Middle East Daily

Top Five Restaurants for Dubai Diners to Try

Of all the travel destinations in the Middle East perhaps none have made themselves as tourist friendly as Dubai. Filled with extraordinary hotels, breathtaking beaches, sprawling and magnificent shopping malls and much more Dubai has become one of the go to vacation destinations for Europeans and increasingly for North Americans as well.

It has also become one of the most interesting and diverse spots in the Middle East from a culinary standpoint as well. Many visitors are quite surprised to learn that only around 10% of Dubai’s residents are nationals, the remainder are foreign workers which means that the city state has developed an eclectic culinary scene all of its own, a scene which has attracted some of the world’s top chefs, including Pierre Gagnaire, Nobu Matsuhisa and Gordon Ramsey. So just which are the must try restaurants for those visiting Dubai? Here are some very tasty suggestions:

Verre

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Verre is Gordon Ramsay’s little slice of Dubai’s dining scene and the fiery Scot was in fact one of the first of the celebrity chefs to venture here, opening the stylish Verre in 2001.

The menu is decidedly European and the newly revamped decor is cool, modern and stylish, designed to be a rather upper class version of the seaside decor one might find along the French Riviera. Ramsay’s signature braised belly of Bavarian pork is the bestselling dish but the fresh seafood is well worth a try as well.

Asado

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Asado is an Argentinian steakhouse where every single member of staff, from the chefs to the bus staff, really know their meat and can make a suggestion to suit anyone’s tastes. The house specialty at the elegant Burj Khalifa eatery however is the ten meat tasting plate. Slices and slivers of perfectly cooked to order meat are delivered in elegant style and served up with an assortment of sauces that are every bit as tasty as the meat itself.

Reflets Par Pierre Gagnaire

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This extravagantly decorated restaurant is the French fusion master’s contribution to Dubai’s diverse dining scene and he really does bring the very best of his iconic creations to the desert here.

Rather than trying to wade through the diverse menu and make a seemingly impossible choice most diners opt for the tasting menu, a served daily selection of freshly caught seafood, beef steak, hare, lobster, veal, and black truffle all prepared in the unique Gagnaire style.

At.mosphere

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One of the newest restaurants in Dubai is also its highest, nestled on the top floors of the Burj Khalifa offering city views unlike those any other eatery could ever boast and a beautifully stocked bar that may make plucking up the courage to peek out of the window a little easier.

In terms of the food it is rather straightforward but delicious, offering upscale versions of classic surf and turf dishes with a flavorful twist that only the fragrant spices of the Middle East could ever provide. http://www.atmosphereburjkhalifa.com

Ossiano

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How many restaurants are there in the world where diners eat surrounded by rippling blue waters and some of the most beautiful and fascinating members of the marine world? We can only think of one; the Ossiano which is located at the heart of the man-made Palm Jumeirah island.

This was the late Spanish master chef Santi Santamaria’s first venture outside his native Spain and while he may now sadly be gone the spirit of his unique cooking style remains, primarily in the Prestige Tapas menu, a 14 course delight that mixes the best of the Mediterranean with plenty of Middle Eastern flair.

Top Cities to Visit in the Middle East

Some Westerners are now of the opinion that the Middle East is now somewhere to be crossed off their list of travel plans. And while political, religious and social tensions may make that true of certain countries there is still a large portion of the region that is perfectly safe to travel to and that offers sights and experiences that cannot be found anywhere else. Here is a little about some of those must visit cities:

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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Dubai sees itself as a city of the future but even in the present it is spectacular. Filled with the biggest and most impressive of hotels, malls, restaurants and attractions Dubai has become the kind of go to holiday destination for Europeans that the Costa Del Sol once was and an increasing number of North Americans are discovering its unique charms as well.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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The capital city of the UAE is Abu Dhabi, but it had been living in the sophisticated shadow of Dubai, in the minds of tourists at least, for years. That is all changing however as the capital makes a concerted bid to compete with its flashy neighbor. Set on a group of beautiful islands it has the landscapes and beaches and the attractions are building up slowly, with new versions of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums opening and a slew of stylish luxury hotels being completed every day.

Jerusalem, Israel

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Visiting Jerusalem is, in many ways, like stepping back some 3,000 years in time without having to leave the comforts of 21st century life completely behind. In many ways it is the spiritual centre of the world, held holy to the three great monotheistic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but no matter what your religion there is something uniquely magical about exploring this ancient city that should not be missed.

Tel Aviv, Israel

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Tel Aviv is a surprise to many first time visitors who are not quite ready for how vibrant and cosmopolitan it is really is. Buzzing with activity 24 hours a day it is reminiscent of New York, Miami or Rio, offering the best in cultural, gastronomical and all around partying action for those from all walks of life.

Luxor, Egypt

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Luxor houses the Egypt that many people dream of visiting. That is the Egypt filled with ancient ruins, with the tombs of great Kings and Queens and steeped in history that goes back so far that it is hard to imagine the world even being that old at times. For many the thrill is that it is their history textbooks brought to life in front of their eyes and a visit to Luxor is the culmination of a lifelong ambition.

Petra, Jordan

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All of Jordan is a magical and often mysterious place but all of that comes together most beautifully in the ancient city of Petra. Hewn from the rocks themselves Petra is a city unlike any other in the world and a visit here is a once in a lifetime experience few ever regret.

Smoking Shisha – A Middle Eastern Tradition

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Smoking shisha has been a Middle Eastern tradition for centuries and it is a habit and ritual now finding its way into trendy Western nightclubs and cafes as well, but not without causing some controversy.

What is Shisha?

Shisha is the name of a special tobacco blend that is traditionally smoked using a hookah pipe. Most shisha is a combination of standard tobacco, dark molasses and the pulp of various fresh fruits (the fruits are alternated to vary the taste)

The hookah pipe, which can be as basic or as ornate as one likes in terms of aesthetics, consists of a bowl in which the shisha is burned, a pipe which transports the smoke through a water chamber, and a hose connected to a mouthpiece that the user smokes through.

The practice began in the Middle East in the 16th century. Tobacco was becoming the rage all over the world but in the Middle East there was concern (even then) that the European habit of smoking tobacco via a wooden pipe was unhealthy, and the taste of the tobacco too harsh and bitter. Thus shisha and the hookah pipe were born and both have been in use ever since. These days its often a very social practice, offered in nightclubs and other gatherings as a way to relax and ‘chill’, both in the Middle East and in the West.

Shisha Use and Health Concerns

Although the originators felt that they were taking a safer route to tobacco smoking pleasure and the opinion was held to be true for many years, now scientists and health experts are not so sure. Now many feel that shisha and hookah smoking is every bit as bad for your health as smoking cigarettes or a pipe.

As it is such a common practice in the Middle East, and even a part of many tourist attractions, persuading people to give up the practice is not easy. Some Middle eastern countries are attempting to tighten the sales of tobacco while others are allowing the use of electronic hookahs, devices that are very similar to the e-cigarettes that have become so popular in the West. As these pose a much lower risk to health many feel they are qa good compromise between improving health and maintaining a tradition that has been in place for hundreds of years…

Must See Middle East – The Dead Sea

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430 metres below sea level, between the Jordanian and the Judean desert, lies the Dead Sea, an iconic body of water that has intrigued and fascinated the world since ancient time. And for almost as long it has attracted a stream of visitors all keen to discover just what all of the fuss is about.

Dead Sea Basics

The Dead Sea, one of the four saltiest bodies of water on Earth, has long been held as something of a magical place. None other than the great Queen Cleopatra once persuaded Mark Anthony to ensure that the sea became her territory as she wished to make use of its fabled restorative properties to maintain her own beauty.

And she was just one of the first. The unique chemical makeup of the Dead Sea has, over the centuries, allowed it to gain a reputation as the planet’s greatest natural beauty spa and it is for that reason alone that many of those who travel to it go in the first place. But there is more to the Dead Sea than that.

Where to Stay

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As you might expect there are a number of rather luxurious hotels along the Dead Sea’s coastline. Many take the utmost advantage of the area’s spa reputation and offer all manner of additional spa services and treatments based around the sea itself. But the pricey spa hotels such as the Herod’s Dead Sea or the Oasis Dead Sea, while beautiful and luxurious are not a traveler’s only options.

Charming bed and breakfast hotels dot the coast and there are even affordable hostels and kibbutzes that offer a lower key, but still very enjoyable alternative Dead Sea vacation for those looking to explore the area as well as soak in its health benefits.

Where to Eat

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Most of the accommodations in the Dead Sea area offer onsite dining so the exterior pickings can seem rather slim. There are some notable dining experiences to be had if you look a little harder though.

Take the Taj Mahal for example. Totally unrelated to anything Indian it is basically set in a Bedouin tent and offers some fine and rather authentic Middle Eastern treats as well as a floor show that has to be seen to be believed. Alternately you could try the Kaparuc’hka, a newer eatery considered to be one of the best in the area that serves a delightful combination of gourmet pizzas and more traditional fare such as kebabs and schwarma.

What to See

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When not indulging in one of the many beauty and alternative and holistic health treatments on offer in and around the Dead Sea there are other things for visitors to the area to do and see.

The Ein Gedi Botanical Garden is a must visit for anyone who has any interest in nature as it is home to species of plant and tree found few other places in the world as well as to plants of a very biblical nature such as frankincense and myrrh and the very poisonous Sodom apple.

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Also of a biblical nature is Lot’s Wife, a natural salt rock formation that rises and leans majestically away from a dazzling cliff face in Ein Bokek. It is called Lot’s Wife of course after the biblical tale of the woman turned to salt in replenishment for looking back at the destruction of Sodom.

Must See Middle East – Introducing Alexandria

The great city of Alexandria in Egypt was, as its name still suggests, founded and nurtured by none other than the great King Alexander himself and later became the seat of ultimate power for the legendary Queen Cleopatra. In its’ original heyday it was a city of spectacle and wonder, indeed it was home to one of the original Seven Wonders of the World, the towering Pharos lighthouse that sat at the harbour entrance and its Great Library was the seat of all recorded knowledge in Ancient times.

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Alas however the great city fell upon hard times . The Pharos lighthouse tumbled into the sea and the Great Library, along with most of its contents, was burned to the ground. It even lost its title as the country’s capital city to Cairo and was condemned to ignominy for centuries.

The 19th century European fascination with Egypt sparked a renaissance for the city however and today it is fast becoming the cultural, if not the political, capital of the country again. A haven for artists, writers and thinkers it is also once again a magnet for tourists looking to explore its fascinating past and enjoy its lively present.

Where to Stay in Alexandria

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There are a number of excellent accommodation choices in Alexandria to suit all budgets and all tastes. For those seeking the ultimate in luxury the Windsor Palace Hotel has been providing it since the mid 19th century and recent renovation has left it even more opulent than ever before.

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In terms of midrange pricing the Egypt Hotel is a great choice, a homely, welcoming place set in a centuries old building in the heart of the city. And there is even a safe and welcoming hostel for the true budget traveler in the form of the Triomphe Hostel, a place that affords elegant accommodations and even sea views at a very reasonable price.

Where to Eat in Alexandria

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Alexandria has become something of a cultural melting pot and that is certainly reflected in its choice of cuisines. There is truly an eatery for everyone in Alexandria. To sample the delights of sea freshly caught in the harbour Abu Ashraf is a fine choice as you can sit in comfort on the patio and watch as the fish of you choice is expertly prepared just for you.

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Or there is the colorful La Varanda that serves its own unique blend of Middle Eastern, North African and Greek cuisines. You can even stop at the Egyptian answer to McDonalds, Gad, to enjoy a fast food experience far superior to any ever found in the West.

What to See

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Sadly much of Ancient Alexandria was lost many centuries ago, but the traces that do remain are fascinating to explore. Fort Qaitbey, on the Eastern Harbour, is built on the site of the legendary Pharos lighthouse and archaeologists have confirmed that some of its red granite construction is actually material salvaged directly from the towering structure after it fell. Then there are the Catacombs of Kom ash-Suqqafa, underground tombs that were the last dedicated to the old Egyptian religions before the Romans began wiping it away.

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More contemporary attraction include the Montazah Palace Gardens, a 19th century retreat built by Khedive Abbas Hilmy as a summer retreat from the stifling Cairo heat and the gorgeous Mamoura Beach with its cobblestone boardwalk and beautiful views.