What would you do if you only had half a day to explore Dubai? A million dollar question I’d say because it would probably take a fortnight to do justice to all that Dubai has to offer. And no, I’m not just talking about the food. Okay, well maybe I am.
I’ve been to Dubai several times on work trips and with my family, and I have experienced a fair bit of the city. A week ago on a business trip to the city-state, I found myself with half a day to spare, and and I decided to spend it at two restaurants I had heard a lot about but hadn’t had a chance to explore.
When you alight from your taxi just outside the Arabian Tea House, you are welcomed by a bed of white flowers. Built in the 1920s, the by a pearl trader, the Arabian Tea House is a large beautiful traditional teahouse in Al Bastakiya, Dubai. It is a favourite with locals and tourists alike. The owners have since opened two other branches in Dubai, but this one is magical.
The owners have retained pretty much all the charm of the original construction while adding warm and welcoming touches that transport you to a different time. Photographs of a Dubai gone by and art by local artists adorn every wall. The decor in this quaint little cafe in a courtyard is predominantly white and blue. Wooden tables and rattan chairs with plump white hand-embroidered cushions are laid out on a bed of white gravel. A large tree in the centre of the courtyard offers natural shade, and canopies of white lace or green vines stretch across seating areas. There is a lot of natural sunlight with green and flowers everywhere. The effect is natural, airy and ethereal. You can’t help but be completely charmed by the prettiness of the setting!
I was escorted to a small table for two. As I waited, I soaked in the ambience. The staff is very friendly. As I looked through the menu, I realised I finally knew what it meant to be spoilt for choice. I didn’t know what to order. Doesn’t happen to me very often. The menu has everything from Arabic appetisers, breakfast trays, light breakfast, Emirati appetisers, Emirati salads, Arabic salads, Sandwiches, Emirati main course, traditional sweets, juices, Arabic and Turkish coffee and Arabic tea. The best option was to call my host and have a quick chat.
I settled on an Emirati vegetable samboosa served with a tamarind dip, accompanied by Suleimani tea. The samboosas, tiny samosas with a delicious filling sated my hunger, and the Suleimani tea was a much-needed relief for my throat infection. When I asked my host for the recipe he told me it was a top secret with a cheeky little smile.
The manager, Hesham was kind enough to show me around the place. I was treated to a live demonstration by the chef as he made traditional bread.
You must visit the Arabian Tea House if you are ever in Dubai, and not just for the food and the ambience. The cafe is located in the Fahidi neighbourhood which is home the Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort and several other museums. There are several artisanal shops around the museums selling everything from jewellery to handicrafts. You can also cross over into Deira for some spice and gold shopping at the souks as well as terracotta artefacts. It’s a great way to spend a day seeing a side of Dubai you wouldn’t otherwise.
The sun was on its way home as I headed off to my next destination. I could have spent all day at the Arabian Tea House, but I was determined to get some photographs of Dubai’s night sky and grab myself some dinner while I was at it.
The Turkish Village is a restaurant next to the Jumeirah Grand Mosque. The decor is influenced by the rich Ottoman culture and very tastefully done, but it was their terrace I made a beeline for.
I was shown to a table at the right at the edge of the terrace where I set up my equipment and ordered my meal. I dined on Vegetable Pide (the equivalent of a veggie pizza) and Ali Nazik Kebab (lamb cubes served on a bed of eggplant, yoghurt sauce) and traditional bread. The food was excellent and sumptuous. And the photographs I shot of the Dubai night sky made my joy complete.