I’m sure I’ve mentioned it a thousand times, but I actually grew up in Dubai, and spent most of my life between the ages of 4 and 18 there. That being said, the Dubai I grew up in is totally different to the country you’d visit today. Luckily I’m still able to visit, and on my most recent trip I got to do some pretty awesome things and try out some of the newer venues around. So I figured, why not do a little guide for you guys? I don’t know about you, but I love reading these kinds of posts!

EAT
Bystro Dubai – My mum and I came here for breakfast, kind of on good faith, as I’d seen this place on a couple of Instagrams and mentioned on blogs here and there. Let’s address the Instagram thing first – this place is photogenic as hell. The interior is gorgeous for being a pretty non-descript building on the outside (this place is right off Sheikh Zayed Road, the biggest highway in Dubai, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kinda location). We ordered the French Toast and the poached eggs on sourdough, along with some kind of patisserie that I don’t remember (my mum chose it, and it was absolutely delicious!). Everything was beautifully presented and completely flavourful – one thing Dubai can be a little guilty of is ‘samey’ tasting food; because the arid climate doesn’t make for having the most ripe and juicy produce year-round. You’ll find a lot of places skimp on more flavourful food and keep it local because the import costs can be so high – I understand the reasoning, but if I’d rather pay a little more for my food and really enjoy it, you know? Saying that, Bystro is actually quite reasonably priced for Dubai and you can expect to eat and drink for around AED 70-80 (around £12) a head (pretty standard Dubai pricing). Gorgeous setting, fab and inventive whole food – highly recommend!

Shake Shack – This is always a ‘must do’ everywhere, isn’t it? Fast food, but not as you know it. Shake Shack’s cleaner principles mean their meat is of a higher grade than your McDonalds’ and Burger Kings of the world. The price does reflect that – my boyf and I ate dinner here and it came to £20 all-in – but as I said before, I’d rather pay the extra and know what I eat hasn’t been pumped full of chemicals! The taste is always great, and I REALLY recommend the shakes. Caramel FTW.

Arz Lebanon – I think not many people know about this restaurant, but whenever we visit someone comes up to my dad and embraces him like family – that’s how often we eat here! We tend to eat at their Al Wasl location, but there are a few across Dubai. This place does the BEST Lebanese food (with the exception of mana’eesh, which I’ll get to in a second) – order the shish taouk, grilled halloumi, hummus and m’tabal. Their mint lemonade is also gorgeous and refreshing. They have indoor and outdoor seating – indoor is air conditioned, which you’ll be grateful for if you visit in summer! If you have a cool evening though, do sit outside and enjoy the parade of Lamborghinis up and down Al Wasl road.

Al Reef (Lebanese Bakery) – Everyone in Dubai knows this as the ‘Lebanese bakery’, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find. This place does the ULTIMATE mana’eesh (cheese bread), which is a Lebanese breakfast food but honestly, is good at any time of day. Hot, salty, melted cheese inside a soft flat bread wrap – my mouth is watering just writing it. The kenafe here is also incredible – spun sugar on top of a white cheese base. It sounds awful but trust me, it’s stunning.

Al Muna – If you’re looking for somewhere a little more upmarket, this is my pick. The food is gorgeous – try to go on their ‘international buffet’ night and come hungry! – you basically get all of the chilled atmosphere and stunning views of Madinat, without all of the tourist bustle. Sit on the terrace if you can, overlooking the ocean.

SEE
Burj Khalifa – I wasn’t going to miss this out, was I? The world’s tallest tower and the views from the top are incredible. A ticket up there will cost you a small fortune, but you do get to wander around at your own leisure, much like the Empire State or Top of the Rock. I would say if you don’t want to pay the ticket price, go for a drink at Atmosphere – it’s practically the same view. If you’re eating there? Have the wagyu beef burger. Trust.

Aquaventure/Palm Jumeirah – Another pricey option, but this really is a spend-all-day kinda waterpark. I think you can join the ticket up with the Lost Chambers aquarium which is good, but not really worth a whole lot of extra money if there’s a big difference. I’d stick to the day ticket and scope out a sunbed early in the day, have your fun on the rides and then chill for the afternoon – the Palm is a really beautiful, relaxing place to be, even if you are surrounded by screaming children (!!).

The Walk, JBR – When I lived and worked in Dubai as an adult, this was where I lived, and I LOVED it. We would come to the beach every Friday, stay until lunchtime, go have lunch and do some shopping, before heading back to our apartment and getting ready to go out for dinner. Aah, a simpler time. However, since then, this area has been totally redeveloped and, to be honest, they’ve made it better! There’s a proper shopping mall here now, a ton of beachfront restaurants, cinemas, a free beach (and some charge beaches – be wary of a sunbed fee!) and free WIFI. What more do you want?

Dubai Miracle Garden – I’m going to be honest – I only found out about this place just after we left Dubai this time around (it had only opened a month earlier), and I am PISSED. This place looks amazing, not to mention being totally Instagram-worthy. A definite must-see.

Dubai Mall – if you have the luxury of time, take a day for this place. It’s the biggest shopping mall in the Middle East and in case you haven’t clocked on before now, Dubai doesn’t really do half measures. This place is gargantuan. Shopping aside, there are great eats, a dancing fountain and a giant indoor aquarium to see. Also, don’t miss the basement level, which houses a Ben’s Cookies (!!), a Magnolia Bakery (!!) and Pottery Barn.

Madinat Jumeirah – One of my favourite places to just go and walk around at night. Hunt out the Starbucks, get a drink and sit on the terrace area, looking out over the little manmade canal. It’s so beautiful and if you can find a tranquil spot away from the heavy tourist traffic, you’ve hit gold.

STAY
I’m keeping this section simple, as I always stay with my parents. These are hotels that I’ve either visited with work (I worked for various magazines in Dubai and as a result, a lot of shoots happened at hotels) or that I’ve stayed at before.

XVA Art Hotel, Bastikiya – Near the airport, but a little far away from what is now the ‘center’ of Dubai. However there are Metro stops nearby that’ll take you to everything you’d want to visit.

Westin Mina Seyahi – Really beautiful, luxury hotel. Gorgeous beach and pool facilities. One of the better chain hotels along this strip of Dubai, and super close to The Walk.

The One and Only Royal Mirage – This is the splurge to end all splurges but my God, this hotel is breathtaking. As a little girl, every time we’d visit, I’d tell my mum ‘This is where I’m getting married’. Either a) I had no concept of money or b) I was banking on marrying a millionaire. I’ll let you know how this goes.

2 comments

  1. I loved this post Tamira!!! How interesting that you've lived in Dubai as an adult too. Maybe you could do a post about living and working there sometime? I also follow Buy Now Blog Later and Simone Scribes and I'm kind of fascinated by these expat lives...though for you you were more like a native LOL!

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    1. Thank you Bella, and of course! I'd love to do that for you guys :) I LOVE Laura and Simone's blogs - they both make me miss living in Dubai a lot - I think it's hard to feel like a native there, especially at the rate it changes, but it's definitely very special to me. Thanks so much for commenting and reading! T xx

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