Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Local Time
Dubai is home to the world’s tallest structure, biggest shopping mall and most ambitious human–made archipelagos – a testament to how the glitzy Emirati metropolis, once a fishing village, has been engineered into existence in a mere half–century. But it’s not all futuristic flashiness: Traditional souks, low–key beaches and wildlife reserves are all close at hand.
Where to Stay
- One&Only The PalmOne&Only The PalmFor the unmatched luxury
- XVA Art HotelXVA Art HotelFor the artistic flair
- Novotel Dubai Al BarshaNovotel Dubai Al BarshaFor the central location
- Armani HotelArmani HotelFor the design clout
- Park HyattPark HyattFor the palm-tree-lined swimming pool
- Rove DowntownRove DowntownFor the budget-friendly rates
Eat & Drink
Asian fusion fare at Zuma Inspired by Japanese izakaya dining, this restaurant does Asian–fusion fine dining at its best. Think Korean–influenced spicy beef tenderloin with chili and sesame or Japanese–inspired miso–marinated black cod in hoba leaf. Satisfy your sugar craving with the vibrant yuzu tart, served with soymilk ice cream and mandarin–blood orange compote.
Lebanese street food at Zaroob A graffiti–covered, market–style interior greets visitors at this Levantine street–food stop. Order the shawarma (juicy with just enough garlic and so tasty it sells out before evening), foul (mixed bean stew) or fattoush with pomegranate for a sweet crunch.
Stiff cocktails at La Petite Maison (LPM) If you’re in the mood for a stiff drink, make sure to check out this French hot spot in the Dubai International Financial Centre. Perch yourself at LPM’s bar, and order a Tomatini – a savoury, peppery signature cocktail that keeps the bartenders hopping all night long. Feeling peckish? Order the creamy burrata or rich cheesecake at the bar.
Aloo paratha at Ravi Palace Despite Dubai’s many renowned dining rooms, the affordable Pakistani cafeteria reigns as the city’s most famous restaurant. Every weekday at 5 o’clock in the morning, South Asian day labourers line up around the block for Ravi’s aloo paratha – deep–fried bread stuffed with potato. In the evening, though, Ravi’s is the haunt of local families and in–the–know foreigners. Try the lamb tikka masala, daal and paneer bhurji.
Beef sliders at Salt Salt dominates the Dubai burger scene from its metallic Airstream trailer at Jumeirah’s Kite Beach. Slider–sized burgers are served on buttery buns with cheese and jalapeños; the peppers are optional but highly recommended.
All–day organic eats at Baker & Spice With five locations in Dubai, this café is credited for helping drive the homegrown organic food trend in the city. Grab a seat at one of the cozy tables, and enjoy a hearty breakfast of shakshouka – poached eggs in a rich tomato sauce with peppers, garlic and chili – served with a loaf of warm bread and olive oil.
Fried fish at Bu Qtair Fresh seafood more than compensates for this beachside cafeteria’s plastic chairs and long queue. Choose from shrimp or fried fish and order the fresh paratha (if it’s available that day) instead of rice.
What to Do
Out–of–the–box fun at Alserkal Avenue This street of former warehouses is now a thriving arts community. Edgy contemporary galleries like Carbon 12 and Grey Noise regularly present exhibitions by international artists. Conceptual restaurants, such as Inked, offer experimental cooking and whimsical plating; think guanaja chocolate passing as soil.
Swimming at Kite Beach Kite Beach is a hotel–free stretch of sand with crystal–clear water, children’s play areas and a bike path. Best enjoyed between November and March when the sand isn’t too hot and the waves aren’t too strong, it’s also a food–truck lover’s paradise. Try Wanna Banana for frozen–banana ice cream. (Be sure to cover up to respect local customs.)
Live comedy at the Courtyard Playhouse The smell of fresh popcorn permeates the Courtyard Playhouse, a tiny one–of–a–kind spot in Dubai. Hidden amid warehouses, this venue offers live stand–up comedy, improv, open mic and theatre performed by locals with a passion for comedy. Shows are usually free, but arrive early as seating is first come, first served.
Massages at Amara Spa Set amid the lush greenery of the Park Hyatt’s courtyards, this spa pays close attention to detail. Book the signature Amara Herbal Ceremony, a massage that uses compresses of ginger, cinnamon and camphor powder to relax muscles, followed by a full–body scrub with sea salt and olive oil. Rinse off in the open–sky shower overlooking a private garden.
Mangrove kayaking in Abu Dhabi Explore the Emirate’s extensive vegetation and wildlife on a guided kayak tour of the region’s mangroves, located 70 minutes outside the city. Keep your eyes peeled for close to 60 species of local birds, including flamingos and grey herons, as well as sea snakes and turtles.
Stargazing at Musandam, Oman Take a three–hour road trip to Oman (reached via the Dahra UAE–Oman border crossing), and watch the landscape transform from flat and sandy to mountainous and rocky. Purchase your Omani visa at the border crossing, and stock up on gas and supplies before Ras Al Khaima. Once you reach Musandam Port, board a guided dhow boat; then explore the surrounding islands for swimming (and dolphin viewing if you’re lucky) before setting up at the beach campsite. Sleep under the stars, but don’t miss the boat when it returns for you the next morning.
Adrenaline rushes at Bounce Skip yoga class and join Bounce’s Super Session for unlimited jumping on trampolines to the beat of an R&B soundtrack.