It’s Sunday morning here in the desert and I’m home from a much-needed change of scenery. Don’t get me wrong, I am more than happy in my little corner of the Gulf but even seasoned expats, and I suspect a few young Kuwaitis, agree that every now and again you need to escape to more exciting climes. My fellow Beans will totally get this and as lovely as our little island is, we all can get a little rock-strophobic and need to escape to the mainland. Well Hubby and I had got to the point where a little break from the everyday was needed and so, much to my delight, he booked us a little weekend to Dubai, which meant a change of scenery or in reality a change of sunbed, yummy food at our favourite haunts and a couple of drinks to end our current Kuwait dry spell.
In a previous post, Lifting the veil I describe Dubai as the Vegas of the Middle East and that it is far removed from my experiences of the other Gulf nations. Whilst some of my lovely readers would see this as a derogatory comment, I can assure you that I love Dubai and whilst the differences to Kuwait are endless and it is far from a true Arabian adventure, it offers an alternative that brings an exciting, vibrant, insight into modern Arabia.
I had not previously visited Dubai before moving to Kuwait and our first visit came in the first three months of our arrival. We had some friends from Jersey holidaying in Dubai and we jumped at the chance to see familiar faces and spend time exploring what was now on our doorstep. The flight is only an hour and a half and with a budget airline operating a direct route a dozen times a day the options are endless. When we landed on that first visit, Hubby turned to me and said “remember you have to go back to Kuwait!” and as we drove down the Sheikh Zayed Road and I was met by a skyline of lights, skyscrapers beyond your imagination, in terms of height and design, glittering back at me. The metro links raised above the city like a Disney monorail, air-conditioned bus stops, the road infrastructure was modern and sign posted for easy comprehension. I had realised where my husband’s comment had come from, this was the difference between night and day compared to our new home. I loved it already.
This weekends trip was no different and we headed towards our usual stay at Jumeirah Beach Residences (JBR). The Walk, a beach fronted stretch of hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, street art and funky Shesha bars set up on the sands, results in a buzzing atmosphere at any time of the day, as tourists and locals flock to this Ibiza style epitome of cool. We are creatures of habit and after staying here once and seeing the ease of being able to walk out of the hotel onto the beach, finding food to match your every taste and seeing the vibe change as the sun sets, we couldn’t resist it.
So I had done my usual thing of knowing I would be eating something yummy upon my arrival, I had not eaten since breakfast, so we checked into the hotel dumped the bags and practically ran onto The Walk heading at pace to Eat Greek. This gem of a restaurant does exactly what is says on the tin, Greek food served whilst looking out across the beach and served by extremely enthusiastic waiters. We love Greek food and were starving at this point, so we dove straight into hand-made pita breads, baked feta with tomatoes and what seems like a never-ending bowl of calamari. We both followed that mountain of food with lamb souvlaki which was cooked to perfection; melt in the mouth perfection, balancing a gentle herb seasoning with the smokiness of the grill – divine. We finished with an Americano, which was strong and liquorice, a perfect end to a perfect meal. We left full, satisfied and barely able to keep our eyes open but as we walked back to the hotel we stumbled across a maze of stalls and street food stations set up for a limited market. Showing off artisan jewellery, handmade fashions, light installations and vintage style home decor items, we weaved through the hustle and bustle, taking in the smells from the bullet trailer selling Mexican tacos and listening the patter of a surfer dude selling whistles to kids.
The day that followed was beautiful, we awoke early and secured a perfect vantage point for a day by the pool, catching up on some reading and topping up the tan. This was bliss. Relaxing in the sunshine, with frequent dips into the welcoming waters to cool off, like bison at the watering hole we wallowed in the waters taking our time to enjoy the contrast to the blazing sun. Come mid afternoon the pool bar was calling and we swam up to the water sunken stalls and sipped (I say sipped, as previously stated I am now a cheap date and anymore would have left me drunkenly trying to exit the pool) on an ice-cold beer, a treat which was savored but not followed by a second as I didn’t want to be comatosed on a sunbed and was looking forward to our evening out at the marina.
This has become a bit of a Dubai habit for us. Not long after our first trip to Dubai I had spent, what seemed to be most of my day, scrolling through my Twitter feed, when I saw that British Chef Simon Rimmer (yes, the bald bloke from Sunday Brunch for my fellow Brits) was in Dubai to open a new venture. After a quick online investigation, I found the restaurant was called The Scene and was opening at the trendy Pier 7 at Dubai Marina. I knew we were going back to Dubai for Hubby’s birthday, so quickly made a reservation, knowing he would love it. I was lucky enough to get in and it did not disappoint and now has become our go to every time we visit. Pier 7 is a rotunda spanning over 7 floors, with each floor taken up by cutting edge, modern restaurants each with a stunning view over the lights of the marina. The Scene is quirkily decorated with miss matched furniture, vintage style artwork, this is a modern brassiere style dining experience serving up British classics with a fresh take. When you are a Brit abroad you miss those simple things.
When I like a restaurant I am one of those sad people, that if I don’t already know the menu by heart, will look it up online before I go, so I know exactly what I’m having upon my arrival and can obsess about it in the lead up! Now I have warned you about my all-consuming food thoughts before, so it can’t come as a complete shock dear reader. So this visit was no different and if I’m honest I also knew exactly what Hubby would order too, so told him to leave his glasses at the hotel (plus they didn’t fit into my cute clutch bag). We started with an Fancy Pants – Plymouth gin, apple, basil and tonic whilst we perused the already memorised menu. No surprise, we ordered exactly what I knew we would and I could barely contain my excitement when my steak & ale pie arrived with buttery mash and broccoli, little bubbles of gravy sneaked out of its puff pastry shell trying to tempt me. I can’t tell you how amazing this kind of food is when you just can’t pop down the local Gastro pub, I have dreams about this stuff and don’t get me started on the fact that pie is like the best thing ever invented. Now I know this was good food because I didn’t even wait to take a picture for my Insta page and as Hubby devoured his fish & chips I was already deep in culinary heaven but not to disappoint I have included a picture from last time, as guess what, I had pie then too!!!
I sat back letting my food digest and waiting patiently for my Espresso Martini to arrive, looking out across the vista and thinking what an amazing place this is. I felt like I was on the top of the world looking down at the lights of the city and with a full belly was contented and blessed that our adventures have enabled us to see some wonderful places. Dubai has become aspirational, I know numerous 20 somethings that are saving hard to be able to holiday alongside the celebs and have a glimpse into that lifestyle. It will also be one of those places, along with Venice, Disney and the Maldives that I think everyone has to experience once in their life.
I’m not saying it is for everyone and I know a few people who have hated it and think its fake, brash and soulless, which I can completely understand. Now, in my opinion you are not going to get an authentic Middle Eastern experience but what you do get is a city that never sleeps, practically all year round good weather, luxury like no other (I mean this is the only place in the world with a 7* hotel), white sands (albeit manmade are perfection), shop to you drop at every brand imaginable, clubs show casing the latest DJ and guest stars and a food scene which will enable you to eat everything from a burger to Michelin starred fine dining. We British have a weird sticky, dark brown food paste called Marmite, its taste is so distinctive and the reaction so ferment that the brand strap line is “Love it or hate it” as there is no in between. Well I think Dubai is the Marmite of the Gulf, I am yet to find anyone that is indifferent about it, you love or you hate it, but all I can say is I love it and already counting the days to our September visit.