Dubai is where cultures from all over the world come to work, live and play. With only 20% of the population being local, you can expect a cultural melting pot that brings us some of the best fusion food.

Expect to find all kinds of cuisine in Dubai from Turkish to Italian, street food to high-end cuisine as well as a hodgepodge of foods you’d expect to find in your local supermarket. I lucky enough to go on a 4-day press trip to Dubai and managed to tuck into a whole range of food.

READ MORE: 10 Things South Africans need to know before visiting Dubai 

The Spice Souk

After checking in to my hotel and changing into comfy walking shoes, I headed to the eastern part of Dubai, Deira, to the Spice Souk, or traditional spice market. You’ll also find incense, tea, herbs and of course saffron. As soon as I arrived, I spotted a display of spices, most of which I had no idea what I was looking at. The store owner was really friendly and allowed us to try and smell as many spices as we wanted.

dubai spice souk spices

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Apparently, you can tell if saffron is good quality by putting a small amount in water. If it turns bright yellow relatively quickly, then you know it is quality. You can drink saffron-infused water, which helps with circulation. There are however a variety of cafes that offer tea, cakes and other saffron-infused treats if you’d like to get ideas on how to use it. When buying spices, don’t forget to haggle and never accept the first price you are offered. Be careful of purchasing spices that aren’t packaged as some countries will not allow you to bring these in.

dubai spice souk saffron
Add a tiny bit of saffron to water to test the quality.

 

The Al Fahidi historical district

Also known as Al Bastakiya, because the first people to settle here were from Bastak in Iran, this area is situated in the old part of Dubai and dates back to 1890. I took a stroll through the district and stumbled across the coffee museum which had coffee ice cream! It is a great way to pass some time before heading to the Arabian Tea House.

dubai food the arabian tea house
The tower you see is what used to be used to cool down houses. The Arabian Tea House is now filled with fans, but the original cooling tower remains.

 

After walking in the mid-day heat, it was a pleasure to walk into the Arabian Tea House with its light blue furniture, fans and tented decor. Deciding what to order was a challenge because everything looked so good.

dubai food moroccan mint ice tea
I started off with a delicious Moroccan Mint Iced Tea.

 

It was here that I decided to start The Great Hummus Showdown. I love hummus and what better place to try loads of delicious hummus than in Dubai? I ordered hummus and eggplant dip. It was here that I also learnt about bread. There was so much flatbread that we had to tell the waiter to stop bringing us bread. He was confused – “But it’s complimentary”. And even though it was, there is only so much bread you can dip in your hummus (no matter how delicious either are).

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After rolling out of there, we headed across the creek on an acra (boat) to check out the gold souk. Still rather full, we braved the traffic and headed to Kite Beach for some dessert.

Kite Beach: a food truck oasis

Dubai has a pristine coastline and Kite Beach is the place to be. In addition to fun for the whole family, there are volleyball courts, and while I was there you could do yoga, as well as a springy walkway that is best experienced barefoot. And then there are the food trucks.

We stopped for dessert and I had to try a nitro ice coffee with coffee jelly. Nitro coffee is coffee made with nitrogen. As we sat down we were treated to nitro popcorn! You have to eat it quickly before the smoke disappears and it was ice cold but delicious.

Turkish Delight

As soon as we sat down at Tike on Jumeirah Beach we were offered, you guessed it, more bread. By this time I was so full that the thought of more bread scared me but I needed this to go with my hummus. Obviously.

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This hummus was very nutty but had a perfect consistency. The other dips were equally as good and by the end of the evening, I was eating spoonfuls of each as I couldn’t eat any more bread. We had to tell the waiter to stop offering us bread, a decision we would come to regret the next day.

A day without hummus

I went to bed so full (because up until here, all the food I described was consumed in one day) that at breakfast I took a stand and instead of stuffing my face with all the buffet had to offer, I stuck to oats and fruit. After going to the top of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, I took a stroll around Dubai Mall and stumbled upon a Japanese bakery.

We had a dinner reservation at The Sugar Factory, an American restaurant famous among celebs, for 20.30 so I thought to wait to eat until then. I couldn’t. So I forked out R120 for a tiny can of chips from the mini bar that almost filled the gap, but at that price not so much.

By this time we had worked up an appetite (and before you judge, we walked about 10 000 steps in a day) and didn’t hold back. I started with mac and cheese deep fried balls on a stick then had an over the top savoury waffle. Pure decadence.

This was the day we really wished we had taken advantaged of the complimentary bread… maybe we should have taken some to-go to snack on during the day? I’m sad to say, but not an ounce of hummus was consumed on this day.

More hummus

The next day at breakfast it was time to double down on all sorts of hummus and a wedge of cheese for good measure.

Eating hummus in its purest form

We had lunch at Al Mashowa, Dubai Parks, and tried hummus in its natural form, AKA chickpeas. This was such a simple dish but oh so delicious.  This was accompanied by a green mango salad with dried fish. Again delicious!

When there is no space left for churros

Later that day, we went to Zoco, a Mexican restaurant. We started with mushroom Fajitas that were so good, we ate way too many and after sampling the fish tacos too, there was actually no space for churros.

Other foodie highlights in Dubai included…

  • A straw made from vegetables. As one of my travelling companions said “Yesterday we saw man-made islands from a helicopter and today straws made out of plastic. What will Dubai think of next?”

  • Different flavoured KitKats. In Japan, they have over 300 different flavours so I was really excited to find a few new flavours in Dubai.

  • Spotting proudly South African goods in a local supermarket.
  • Trying fried mac and cheese eggs benedict at the airport before flying back to South Africa. And yes it is a thing, and yes it is tasty.

Disclaimer: the author went on a press trip to Dubai with Visit Dubai and Edelman and the budget was UAE200 for dinner and UAE100 for lunch.