People of more than 200 nationalities live in the UAE, and Dubai is the country’s most cosmopolitan, diverse city. Over the years, expatriates have brought a piece of home with them to the Emirates, which is why you’ll find top-name brands from across the world there, from France’s Galeries Lafayette to the UK’s Harvey Nichols and the USA’s Bloomingdale’s. It’s not just department stores either – chefs including Alain Ducasse, Gordon Ramsay and Akira Back have opened restaurants in Dubai.
In the midst of this international scene, however, you’ll find more and more home-grown eateries and boutiques, as citizens and long-term residents open their own businesses.
These are just a handful of places to shop and eat that you will only find in Dubai.
With Dubai being home to one of the biggest malls in the world, shopping, as you might imagine, is a popular pastime. Away from the globally renowned high-end and high-street brands, however, you’ll find plenty of independent boutiques worth checking out too. S*uce is a popular lifestyle and fashion store that stocks products from both well-known and up-and-coming designers, including limited edition collections and collaborations from local talent. The boutique has seven stores across the city, including at the Dubai Mall.
If you prefer to spend your money outside the confines of Dubai’s vast shopping centres, head to Ripe Market, which takes place every Friday and Saturday at various locations depending on the time of year – it’s outdoors when the weather is cool. This weekend market showcases wares by Dubai’s craftiest individuals and burgeoning brands, selling everything from artisanal soaps to locally made artworks and hand-crafted jewellery.
For something a bit different, visit Alserkal Avenue, where plenty of independent boutiques, eateries and galleries converge, offering visitors a taste of what Dubai’s thriving creative community has to offer. A stop at Mirzam Chocolate should be first on your list, as the team at this chocolatier has sourced cocoa beans from across the region and make all their delicious treats in house. This includes a number of limited edition varieties sporting beautiful packaging produced by local artists. Next door, you’ll also find the Emirates’ only independent record store, The Flip Side, which sells a great range of lesser-known music, including obscure sounds from the region.
While visiting internationally acclaimed restaurants in Dubai such as Zuma and Coya is a great choice, there’s a whole new world of independent eateries worth exploring too. This includes cheap and cheerful hole-in-the-walls as well as those that cater to a more discerning palate. Take Salt, one of Dubai’s first food trucks, located at Kite Beach, and widely known to serve some of the best burgers in the city. Over in old Dubai – around Deira, Bur Dubai, Karama and Satwa – there are myriad eateries serving plenty of delicious eats for next to nothing. Perhaps one of the best known is Ravi Restaurant, which serves up a tasty mix of Pakistani and Indian dishes.
The home-grown café scene in Dubai is constantly evolving, too. Newly opened Lowe, opened by two chefs from Australasia, is based in Koa Canvas near Al Barari. It serves gourmet dishes with a local twist, often cooked on their in-house charcoal grill or wood-fired oven. Think charcoal-roasted market fish with carrot escabeche and coconut aioli, or slow-roasted lamb shoulder with sumac onion salad.
Also make time to visit Baker & Spice. It first opened in Dubai back in 2008 and has since spread across the region – diners love the cosy atmosphere and rustic, organic and homemade dishes. This includes the sharing-style signature shakshuka with fresh French farmhouse bread, and a 12-hour braised beef short rib. The Souk Al Bahar branch is a solid choice, as it’s well placed near the Burj Khalifa and you can also enjoy views of the dancing Dubai Mall Fountain.
As for fine dining, you can’t go wrong with the award-winning Il Borro, which has twice been given the title of Time Out Dubai’s Restaurant of the Year. Based in five-star hotel Jumeirah Al Naseem, the sophisticated but lively eatery serves up biodynamic Italian cuisine, top-notch wines and great cocktails.
For something super-exclusive, go to the Bulgari Resort Dubai on Jumeira Bay, where you’ll find Hoseki restaurant. Chef Masahiro Sugiyama oversees this nine-seater Japanese eatery, which offers a two-hour omakase experience that is truly second-to-none.