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.

City Seasons Hotel in Dubai, view of interior architecture
The hotel we stayed at: City Seasons

City Seasons Hotel in Dubai, view of hotel lobby
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
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, Dubai
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 😉

Jennifer Lam and Zen Huang in luxury 4WD with roll cage on Desert Safari in Dubai
Zen and I inside 4WD with roll cage, on Oasis Palm’s desert safari in Dubai

Camel farm in Dubai desert
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 in Dubai desert
Camel chewing sideways

I was lucky to have my wide angle lens out when this camel got curious and started sniffing me out!

This camel was curious
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.

Dubai Desert Safari sunset
Sunset on Dubai desert safari

Buffet at desert safari camp in Dubai
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 at Dubai desert safari camp
Traditional Arabic cuisine

belly dancer at Dubai desert safari camp
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:

Jennifer Lam and Zen Huang riding on a camel
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
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 souq souk
At the Dubai gold souk

Gold jewellery display at Dubai's gold souq 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
Inside The Dubai Mall

Designer section in The Dubai Mall
Designer section in The Dubai Mall

Ice-skating rink in The Dubai Mall
Ice-skating rink in The Dubai Mall

Switch restaurant in The Dubai Mall
Inside Switch Restaurant

Jennifer Lam, Zen Huang and Doyle Kim dining at Switch in Dubai Mall
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.
L’Auberge Restaurant
Deira City Centre Shopping Mall
City Seasons Hotel
The Dubai Mall
Mall Of The Emirates
Dubai Gold Souk
Dubai Outlet Mall
Switch Restaurant
Oasis Palm Tours

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Jennifer is the founding blogger of I Ate My Way Through (originally, Growing up in the multicultural melting pot of Sydney’s Inner West as a second generation Australian (of Vietnamese refugee parents of Teochew Chinese ancestry), Jen has always had a deep curiosity about global cuisines, culinary heritage and the cultural assimilation of immigrants. For Jen and her family, food is always at the centre of all celebrations, life events and milestones. A lover of the finer things in life, as well as cheap eats, her blogging ethos is all about empowering and inspiring people to expand their culinary repertoire. When not running her two companies (she is also the Managing Director of The Bamboo Garden online marketing agency), Jen can be found exploring old-world charms at vintage markets and delving into local eats around the world. She has a weakness for fried chicken.