Souks and dinner at the Ritz-Carlton

On Saturday we woke up late after a relatively late night the evening before. We decided to head to the Dubai Mall to find somewhere to have breakfast/brunch. We ended up at a place called Social House that served breakfast on weekends until 2 pm. I had a sandwich called Messy Sally, which was a grilled emmental sandwich with eggs, hollandaise sauce, Portobello mushrooms and grilled tomato. You could pick turkey, chicken or salmon to accompany the sandwich but I opted for a vegetarian version. Hubby chose a local dish, Shakshuka, i.e. baked eggs, minced beef in smoky tomato and bell pepper sauce with pita bread, black olives and creamy labneh. The breakfast was tasty and very filling.

Shakshuka

After eating we headed out to have a look at the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa, which was an impressive sight. We strolled around the mall for a while and then took the metro to Al Ghubaiba. Our aim was to visit the spice and gold souks. To get across the creek, we utilized the abra or wooden boat that only costs 1 AED (0.24 EUR) per person. Once we reached the other shore we walked around the spice souk and the gold souk. The souks were quite an experience but luckily less traumatic than similar places in e.g. Turkey, as here the merchants would only approach you verbally and not try to touch you (which naturally stems from religious reasons) and after saying “No thank you” a couple of times they would leave you alone. Regardless, it was quite tiresome to keep repeating the phrase “No thank you” every other step and this was also why I didn’t take any pictures inside the souks.

Burj Khalifa
Fountain in front of Burj Khalifa where the water show is held at night
Xmas decorations inside the mall
We found this super-cool Italian “market” in the Dubai Mall
An abra that will take you across the creek for 1 AED
A spice shop outside the gold souk

A short abra ride, long metro ride and short tram ride later we were back at the hotel and started googling for dinner options. We ended up selecting a restaurant called Blue Jade located at the Ritz-Carlton that had been named the Best Southeast Asian Restaurant by TimeOut Dubai. We ordered cocktails to kick-off the dinner, a Ritz-tini (gin, dry vermouth, ginger chili, star anise and gun powder) and a Jade gin tonic (gin, lemongrass, lime house, crafted pandan syrup and tonic water) and were served the best-ever prawn crackers with sweet chili sauce with the drinks. My starter was papaya salad with soft shell crab, tomato and tamarind fish dressing and hubby had Asian tuna tartare served with pickled ginger, coriander, sesame, and lime chili dressing. For my main I chose Japanese miso black cod with sautéed vegetable and hubby had black pepper beef. The food was really good, the service impeccable and the ambiance nice. They paid close attention to detail, for example when I put my handbag on the floor the waiter appeared immediately with a small stool to place the bag on. Also when I managed to drop my fork on the floor a new one was delivered without delay.

Best prawn crackers I have ever tasted
Lovely poinsettia display in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton

Two more posts to follow from this trip, next one on our excursion to Abu Dhabi.

Desert safari

We had booked our safari in advance with Platinum Heritage. We decided to splurge on the Platinum Desert Safari and I think it was definitely worth the price. The safari included pick up from the hotel, wildlife drive through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve in a Range Rover, falconry demonstration with sunset canapés and sparkling date juice, short sunset camel ride to the private oasis cabana, 6-course dinner, Flaming Sands of Arabia fire show, henna tattoo’s and aromatic shisha pipes, and ride back to the hotel. The service was really good, we received a message indicating the exact pick-up time and when we went to the hotel to prepare there was a small bag waiting in our room with the menu and a menu card to fill out, as well as a chocolate camel made of camel milk. When the driver realized he was running a little late he called us to let us know (he was late because the other couple we shared the vehicle with was late). The drive to the Desert Conservation Reserve took around an hour and during the drive the guide told us a myriad of interesting facts about Dubai. Once we arrived at the reserve we got geared up with head gear and then we hit the desert.

Vehicles used for the Heritage Desert Safari
Hubby turned out to be a regular Lawrence of Arabia
I can actually pull this off
Our ride, the guide is letting out pressure from the tires to be able to handle the sand dunes

We made a few stops on the way to take pictures and admire the dunes. The drive ended at the spot for the falconry demonstration, which was super cool. We were served canapés and sparkling date juice while admiring the sunset. Then it was time to mount a camel and ride to our oasis. The camel ride was great, I truly enjoyed it even though I was a bit nervous at first seeing as the camel is really tall. At the oasis we were greeted with a rose water wash for our hands and some local coffee, then we were lead to our private cabana where dinner was served. During dinner a lady came to offer henna tattoos. Before dessert we were treated to a great fire show and had the chance to smoke a shisha. After dessert the driver took us back to our hotel. As our traveling partners were staying at a hotel on the Palm and we dropped them off first we also got a chance to see this man-made island during our safari adventure.

Artificial lake in the middle of the desert
Falconry explained
Sunset time
Canapes and sparkling prune juice
Our rides
My camel in front in hubby’s behind it
The oasis awaits
Our cabana
Dinner started with lentil soup
Then some salad
Followed by fruity prawns
And grilled salmon and prawns as the main
Fire show
Cinnamon grilled banana
and Arabic fruit salad for dessert
My henna tattoo setting
and this is how it turned out

The safari was definitely one of the top activities during our Dubai trip and I would recommend a trip to the desert to anyone that is visiting Dubai. I can also wholeheartedly recommend Platinum Heritage, they were very professional, attentive and friendly.

Escaping Christmas

This year we decided to escape the Christmas hype and stress and travel somewhere warm. We chose Dubai as the weather is guaranteed to be warm, the flight time (around 7 hours direct flight) is bearable as is the time difference (+2 hours). Our flight took off in the early evening on December 19th and arrived in Dubai at 3 am. We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel, Intercontinental Dubai Marina and we got a taste of the lifestyle in Dubai right away as the taxi was a Tesla Model S. After checking in we headed straight for bed.

Super comfy king size bed to sleep in
…and a glass-box bathroom

We woke up around 11 am the next morning, got unpacked and headed out to check out the neighborhood. After grabbing a late breakfast and some coffee at a nearby Starbucks we explored part of the Dubai Marin area. After strolling around for a few hours we decided to spend some time at the hotel pool just relaxing and recovering from the early morning arrival.

Part of the Marina was lined with food trucks
Dubai Marina Mall ceiling decoration
Time to relax at the pool

Then it was time to think about dinner. While walking around the Marina area we had spotted a place called Pier 7 that houses seven restaurants. After checking out these restaurants online we decided to try out Asia Asia. Before heading out we made a pit stop at our hotel’s bar Ginter for some G&Ts. Luckily we were early enough (a little before 7 pm) to get a table without a reservation. The place was almost full by the time we had eaten and left. We started with an 8 piece dim sum basket and chili garlic edamame. My main was steamed sea bass in a soy broth with bok choy and bamboo shoots, hubby ate ribeye teriyaki with roasted kabocha, parsnip miso & glazed ancho chili. The food was delicious, service really good and the restaurant décor was interesting. While walking back to our hotel we stopped at Pinkberry for some frozen yogurt.

View from Ginter’s terrace at dusk
Entrance to restrooms at Asia Asia
Some of the dumplings
Ribeye teriyaki
Inside Asia Asia
Terracotta soldiers in the elevator lobby of Asia Asia

We had booked a desert safari for Friday afternoon/night. We kicked off the morning with an excellent brunch at Bistro des Arts. The brunch was delicious and affordable. For AED 99 you got the cold buffet, one main course, one crêpe and a hot beverage. You could also add AED75 to select three cocktails but we skipped this option. First we picked various cold breakfast foods from the buffet and some juice. Then we both had a variety of eggs benedict for the main and shared a crêpe to round it all off. Once we were fortified we jumped on the metro and headed to the Mall of the Emirates. While there we received word that the driver would come and pick us up at the hotel at 2 pm for the safari so it was time to head back to the hotel and get ready for our desert adventure. Safari post to follow.

Mall of the Emirates
Mall of the Emirates