they feel so different and worlds away from the glittering skyscrapers and modern developments. Here you can meet the real people of Dubai!
Some picture impressions during one of my walks around this area:
The second place where I always like to come back to is the Miracle Garden (www.dubaimiraclegarden.com). Every winter you can enjoy an impressive selection of flowers arranged in various pictures and structures. If you avoid the weekend crowds this is a place of tranquillity to re-charge and enjoy nature.
Another place to re-charge for me are the Al Jiyad Stables (www.aljiyadstables.com) in Al Qudra. Here you can enjoy rides into the desert and around some of the Al Qudra lakes with their amazing bird and wildlife. This place is a real sanctuary. The horses are all well trained and also non-experienced riders are welcome. And don’t forget to bring some carrots or apples as the horses and ponies will be happy for a little treat.
Last let’s have a look what is happening around town and in the other Emirates.
Hatta, this beautiful mountain oasis does still belong to the Emirate of Dubai as some might not know. The direct road from Dubai through the Omani enclave of Buraimi is exclusive to Locals now, so all expats and tourists have to take a small detour through the Kalba road. Nevertheless within 90 minutes you will reach the picturesque village of Hatta.
Almost forgotten over the past years Hatta is now transforming into the ultimate adventure and outdoor hot-spot.
Enjoy a kayak or pedal boat ride on the Hatta Dam lake.
Or go for some fun-filled outdoor activities at the newly developed Wadi Hub. Here you can also rent a mountain-bike for some discovery tour in the area or opt for some other adventure activities. Check out www.visithatta.com for all available options.
You can also stay overnight in a cool trailer or in one of the mountain lodges which are available through above mentioned website.
Also don’t miss an interesting visit to the Hatta Honey Bee farm (www.hattahoney.ae), which now has a visitor center, café and shop area.
In the Emirate of Fujeirah you have now the new Intercontinental Hotel (www.ihg.com) for a weekend get-away. With the picturesque Hajar mountains in the back-drop it is the perfect place for some relaxation, sunbathing and a dip in the ocean. You also have some excellent diving and snorkeling spots around.
Last we have a look into the capital, Abu Dhabi, where the renovated Qasr Al Hosn Fort (www.qasralhosn.ae) has opened its door again for visitors. Inside the impressive Fort you can have an insight into the history of UAE and explore the various rooms and corridors of the Fort.
Also the newly built royal palace of Qasr Al Watan is partly open for visitors now. Needless to say that this will be a very impressive visit. Get your tickets on www.qasralwatan.ae
So that’s it for this time with the news from the desert. Dubai keeps on growing, so stay tuned for further up-dates!