As if having the world’s tallest man-made structures weren’t enough, Dubai also boasts having the world’s largest shopping malls and is proudly home to a diversity of cultures and trend setters.
I only had a limited 2.5 days to spend in Dubai, the last leg of my European eating extravaganza. Hence going about it strategically, I chose to explore Dubai’s traditional Arabic cuisine versus their tempting availability of fine dining.
Zen and I were still massively sunburnt from Santorini and Dubai’s 42°C+ heat did not help. The summer humidity left us hailing for cabs everywhere.
The hotel we stayed at: City Seasons
City Seasons Hotel: view of lobby from our floor
On the first day, we checked out the Deira City Centre Shopping Mall which was a 5 minute drive from our hotel. There were plenty of international brands and a grande food court which included L’Auberge Restaurant. We were excited by the new currency conversion rate (which made everything look like a bargain in comparison to that in Europe) and hence we over-ordered, over-ate and over-shopped.
I had the spicy grilled shrimps, cuttlefish and hammour (a flaky white fish with a similar texture to cod) and Zen had the mixed grill, both were as tasty as the other. We added a side of tabbouleh and also received a complementary DIY plate of freshly washed greens, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers, and a plate of just-baked pita bread. It was a sublime feast which I am still constantly drooling for. I am actually looking to find a replica in Sydney to satisfy these cravings –does anyone know where I can get a really good grilled seafood and meat plate?
Traditional Arabic lunch at L’Auberge Restaurant, Dubai
Some restaurants in Dubai had private dining rooms for Muslim/Arab couples and families. L’Auberge had these beautiful golden curtains covering up the booths which ran along both sides of the restaurant.
Private rooms at L’Auberge Restaurant
Later that afternoon, we booked ourselves in for a desert safari-a must-do tour in Dubai. We were picked up in a luxury 4WD which featured a roll cage! You can imagine how much of a scare that was to me 😉
Zen and I inside 4WD with roll cage, on Oasis Palm’s desert safari in Dubai
Camel farm in Dubai desert
In between the dune bashing, we stopped at a camel farm where I witnessed their strange chewing motion.
Did you know camels chewed sideways?
Camel chewing sideways
I was lucky to have my wide angle lens out when this camel got curious and started sniffing me out!
Wide angle close up of a curious camel
Thankfully, the desert was noticeably cooler than the city and towards dusk, I was able to walk around barefooted without any issues.
Sunset on Dubai desert safari
Buffet at desert safari camp
The tour included a dinner buffet of skewered camel meat, beef, chicken and lamb, salads, curries, rice, sweets, tea and coffee -yup, we were well catered for
Traditional Arabic cuisine
Belly dancer at Dubai desert safari
I wish I had been warned about how terrifying it is to ride on a camel! This is me screaming with fear:
Zen and I riding on a camel
While stocking up at the Dubai Outlet Mall (Dubai’s answer to Australia’s DFO and 5x the size), we ate at Automatic, a popular grill restaurant chain store. Zen and I shared my favourite fattoush salad, a brilliant salad which uses up stale pita bread, it is a seasonal mix of radish, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, onion, fried pita bread, sumac, mint, and plentiful salt, olive oil and lemon juice. We also had a mixed grill of tender skewered meats, some pickled vegetables, raw greens, flat bread, fresh mango juice, a honeydew milkshake and an addictive plate of fried eggplant, cauliflower and potatoes. This robust meal was exactly what we needed to power up the strength to drag our shopping to the cab chauffeur serviced car.
Lunch at Automatic Grill Restaurant in Dubai Outlet Mall
The second day saw us doing more mall-sight-seeing and shopping. Once the sun was down, we hit the markets! I unfortunately missed the spice souk because I was so indecisive at the gold souk. How can I be blamed -there were shops after shops and window after window of glistening delicate pieces.
At the Dubai gold souk
Golden displays at the gold souq
By night, we had driven past the Mall Of The Emirates (where you can find Ski Dubai, the indoor skiing field). Its entrance of parked luxury and sport cars was almost as intimidating as the high-end designer shops within it. We didn’t have time to stop by because we were meeting up with our dear friend, Doyle, an expat living the high life in Dubai with Emirates.
So we got lost inside The Dubai Mall together and had an amazing dinner at Switch, a restaurant designed by Karim Rashid (a blog post on this to come soon!). The Dubai Mall features an ice-skating rink, an aquarium and just about every fashion brand in the world.
Inside The Dubai Mall
Designer section in The Dubai Mall
Ice-skating rink in The Dubai Mall
Inside Switch Restaurant
We’re all coincidentally dressed in white! Zen, me and Doyle
I sure miss Dubai’s opening hours! Most malls open from 10am to 10pm and until midnight on Thursdays through to Saturday.
Deira City Centre Shopping Mall
City Seasons Hotel
The Dubai Mall
Mall Of The Emirates
Dubai Gold Souk
Dubai Outlet Mall
Oasis Palm Tours