Yas Island is an entertainment Mecca filled with theme parks, malls, theaters, hotels, and restaurants. You could spend your entire vacation without ever having to leave the island.
We took a day trip over to Abu Dhabi when we were in Dubai last summer. It’s about a 1 hour drive. We left bright and early on a weekday morning, we wanted to beat the crowds at Ferrari World. We arrived about 9:30 a.m., Ferrari World doesn’t open until 11:00 a.m.
We parked at Yas Mall, Ferrari World is connected to the mall, and spent the time wandering the shops. The boys were quite impressed with the Lego Store and The Toy Store.
They loved the huge Transformer Optimus Prime standing at the entrance to The Toy Store, a Dubai based brand that is a kid’s dream. The store is filled with displays of popular toys that kids can touch and play with. The boys would have happily stayed at The Toy Store but we had to drag them away and head for Ferrari World.
The theme park is accessed from the mall’s second floor which connects them via a walk way. You’ll know you’re headed in the right direction when you see the red Formula 1 Ferrari race car in the middle of the mall.
The entrance to the park is located next to the mall’s Cascade Dining area, a multi-cuisine food court featuring Buca di Beppo, Chili’s, and more.
If you haven’t purchased tickets online, we didn’t, you can buy them from the ticket counter located on the right side after the walk way. The Ferrari Store is on the left.
Tickets start at 250 AED for a one day one park adult Bronze ticket which gives you unlimited park access for the day and a 5 AED merchandise voucher to spend at the Ferrari Store. Kids under 1.3 meters cost 205 AED, and kids under 3 are free. Silver and Gold tickets cost more but they come with 3 fast pass and 10 AED voucher (silver) or unlimited fast pass and 15 AED voucher (gold). You can upgrade Bronze and Gold tickets to one day 2 park tickets for 40 AED and 130 AED respectively. They both give unlimited access to both Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld on the same day; the Gold ticket comes with priority seating and souvenir towel at the waterpark. The combined ticket is a good deal if you have enough time to go to both parks on the same day. The ticket agents are helpful and will let you know if it’s doable to go to both parks, if the parks are busy they will recommend against it.
The first thing we did was head to the Karting Academy, a go-kart type ride, to book our ride. When you get there you will be directed to a computer where you must schedule a ride for your party, you will be given a ticket that tells you when to come back for your ride.
When you return at your designated time you must change into the racing suits and shoes they provide. Then you must sit thru driving instructions and will be given a paper helmet to wear. Before you get into your race car you will be given a helmet which you must wear during the ride.
It’s a fun ride. We took turns riding because someone had to stay with 7 year old Devon, and 2 year old Jett, they weren’t allowed on this ride.
Right by the Karting Academy is the Tyre Twist, a ride very much like Disney’s teacup ride, but instead of a teacup you’re twirling in an huge tire. Devon was allowed on this ride, but Jett was not.
The Junior GT and Junior Grand Prix rides were also in this area. These rides are slow paced electric cars kids can drive around a track. Devon was not pleased, he wanted something that went faster than a turtle.
The Bell ‘Italia ride is also here. It’s a slow paced ride where you can sit in vintage Ferraris and ride around a miniature Italy.
Other family rides include Viaggio Italia where you sit in seats that rise in the projection dome and you appear to be flying over Italy. There’s also a cinematic simulator ride that gives you the shotgun seat behind a race car driver.
There’s also the Galleria Ferrari where you can get an up close and personal look at these beautiful cars. Ferrari fans will think they’re in heaven!
Another thrill ride by the Karting Academy is the Scuderia Challenge, a racing simulator. We didn’t try this one, it costs an extra 100 AED per person to ride.
The Fiorano GT Challenge is one of the 2 roller coasters in the park. The dueling Ferrari F430 Spider cars race around twin tracks at 95 km/hr. My daughter Jaime and 13 year old grandson Dion rode the coaster while the younger boys and I watched them from the outdoor viewing area.
Formula Rossa, currently the world’s fastest coaster, is the park’s main attraction. This coaster goes from 0-240 km/hr in under 5 seconds. Jaime and Dion went on this coaster too while I tried to get Devon into the Junior Training Camp.
The Junior Training Camp is all about climbing, they have all kids of walls and equipment. Alas Devon did not meet the minimum height requirement, he was not pleased.
Instead we spent our time in the kid’s play area where Jett and Devon ran around, climbed small steps, and went down not too tall slides.
Lucky for us we purchased the 2 park ticket, the younger kids has much more fun at the waterpark. We were done with all the rides we wanted to go on by 2:00 p.m., and this included shopping in the Ferrari Store.
I had somehow (I still don’t know how) ended up with 120 AED worth of merchandise vouchers.
The boys ended up with a bunch of Ferrari stuff, and I only spent 50 AED in real money. The Ferrari Store was the best part of the park for Devon and Jett who each picked out a logo shirt and toy.
The park is rather pricey given that they don’t have very many rides. If you’re a big Ferrari fan or need to ride the world’s fastest coaster than the $68 ticket may be worth it. If you have kids under 1.3 meters the $56 ticket in my opinion isn’t worth it, there’s not much there for them to do. For toddlers under 3 it’s free, and they do have a great time running around the cool play area. Jett loved the Ferrari!
The best buy would be to purchase the 2 park ticket assuming you can go to both parks on the same day. If Ferrari World isn’t busy you really don’t need more than 3-4 hours there. Tickets for Yas Waterworld for one day is the same price as Ferrari World, so the 40 AED upgrade is really worth it, besides on hot days it’s perfect. You do Ferrari World, which is indoors in the morning then head over to the outdoor waterpark later in the afternoon when it’s not so hot.
One of our favorite places to play in Dubai is the Aquaventure Waterpark that is part of Atlantis the Palm. It’s touted to be the #1 Waterpark in the Middle East and Europe, and I can believe it! The park has something for everyone.
For thrill seekers there’s the Tower of Neptune which offers a variety of tall slides including the Leap of Faith, the 9 story near vertical slide down the side of the pyramid and into the shark tank (you’re sliding thru a clear acrylic tube of course!). If you’re a speed demon there’s Poseidon’s Revenge in the heart of the pyramid; you step into a capsule and the floor drops from under you sending you plummeting down at speeds of 60 kilometers per hour, inertia propels you upside down! My 13 year old grandson loves these slides!
Those slides are too extreme for me, I prefer the “milder” Shark Attack where you hop into a single or double inner tube and wind your way down the dark indoor slide and end up floating thru the shark tank, which by the way is a very busy place. Aside from having tubes that lead out from the slides it’s also the place where you can don a special helmet and go on a”Shark Safari”
If you’re looking for something more laid back then the Lazy River is where you should hang out.
Grab a tube, they have singles, doubles, and a double with a child seat (one side has a bottom for small children to sit on), and drift on the river. The river winds around the park’s property and offers several pools and waterfalls through out, you can stop at any spot for a quick dip or a walk behind the falls.
You can detour thru the Torrents, a wave generator that creates swells over a meter high that pushes your tube down the river; or you can head to the Rapids. The Rapids are over 1.5 kilometers long and is lots of fun. Entrance to the Torrents and Rapids are clearly marked, you can enter or continue down the river if you prefer. I have to say this Lazy River is the best I’ve ever been on. The kids and I have spent hours on it. I believe a full circuit takes about 30 minutes including all the detours.
For sun worshipers there are plenty of loungers around the Lazy River you can stretch out on to work on your tan. Or you can head to Aquaventure Beach and lay out in the sand. If you want some quiet relaxation you can rent a couple of sunbeds at Neptune’s Retreat for 300 AED. Price includes fruit, water, and valet service.
If you really want to splurge you can rent a private cabana for your group prices start at 800 AED for a small cabana that can accommodate up to 6 people. Cabana rentals include fruit, water, and locker rental.
Needless to say we did not avail ourselves of the retreat or cabana. The kids were much more interested in playing than relaxing.
When we’re not floating along the Lazy River we hang out Splasher’s Kids’ Play Area. It’s really the busiest section of the park. It’s always filled with families with young kids. The play area has several slides, huge buckets of water that dump water, bridges to climb and walk on, and lots of dripping or splashing water to play in. It’s also very well monitored. Along with lifeguards who help the kids on the taller slides there are several lifeguards and first aid nurses watching the perimeter. The lifeguards are very friendly and play with the kids, but they are also very vigilant. This last trip we saw a child slip and bump her head on one of the slides, the first aid nurse was at the family’s side almost instantly. She assessed the situation, thankfully in this case it was minor, nothing that an ice pack couldn’t fix.
When it came to guest safety I was very impressed, they take it very seriously. Young children are required to wear life vests which are provided free at the towel cabanas located through out the park. All the slides had multiple lifeguards, the Lazy River had lifeguards in and around it, and the Torrents and Rapids had multiple lifeguards at the entrances and along the route. The lifeguards were all very friendly and very helpful, my grandson Dion quickly was on first name basis with many of them.
A day at this waterpark will leave you hungry and thirsty. At this park you won’t go hungry, you may go broke, but you’ll be full. There are 16 restaurants and kiosks within the park. They serve everything from coffee and juices, to burgers and pizzas, to Chinese noodles and Korean barbecue.
They have indoor and outdoor restaurants. The main ones are Barracudas and Shark Bites, both have indoor and outdoor seating. Barracudas is basically a food court where you can grab a quick burger or have some Arabic, Indian, or Asian cuisine. Shark Bites is for quick bites like burgers, hot dogs, and pizza. Splashers and Waves are outdoor venues for burgers and sandwiches. You can snack on pretzels, churros, and ice cream from kiosks around the park.
The food at the park’s restaurants are typical park fare, not gourmet but filling, they have good size portions. Prices are typical park prices, a large soda costs 8 AED; lunch of a burger, fries, and drink will run you close to $20. The best deal are the meal vouchers they sell at the ticket office. They sell for 45 AED each ($12.25) and includes your choice of meal and a drink at either Barracudas or Shark Bites. Each restaurant a different list of items you can choose from, the lists are pretty big and include pizza, burgers, hot dogs, noodles, fried chicken, and shawarmas. The restaurants have different lists as some items are not available at both places, so if you don’t find what you want at one place ask if it’s on the other place’s list. We always buy vouchers when we visit the park. If you have small kids they can share a meal.
A day at Aquaventure is lots of fun, but it’s not cheap, specially if there are many of you. To get the best deal buy tickets online or at your hotel’s tour desk. Tour desk prices are usually the same as online prices. If you buy tickets at the park expect to pay 50+AED ($13.50) more than online prices. You should also know that prices are subject to change without notice and it seems to me are seasonal.
When we went last August we paid 250 AED ($68) for everyone over 1.2 meters tall (this included my 13 year old grandson), and 205 AED ($56) for the kids below 1.2 meters (that’s because kids below the height minimum can not go on any of the big slides, they are limited to the Kids’ Play area and Lazy River). Children 0-2 years old are free.
Park admission includes all water slides, Lazy River, Kids’ Play area, and loungers and umbrellas around the park. Adventure rides like the Shark Safari, Zip Line, and Ray Feeding have extra fees, hotel guests pay a discounted fee.
Locker rentals start at 40 AED for a small, towel rentals are 30 AED each, or you can rent small locker and towel for 50 AED.
Of course you can get free admission if you are a guest at the Atlantis hotel. Room rates start at about $400+ per night. They do have cool suites that have underwater views, those cost a pretty penny.
The Marine Park and Lost Chambers Aquarium are also located on the property. At the Marine Park you can swim with the dolphins or meet a sea lion. Each activity has it’s own fee which includes a day pass to the waterpark. Hotel guests get a discount for most of these activities.
The Lost Chambers is inside the hotel, tickets can be purchased separately, 100 AED ($27) or in combination with a day pass to the waterpark for 300 AED ($82). They also have activities including a behind the scene tours, ray feeding, and scuba dives in the aquarium. Each activity is prices separately. Hotel guests pay a discounted fee.
Here are some tips for your visit to the park. I hope they will save you time and money, and help you have a fantastic time!
1. Buy tickets online or at your hotel tour desk. If possible compare prices before you buy. Pre-purchasing tickets also saves time, you won’t have to wait in line at the ticket plaza. But you can’t rent lockers and towels online, nor can you buy meal vouchers. You must get those from the ticket office.
2. Bring your own towels. I borrowed some from the hotel pool and returned it to housekeeping the next day.
3. Plan your visit on a week day to avoid huge crowds. Remember the weekend in Dubai is Friday and Saturday. The park is packed on weekends and holidays.
4. Arrive early, before the park opens at 10:00 am. You can buy tickets and meal vouchers, and rent towels and lockers as soon as the ticket windows open. If you purchased tickets online you can pick-up wristbands at the “Pre-Purchased Ticket” counter, if you want to rent a cabana or sunbeds you can go to the VIP Premier Experiences counter and get your tickets there too.
5. Don’t bring valuables. If you do rent a locker! Dubai is a very safe place, however there are petty thieves who will jump at the chance to grab valuables left unattended on lounge chairs. We didn’t bring valuables but my daughter’s flip-flops were stolen, they were Ugg brand flip-flops and were not cheap, my daughter was very annoyed. When we went to buy her rubber flip-flops (she needed them the ground was scorching) we paid 100 AED ($27) for the cheapest pair, the sales associate informed us that stolen footwear was very common.
6. Invest in a waterproof phone pouch. You can pick one up at the gift shop before you enter the ticket plaza. They cost 120 AED ($33) and will fit your cell phone, credit card, and money. You can wear it around your neck in the park, but you must remove it when going on the big slides. I bought one and it came in very handy. It kept my phone nice and dry while I used it to take lots of pictures in the splash area and on the Lazy River. It doubles as a souvenir of your day too!
7. Buy meal vouchers it will save you money when lunch time rolls around. Outside food is not allowed in the park, unless it’s baby formula or baby food.
8. If the park is busy find a tube or tubes and keep it with you! Tube napping is very common as you will need a tube for some of the slides as well as for the Lazy River.
9. If you have toddlers and small children get them a life jacket from one of the towel counters. It’s free and required if you are taking them on the Lazy River.
10. If you have toddlers and small children grab a double tube with a child seat and keep it with you. They can be difficult to come by. Toddlers can’t hang on to a tube with their legs dangling in the water, the seat makes it much more comfortable and safer.
11. Bring plenty of sunblock, it cost a fortune at the park.
12. Let the park’s photographer take your photos. They wander around the park taking photos and give you a wrist band each time. They also take photos at the big slides and along the Lazy River. You can take as many photos as you want, you don’t have to buy any. You can view your photos in the hotel by the Lost Chamber entrance. If you like a lot of your pictures consider buying the disc or thumb drive instead of prints; it’s a better deal and you can print them out yourself. Individual photos cost about $20, the disc or drive about $100.
13. Dress appropriately. Swimwear is mandatory if you are going on the slides or in the pools. Having said this, you should also respect the local culture. You’re not required nor even expected to be covered from head to toe but you are required to be “decent”. This means bathing suits, even bikinis are acceptable, but thongs are not.
14. Don’t gawk, stare, or point. That’s just rude! You will see people from all over the world there. Many of them will be dressed according to their cultural and religious beliefs. Yes, there will be women in abayas and covered from head to toe, they will not be swimming. But those that do wear swimwear which looks like a scuba suit including a hood to cover their hair. Just remember though they may dress differently they are there to enjoy the day with their families just like you are.
Whenever we’re in Jordan we try to spend at least a few days at one of the beachfront resorts in Aqaba. It’s about a 4 – 4 1/2 drive from Amman via the Desert Highway or a 3 hour drive from the Dead Sea via the Dead Sea Road.
(There are buses and taxis to and from Aqaba leaving from both Amman and the Dead Sea Area. It can actually be a day trip from either place.)
Aqaba is Jordan’s only coastal city and is the largest city on the Gulf of Aqaba. It is rich in history and has been inhabited since 4000 BCE.
It’s stragic location at the junction between Asia and Africa made it a very important part of the trade route between these two continents.
Today it is a well known tourist destination know for it’s warm water and rich marine life.
The Gulf of Aqaba is one of the top diving destinations in the world. Aqaba is also the perfect base from which to explore the wonders that Jordan has to offer in this area, including Petra and Wadi Rum.
Whenever we’re in Aqaba we always stay at the Intercontinental Aqaba Hotel & Resort on King Hussein Street. It is one of the 3 major hotels that I know of in the city that is on the beach, the Movenpick and Kempinski are its neighbors). The Intercontinental is one of my favorite hotels in the world!
The hotel property includes a private beach with oceans views and views of Eilat, Israel which is just across the water. It has great restaurants and lounges, comfortable rooms and suites, several pools, a full service spa, and a kids’ club with activities throughout the day. Of course the service is excellent!
We usually begin our day with the breakfast buffet at the Corniche Restaurant. The abundant buffet has an array of breakfast foods, cereals, fruit, pastries, and a live action station where friendly chefs will gladly fry you some eggs or and omelette. I does get very busy on the weekends and during high season.
The breakfast buffet cost $24 dinar for guests 12+, half price for children 5-11, and free for kids under 5.
The restaurant also has a dinner buffet, the menu changes nightly. We dined there for their Friday Night Barbecue where they served freshly grilled beef, chicken, and lamb kebobs and also had some very tasty shawarma. The price for the dinner buffet is about 40 dinar for adults, half price for kids 5-11, and free for kids under 5.
The Corniche Restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating. We love the outdoor seating as it has both pool and sea views.
The grandkids enjoyed the pools and beach. The kids’ pool is located in a shaded area in front of the indoor kids’ club. There’s also an outdoor shaded area with playground equipment. The kids’ club staff have planned activities on the beach and in the pools during the day. They’re very good at keeping the kids entertained. The boys had a great time at the water balloon toss on the beach.
The indoor play area is air conditioned and is well equipped. Activities for younger children are in this area and families are invited to movie nights. It’s a great place to cool off after a hot day on the beach.
We let the kids play here while my daughter and I indulged ourselves with massages at the spa located right next door!
For those looking for some water fun and adventure there’s a water sports kiosk on the hotel’s beach where you can rent jet skis, ride a banana boat or a glass bottom boat, parasail, and water ski or rent some scuba or snorkel gear to explore the underwater reef.
There are many restaurants in the old town just a few blocks from the Intercontinental. You can even walk from the hotel to the heart of the old town.
One of our usual dining spots is the Alibaba Restaurant in the heart of the old town on the corner of Raghadan and Hammamat Al Tunisyya Streets. The location is great for people watching and they serve alcohol.
They serve fresh seafood as well had traditional Arabic food. The food is okay if you order the grilled meats like shish taouk or lamb kabobs. The shrimp fried rice was actually pretty good too.
Prices here are less expensive than at the resorts starting at about 9 dinar for a plate of kabobs with rice, salad, and hummus. Seafood prices are higher depending on what is ordered.
After dinner we like to walk around town for a bit of souvenir shopping. The streets around Alibaba Restaurant are lined with all sorts of shops selling everything from clothing to household goods and beach toys. Prices are very reasonable, and bargaining is expected.
A walk around the old town is never complete without a stop at one of the sweet shops or bakeries. We pick up a kilo or so of freshly baked kunafa (cheese filled semolina pastry) and Awame (honey drenched fried bread balls.)
Of course when we’re in Aqaba we take a day or two to head over to Petra and Wadi Rum for the day!
One thing for sure when visiting Dubai, you will never go hungry. There are so many restaurants in town I’m pretty sure you’ll find something to suit you, unless you have a hankering for Sweet & Sour Pork or a rack of baby back ribs that is.
(Pork is sold in some restaurants, but the pickings are very slim and in my experience not very well prepared. If pork is on the menu or on the buffet you will find a limited selection that will be clearly labeled as containing pork.)
Dubai is home to many of your favorite fast food franchises and restaurant chains. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, just to name a few, are in all the malls and around town. Chili’s, TGIF, IHOP, Red Lobster, Outback, and many others have places in the malls and around town as well. You’ll also find local franchises and chains as well as those from around the world which we Americans aren’t always familiar with.
In short Dubai is truly a melting pot of culinary delights.
When we travel we prefer to eat at local restaurants and sample the area’s cuisine; but I have to admit that a Quarter Pounder at McDonald’s or a pan pizza at Pizza Hut can be comforting when you’ve been abroad for a while and are missing home. That’s why every so often we’ll grab a quick lunch at one of those familiar places. (Half-way thru a 10 day Baltic Cruise a few years ago my daughter spotted a McDonald’s in the old town area of Tallin, Estonia and insisted on having a cheeseburger. She never eats them at home, but said she was tired of cruise and foreign cuisine, she just had to have something familiar.)
But really one of the best parts of traveling is trying different foods at local establishments. Dining like the locals is a great way to experience the culture of the areas you’re visiting. Dubai is no exception, they have many fine restaurants that serve traditional Middle East cuisine as well a cuisine from around the world. So yes do pop in at Chili’s or Pizza Hut when you’re in need of some familiar comfort food, but don’t leave town without at least trying something different.
Here are some of my favorite Dubai restaurants I hope you’ll check one or two out, you might go home with a new favorite dish!
Al Halabi Restaurant located in the Fashion Dome section of the Mall of the Emirates is our all time favorite for Lebanese cuisine.
You can’t miss it, it’s on the right side of the fountain on the ground level in the Fashion Dome section of the mall. (PF Chang’s is near by and Fauchon is across the aisle).
From mezzes to dessert this place serves delicious Arabic food and has very good service.
It is a bit pricier than other Middle East restaurants in the same mall, but it’s truly worth the price. We eat here several times whenever we’re in town.
They offer a variety of hummus, baba ganouj, toum (garlic dip), and other dips all served with freshly baked pita bread. If you’re not too hungry just order a variety of mezzes including stuffed grape leaves and you’ll walk away pleasantly full.
If you’ve a heartier appetite follow up the mezzes with one of their grilled meats. I love their Shish Tawook (chicken skewers) which I order with rice instead of fries. My husband and grandsons love the lamb chops and lamb kebobs. We usually order the mixed grill for them, it comes with 3 kebobs (lamb cubes, chicken, and ground lamb) and french fries.
Every meal is served with salad, actually salad makings. The waiter will bring out a tray of fresh veggies including lettuce, tomato, cucumber, lemon, and green onions. Cut it and fix it the way you wish.
We always round out the meal with dessert. Their Kunafa is very good as is their Muhalubia (pudding) and Creme Caramel. There are so many different desserts to choose from it’s hard to pick just one.
Expect to pay about 200 dirham, $54, for 2 people; that would include mezzes, entree, dessert, and a couple of beverages.
My favorite breakfast place is the breakfast buffet at the Blue Orange Restaurant in the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina.
It is by far the best breakfast buffet I’ve had anywhere. It’s pricey at 120 dirham, $32, per person (kids 6-12 are half price, 5 & under are free), but it is so worth it.
This buffet has the standard eggs & omelette station you’d expect at any decent breakfast buffet, and so much more. Along with breakfast foods they have a smoothie bar where you can order any smoothie you want; an Asian, Arabic, and Indian station that has Congee, Curries, Falafels, and more; a selection of cheeses; a bread section that offers a large variety of breads, muffins, and pastries; a cereal and yogurt bar; and my favorite the crepe station that has fabulous crepes you can fill or top with a variety of toppings. They even have an ice cream section filled with delicious homemade ice cream in some very interesting flavors including fig, date, and baklava!
The restaurant has a play area complete with TV, play house, and other toys to keep the kids entertained so you can enjoy your meal.
This award winning brunch spans across the three restaurants on the hotel’s ground floor (Hunter’s Room & Grill, Spice Emporium, Blue Orange) and when the weather is pleasant to the out door seating area as well.
The food displays and stations are amazing. The Blue Orange section caters mostly to families with children offering a kid’s buffet along with with seafood, pasta, and sushi stations. The entertainment is mostly in this area where they have clowns, jugglers, acrobats, and even a petting zoo.
Hunter’s Room & Grill is a steak house where they set up various stations including a pub style bar where they generously pour drinks for those who purchased the brunch inclusive of bubbly. The Spice Emporium serves up Asian delights including chefs showing off their skill on the teppanyaki grill.
This brunch buffet is truly an experience for everyone. It is rather pricey starting at 450 dirham, $122, for the bubble free brunch to 680 dirham, $185, for the brunch with free flowing bubbly. Children under 6 are free and 6-12 are half price.
This Friday brunch seems to be a very popular event in Dubai, specially for ex-pats who come out in their designer duds to partake of this international feast. During our 2 week stay at the Westin this summer we noticed the crowds of people flowing from restaurant to restaurant on Fridays. Buffet stations are set up even in the hallways between the restaurants; you must pass thru them on your way to and from the pool or beach.
In case you’re wondering about alcoholic drinks in Dubai, it is served at some restaurants and lounges except during the month of Ramadan. You can purchase over priced cocktails, liquor, beer, and wine and consume it in the restaurant or bar, but you can not consume alcoholic beverages on the streets, in the parks, or other public areas. A popular alternative to alcoholic beverages are their “moctails” virgin versions of popular concoctions such as Pinacolodas, Margaritas, Bloody Marys, and such; in short over priced smoothies.
If you’re wanting some Lebanese cuisine but don’t want to pay the prices at Al Halabi the Al Halab restaurant on Level 1 in the Mall of the Emirates is a less expensive alternative.
It’s located along the row of restaurants above the entrance to Ski Dubai. You can dine within the restaurant itself or at one of the tables in front of it, you can’t miss it, you’ll see a large area filled with tables in front of the restaurants including Chili’s and CPK.
This place serves great tasting Shawarma sandwhiches for very reasonable prices, 12 dirham each, that’s just a bit over $3. It’s our go to place for a quick lunch when we’re at Ski Dubai or shopping at the mall.
If you’re hungry for some Korean food then Koryo Korean Barbecue in the Level 1 Food Court of the Mall of the Emirates is a good choice.
The prices are reasonable and the food tastes good.
They cook to order really good Kim Chee pancakes.
n This Koryo Combo Box for 35 dirham, $9.50, is a bargain. You get a choice of 2 main entrees, 3 sides, rice & noodles, and a fountain drink. I had the Barbecue Beef and Spicy Chicken it really was quite good, and very filling.
If you’ve a yen for sushi while at the Mall of the Emirates Fujiyama located in the Level 1 Food Court has a pretty good selection of sushi along with boxed lunches and Donburis. There’s also one in Dubai Mall’s huge food court.
I love their Tendon – tempura rice bowl. Their prices a very reasonable, you can get a complete meal for around $10. My grandson Dion, a sushi lover always goes their for their spicy tuna roll.
The Mall of the Emirates has 2 food courts – ground level and Level 1. Between the 2 I’m sure you’ll find something you want to eat.
When we feel like Persian cuisine we grab a table at Hatam located within the vast food court at Dubai Mall.
Although it’s in the food court it isn’t necessarily fast food. Table service is available. It sure beats standing in line and searching for at table at this very busy food court.
The prices at Hatam are slightly more than it’s fast food counterpart in the food court itself, but the food and service are good.
For very reasonably priced Lebanese food Karam Express is your best choice. You can get a meal with grilled meats, hummus, starch, and pita for about $10. They have food court locations in both the Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall.
Here’s a Shish Tawook Plate with rice, hummus, and pita from Karam Express in the Dubai Mall.
They also serve a yummy lentil soup.
There are many fine Indian restaurants around town. It’s very popular here due I guess the the huge number of immigrants from India.
When we feel like a quick lunch then Shamiana usually found in mall food courts is quite good.
My daughter loves their butter chicken.
When I’m hungry for Filipino food or even Filipino Fast Food I head over to Jollibee in the food court of Dubai Mall for some “Chicken Joy”.
Or for real Filipino cooking then the Filipino restaurant chains in Dubai’s Al Karama district is the place to go.
Max’s Manila is always a good go to restaurant for good Filipino specialties like Kare-Kare (beef braised in peanut sauce) and Daing na Bangus (marinated milkfish). It’s not quite home cooking, but almost.
For a hearty Filipino breakfast or brunch then head over to Tapa King in the Al Ghurair Mall or in the Al Karama district. This popular Filipino fast food franchise serves up excellent Tapsilog – Tapa (marinated meat), fried egg, and rice. I was surprised to find Lamb Tapa on their menu in Dubai.
Every so often I have a yen for Chinese food. I love Chinese food, but am very particular about where I get it from. When I’m in Dubai I never have time to explore the Chinese restaurants so when I “feel like some Chinese” I go to the familiar, Panda Express.
I’ve tried other fast food Chinese places in the malls and have never liked them. At least at Panda I know what to expect and they usually meet my expectations.
I like the Panda locations in the Al Karama area and also the one on the JBR walk.
I think it’s great that dine-in food is served on real dishes with real utensils, not styrofoam containers and plastic forks.
Another favorite of ours is the Cheesecake Factory, it’s my idea of fine comfort food. They have 3 locations in Dubai; at the Dubai Mall, in the Mall of the Emirates, and on The Walk at the Dubai Marina.
All the popular ice cream franchises are in Dubai; Coldstone and Marble Slab Creameries, Carvel, and Baskin & Robbins to name a few.
But we found this cool new place in Dubai Mall’s food court called Ice Cream Lab. It’s a California based ice cream shop that creates “experiments” of made-to-order liquid nitrogen ice cream. They use fresh ingredients and “make” the ice cream in front of you.
It’s super cool! You order your ice cream then watch the ice cream maker make your ice cream in this machine that looks like an industrial sized Kitchen Aid enshrouded in very cold fog.
My grandsons had Mango and Vanilla. They loved watching the “experiment” and loved the ice cream too!
A word about dining at the food court in Dubai Mall. It is ALWAYS busy and crowded! We’ve popped in there at all hours and have never found it not busy.
With about 50 different shops you’ll be astounded at your dining choices. Most places have long lines and tables are hard to come by, specially if you have a large group.
I find dining here to be a workout, first you have to hike what seems like miles to get to the place you want to order from, stand in line, then hunt for a table. By the time you sit down to eat your food is cold.
The best way to eat here in our experience is to first stroll thru the food court and decide where you want to eat. In our case we never seem to agree on just one place, that’s okay, you just have to keep track of where everyone went off to.
Once you’ve decided what you want to eat and where you want to buy it from find a table for your group. You will see tables that have empty trays and left over food, if no one is sitting there it’s probably available. Just hail a bus person and have the table cleared, in Dubai you’re not expected to clean after yourself even at fast food places. People will walk away from their table once their done eating. Claim your table and have one person sit there while the others go buy food. I usually end up sitting at the table and have my husband or daughter buy my food, it works out so much better.
When I find myself in the Dubai Mall at dinner time we head to Wafi Gourmet. I love this place!
They serve fine Lebanese cuisine and have outdoor tables in front of the Dubai Fountain. It’s a great place to watch the fountain show and people watch.
They serve excellent Arabic meals and wonderful Arabic sweets. I love their kebobs and shawarmas, and adore their desserts. There’s even a sweet shop where you can buy pastries to take home. They are a bit pricey, expect to pay $17+ for an entree. But the food and location are well worth the price.
My grandsons love the Rainforest Cafe located above the Dubai Aquarium in Dubai Mall. It’s a fun place to have a burger in a rain forest setting.
If you just want to hang out by the Dubai Fountain but don’t want to pay for a meal at the restaurants with fountain views then grab a table at Tim Horton’s located on the mall’s lower ground level right by the exit to the fountain.
For the price of a cup of coffee you can sit there all day to people watch and see the fountain show that comes on every half hour or so.
This is our “base” whenever we’re shopping at the Dubai Mall. My husband likes to sit at one of the tables while the rest of us shop til we drop. Very convenient, we stop by every so often to drop of shopping bags and grab a drink or a quick snack, catching a fountain show while we’re resting is an added bonus.
When we’re wandering the Gold Souk area we always stop by at Ashwaq Cafeteria for a shawarma or falafel sandwich. Seating is under a tent on the sidewalk, but the food is good and very cheap.
Sandwiches are 5 dirham, that’s like $1.30! The fresh fruit juices cost a bit more, but are really delicious.
It’s not the classiest place in town, nor does it offer great views and ambiance, but the food and juices really hit the spot after a morning spent haggling with shopkeepers.
There are many, many more places to eat in Dubai; from tiny hole in the wall snack bars to five star gourmet dining you’ll find it here. I hope you take some time to explore all the culinary treats Dubai has to offer, it really is an adventure.
Are you an “average” tourist? Is your idea of the perfect souvenirs t-shirts, magnets, mugs, and canvas bags that name the places you visited?
Or worse yet a t-shirt that says ” …went to (place) and all I got was this t-shirts”!
There’s nothing wrong with bringing home all those touristy things, my husband does it all the time. But I often find that amusing t-shirt or whatever looked funny when you’re buying it, unfortunately it’s not too cute when you get it home or present it to your friends or family.
Many times what you thought was super cool ends up forgotten and unused in the back of the closet. I know my grandsons’ have outgrown many unworn souvenir t-shirts we’ve gotten for them on our trips. And I’ve got 2 kitchen cabinets bursting with mugs from everywhere.
On our last visit to Dubai I vowed to curtail my shopping (and my husband’s) to something that we could really use. It didn’t exactly workout as planned, but we did end up with some really unique or even serviceable souvenirs that we all love and know will use for a long time.
Gold prices have somewhat dropped making buying a trinket or two a bit more affordable. So if you want to treat yourself to something sparkly head on over to the Gold Souk in Diera.
In my opinion this is one of the best Gold Souks in the world, rivaled only by the one in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. At the souk you’ll find over 400 shops each with a staggering assortment of gold jewelry from baby earrings to wedding jewelry complete with diadem and tunic.
They sell gold in 18K to 24K, in a variety of colors including white, yellow, rose, and even green. Jewelry is available with our without precious or semi-precious stones.
You’ll find the prices at the souk among the cheapest anywhere in the world as there is no VAT or other taxes added to the cost. Additionally gold jewelry in Dubai is sold on gold price plus labor or “making charges”. Unlike any place else in the world “making charges” aren’t calculated as a percentage of gold prices but usually as a flat rate depending on how intricate the design.
You can be confident in the purity of the gold sold in Dubai as this is strictly regulated by the Dubai Central Laboratories Department. They have implemented a voluntary quality control and certification program called ‘Bareeq’ that recognizes shops that meet their good practice criteria for selling jewelry.
Here are a few tips for shopping at the Gold Souk:
1. Know your gold. If you are planning on making a significant jewelry purchase in Dubai (or anywhere else for that matter) do your research before you go shopping. Know the differences in Karat (purity of gold) and colors.
Different colors are achieved by mixing amounts of alloys such as copper, silver, or zinc to the pure gold. Thus tinted gold will always be less than 24K which is the purest and yellowest form of gold.
2. Check the price boards that are located around the souk. Know how much gold is selling for that day. Prices are per gram and will depend on the karat (purity). To convert to your home currency be sure you install a currency converter on our smartphone like XE Currency App.
3. Visit several stores to compare items, quality, designs, and prices, most stores carry similar designs. The prevalent designs sold at this souk will be Arab and Indian styles as well as some European styles. Some shops sell only 18K, while others only the heavier (thus pricier) 22K and 24K. Still others only sell diamond jewelry. If you’re not interested in one or the other it’s best to move on to a shop that carries what you’re looking for.
4. Snap a quick picture of something that catches your eye, ask permission first, they usually will allow it. In most cases jewelers will have multiple locations in and around the Gold Souk so if you saw something in one shop but can’t recall which shop it was chances are if you show the picture to a salesman in any shop and they can go get it for you or tell you where to find it.
5. Don’t let the price they tell you discourage you, that’s just the starting point! When you find the item you want to buy haggle for the best price. All the pieces are tagged with its weight and the salesperson will calculate the price in front of you as gold prices change almost daily, if you ask them to weigh the piece they will happily bring out the scale to weigh it for you. (Remember the price is calculated by the daily gold price plus the making charge.)
Generally the heavier the item and the more intricate the design the more room there is to haggle. They will tell you that the price on lighter items such as tiny baby studs or simple rings are fixed, but you can still talk your way into a discount even if it’s only $5. So don’t think you can’t haggle about the price of baby earrings, you can! We got a small pair of 22K earrings for my baby granddaughter for less than $50, the original price was about $70.
6. Try to buy multiple items (if you’re interested in more than one piece that is) from the same shop. Shopkeepers give deeper discounts on a set of earrings, bracelet, and necklace or multiple items like 2 or more pairs of earrings, etc.
7. Most shops will offer you refreshments; coffee, tea, soda, water, and biscuits. Feel free to accept or decline, but don’t feel obligated to buy. And don’t think that just because you accepted a bottled water or a cup of tea you must pay the asking price, you can still haggle!
8. As you wander the Gold Souk and the streets around it you will be approached by vendors selling bottles and cans of cold water, juice, and soda for 1-2 dirham; if you’re thirsty grab one they’re a bargain at less than $1.
You will also be accosted, very annoying, by touts trying to get you to follow them to their shops in the alleys behind the souk to buy fake designer bags and watches. Unless you are dying to waste your money on poorly made and terrible looking “Gucci” bags and “Rolex” watches say “no thank you”. I have to admit after being swamped by several touts in a matter of minutes they got very annoying and I ended up just ignoring them and walking away.
In case, for whatever reason, you are tempted to look at their wares remember this:
1. Unlike following the touts in Bangkok, you don’t have to be afraid you will get mugged or robbed in the back alleys. Dubai is very safe, the penalty for crimes, no matter how petty, is very severe (incarceration in a desert prison then deportation, I’ve been told). So you don’t have to worry for your safety, but you will more than likely be wasting your time and/or end up buying poor quality products.
2. Buying and bringing home fake designer products is a crime. If caught at the airport you can be fined $10,000+. Is that fake Rolex you got for $40 really worth the risk?
If you want to bring home something unique but don’t want to break the bank by buying that one pound gold and diamond tiara you can have a nameplate made for you. They whip these out in a matter of hours or at the latest overnight. They will even deliver it to your hotel.
You can have your name written in either English or Arabic. Each name plate is attached to an 18″ gold chain.
We purchased a nameplate in 22K for each of our grandchildren, and my grandsons Dion and Devon purchased one for their mom. We shopped around for them, the prices ranged from $200 to $300+ at different shops. We then sent in our super haggler aka my husband and walked out paying $150 for each necklace.
If you want something with bling that isn’t jewelry you can buy one of these bags or a pair of sandals from the shops outside the Gold Souk.
They are hand beaded in India and Pakistan. Very unique and absolutely gorgeous. You’ll find them in many shops along the road that leads to the Souk.
The sandals start at around $30. You must try them, the sizes are funky and each style fits differently. They are super cute and pretty comfy. However they are not the same quality as the blingy handmade sandals you can buy in Capri or Positano, but they are at least 75% cheaper and will last at thru the summer.
The bags are a bargain starting at about $30 for the evening clutch and $80 for the satchels. They are bulky and heavy so make sure you can fit one in your luggage if you decide to buy one.
We loved the bags and sandals, actually we just love bling! We ended up with 3 pairs of sandals (surprisingly we refrained from buying more) and a total of 12 bags. Again here you must bargain, specially if you are buying multiple items from the same shop. We ended up paying $25 per pair of sandals, $25 for each clutch, and $68 for each satchel.
If you’re shopping in and around the Gold Souk in Diera you might find yourself in need of sustenance and rest. Shopping can be exhausting! There aren’t many great restaurants near by but there are many snack bars.
There are burger, pizza, and other local fast food joints (you will not find a McDonald’s or such in this area). The best one I’ve found is this outdoor “cafeteria” that serves shawarma and falafel sandwiches and fresh fruit juices. It’s pretty good and a bargain at 5 dirham ($1.35) a sandwich.
While in the Diera shopping area around the Gold Souk you will find vendors along the streets selling souvenir t-shirts, mugs, magnets, caps, etc. If you must have some of those this is a great place to buy them. Again remember to haggle. We got adult t-shirts for 10-15 dirham, that’s less than $5 a shirt! You can also find great buys on suitcases (you will need one after a day in this area!), toys, household goods, hookahs, shoes, and more here.
If you can’t carry all your purchases, don’t worry! You can hire a porter. He’ll follow you around town with all your purchases until you’re ready to load it all up in your car or a taxi. He’ll even give the kids a ride!
This guy we hired doubled as a nanny to our grandson Devon. He took very good care of him! He patiently lifted him on and off the pile of suitcases whenever Devon decided he needed to check out a shop.
There’s no set price for porters, he told my husband to just pay him what my husband felt was fair. In this case since the poor guy hauled around all our suitcases, bags, souvenirs, and grandson all day in 116 degree heat my husband paid him 100 dirham, that’s about $27.
Another popular item in Dubai is Oud. It’s perfumes, colognes, wood, and incense made from Agarwood essential oil. It is distilled from the dark resin heartwood that forms in Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees, evergreens native to southeast Asia. It is reputed to be the rarest and most expensive wood in the world. In the Middle East it is known as “black gold”.
Prices vary depending on purity, quality, brand, size, and bottles. You can find small bottles of not very pure oud for as little as $5 in shops around the Gold Souk. If you’re wanting designer brands such as Tom Ford, Gucci, Versace, and others expect to pay from $100 to more than $500 a bottle.
The oud scent is intense and pungent, I’m not a big fan, but I do love the bottles they come in. You will find many perfume shops in the malls and will notice the scent as you tour around town. The locals love the scent and seem to liberally douse themselves in it. Needless to say I admired the bottles but did not feel compelled to purchase any; however my husband’s friend always comes home with a bottle or two whenever he visits Dubai.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a bar of camel milk chocolate from Al Nassma. You will find them sold in most candy shops around town or at their kiosk on the lower ground level of Dubai Mall.
They sell a variety of chocolate products from bars, to boxes of pralines, to hollow chocolate camels.
My husband picked up a couple of bars to try and grandson Dion got a box of pralines for his mom.
My husband and Dion think they taste just like regular chocolate. The rest of us weren’t so sure. I think it left a strange after taste, but they tell me it’s just in my mind.
The kiosk in Dubai Mall is cool. The boys enjoyed riding the camel in front of the kiosk while Dion and my husband shopped for their chocolates.
Since camel’s milk is not that easy to come by this chocolate doesn’t come cheaply. The bars cost about $12 and a pound of their pralines is just over $100.
Camel milk chocolate a bit too exotic for you?
Then head over to Patchi down the mall (towards the Dubai Fountain) from Al Nassma’s kiosk.
This Lebanese based chocolate company sells totally yummy chocolates in their boutiques located in most of Dubai’s major malls.
They have your standard milk, dark, and white chocolates as well as chocolate covered nuts and cream filled chocolates. My favorites are sesame honey and strawberry cheesecake! You can buy bags of chocolate covered nuts, boxed assortments, or create your own assortment. They also sell chocolates decorated with flowers and other trinkets packaged on pretty silver trays, in silver boxes, and other containers; great for gift giving or as party favors.
The nicely decorated shops are huge and the staff friendly. They have over 50 types of chocolates. The sales associates let us sample all the chocolates we wanted before we made up our minds on what to put in our boxes. The boys loved it!
We ended up with 3 kilos of chocolates. The cost to box your own assortment is $90 a kilo; you can buy as little or as much as you want. An 8 ounce bag of chocolate covered nuts cost $24.
If chocolates aren’t your thing then dates might hit the spot. The best place to get dates is Bateel. They have locations in most of the major malls in town as well as at the airport.
They sell dates in every shape and form. They have fresh and filled dates, date drink, vinegar, cookies, and biscuits.
I never leave Dubai without a box or two of their fresh and filled dates and a box of cookies. Prices start at about $18 a pound for fresh grapes in a simple box. Prices vary depending on packaging and filling.
How about some Turkish Delight, Baklava, or other Middle Eastern sweets? You’ll find many sweets shops in the malls and around town. One of my favorites is Arabesq Sweets on the lower ground level of the Dubai Mall.
They offer a large variety of sweets from around the Middle East.
If you’re craving something salty or savory check out the nuts, dried fruit, and mixes at a kiosk in one of the malls or in the souk.
They are sold pre-packaged or by the kilo. I’m not sure how much it cost, we usually grab a bag and munch on it at we shop.
The most brilliant souvenir I purchased this trip is this waterproof smartphone pouch. I got it at the gift shop in Atlantis the Palm just before we entered the water park. I paid 120 dirham, $32, and used it the whole trip.
This handy dandy pouch fits my iphone 6plus comfortably along with money, credit card, and key card. You can make and receive calls, take pictures, play games, go online, or whatever else you want to do with your phone while it’s safely in the pouch. Yes, the touch screen works great!
More than likely when visiting Dubai, specially with kids, you will end up at the beach, at one or more waterpark, at Ski Dubai, and other amusement park. This pouch keeps all your essentials literally around your neck and ready to use. No need to worry about damaging your phone with salt water or snow, or loosing it on a roller coaster. Best of all you can use it even at home.
I’m sure you can buy something similar at other shops around town, I just didn’t bother to look once I got mine. But I did need a souvenir from Atlantis and this was much more practical and just a bit more costly than a t-shirt.
As you’d expect at most amusement parks souvenirs aren’t cheap. We went to Atlantis, Ski Dubai, Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld, and the Dubai Aquarium. I found their souvenirs very over-priced. Kid’s t-shirts started at 95 dirham, $5 for the toddler sizes. Mugs started out at about $10 – 12 and magnets around $3. Of course we ended up with various shirts, mugs, magnets, stuffed animals and toys, my husband insisted.
Hookahs make nice decor, my kids have them in their homes even though they never use them. You’ll find them in many shapes and colors in shops around town and in the malls.
Carrefour in the Mall of the Emirates has a few pieces for reasonable prices. The smoke shop across the hall from Carrefour is pricier but has a better assortment.
If you must buy “normal” souvenirs the best place to get them is in Diera by the Gold Souk.
But if you don’t have time to get there then hit up one of the Carrefours in town. I like the one in the Mall of the Emirates, it’s huge.
They have a decent selection of t-shirts, mugs, magnets, statues of the Burj Khalifa and Burj al Arab, ashtrays, and other knick-knacks at very reasonable prices.
Look out for the kids’ Dubai t-shirts, you’ll usually find a rack or two for 5 dirham a piece. That’s less than $1.50!
Carrefour is one of my favorite shops in Dubai. It’s like a Super Walmart on steroids! They sell just about everything you can think of.
They have a huge grocery department including fresh fruits and veggies, baked goods, meat, seafood, and more. Check out their row of Pringles! (I know stupid things amaze me.) We ran to Carrefour almost everyday of our 2 week vacation in Dubai. We got diapers, juices, baby food, beach toys, and more. Yes my grandsons went home with some statues of the Burj as well as a few plush dancing camels from there.
A visit to Dubai isn’t complete without shopping. Everywhere you go you’ll find something you just have to buy. It’s hard to resist!
Amman, Jordan’s capital, is a bustling city with a mixture of ancient sites and modern buildings. Here you can wander thru the Neolithic and Bronze Age ruins of Jabal al’Qal’a (the Citadel), see some of the oldest statues in the world and gaze at the Dead Sea Scrolls in the newly opened and very modern Jordan Museum, and relax at a hookah lounge in the popular Shmeisani district all in one day.
Where ever you wander in the city good food is never far away. Whether you’re hungry for burgers, pasta, or traditional Arabic food you’ll find it all in Amman. The city and its environs are crowded with familiar fast food joints from the ever present McDonald’s and Burger Kings to Applebee’s and Chili’s, you’ll find it all there.
But when we’re in Amman familiar franchise restaurants is never at the top of our dining choices, we take advantage of the wonderful Arabic specialties that abound through out the city. From street food to fine Lebanese restaurants you’ll find great food to satisfy your palate and fit your budget. Here are some of my favorite Amman restaurants, I’m sure you’ll find something to suit your appetite and your wallet.
Long time favorite Hashem’s Restaurant counts the Jordanian Royal Family among its patrons. It’s located in an alley off Al-Amir Mohammed Street in Amman’s busy downtown.
You can’t miss it, the restaurant literally takes up the entire alley, just look for white plastic chairs and tables usually filled with locals and tourists lining both sides of the alley.
Hashem’s in known for their freshly made falafels. You can see the the guy frying the spicy balls in front of the shop window, it’s actually quite amazing how fast he makes them.
I remember my first visit, I was a bit put off when our waiter was doling out fresh falafel from a tin bucket with his bare hands. I’d briefly wondered and hoped that his hands were clean. One bite was all it took for me to forget about his hands, perhaps serving them with bare hands added to the taste, maybe. At any rate along with falafels you can get plates of hummus, foul, pickles, and of course pita.
Hashem’s is still one of my favorite lunch spots when I find myself in downtown Amman. It gets no points for ambiance that’s for sure, specially when you have to sit on plastic chairs in the alley on a very hot summer day, but the food makes this place worth a visit. They’re open quite late if you get a late night hankering for some falafel and hummus. A meal here will set you back about 3 dinar per person, that’s just a bit over $4.
Abu Jbara is my newest favorite. Like Hashem’s they specialize in falafel and hummus but in a more upscale setting. They have several locations in Amman, I go to the one on Al-Madineh Al-Munawrah St.
Unlike Hashem’s in downtown Amman Abu Jbara is an indoor air conditioned restaurant in a newer section of the city. The place is open 24 hours and seems to do a bustling trade all the time. You’ll probably have to wait for a table, but they turn them over pretty fast so you won’t be waiting long.
I love the falafels and foul at Abu Jbara, not to mention the never ending bread service. A waiter will bring fresh hot pita bread to your table until you say stop. The bread is made on site and served directly from the oven, delicious! It’s a prices are about double what Hashem’s charges, about 6 dinar a person, $8.50, but the air conditioning is worth the extra cost on a hot summer day.
Another favorite is Habibah Sweets. Among their specialties is my husband’s favorite, Kunafa, a cheese filled pastry drenched in sweet syrup.
The original kiosk located in a side alley by the Arab Bank in downtown Amman is always busy in spite of the fact that they have no seating.
You grab your plate of fresh hot kunafa and eat it on the go.
They’ve come a long way since their humble beginning in 1951. They have several branches around the city. The newest one is on Al-Madineh Al-Munawrah St., a block away from Abu Jbara. Very convenient for us, we grab lunch at Abu Jbara then walk on over to Habibah for dessert.
The new 2 story Habibah is a dessert lover’s dream. The first floor houses the bakery where you will find just about every type of pastries and candy you can imagine. From a wide variety of Arabic sweets. cookies, chocolates, ice cream, and beautifully decorated cakes and molded marzipan, you’ll find it in this bake shop.
If you prefer to sit down and enjoy your dessert with tea or coffee you can take the elevator up to the second floor tea room. Here you can order just about everything they have in the bakery downstairs.
The menu has so many sweet offerings it’s hard to choose just one, so we ordered a large variety,
all of it delectable. It is rather pricey, expect to pay more for Habibah’s desserts than lunch at Abu Jbara. Whichever location you choose to visit, don’t leave Jordan without having a plate of Kunafa from Habibah!
Reem Al Bawadi Restaurant in the Khalda district of Amman is our favorite sit down restaurant. The place is huge with indoor and outdoor seating. The food and service are excellent. From the moment you’re seated you’ll be treated like royalty. Last time we were there I counted at least 3 waiters serving our table.
They offer a large selection of mezzes and great grilled meats. My favorite is their Shish Tauok, marinated chicken kebobs. They also serve good Mensaf, meat cooked in a yogurt type sauce and served over rice and thin bread. After dinner you can enjoy a hookah with tea or coffee.
This is a definite must whenever we’re in town. It’s pricey, expect to pay about 30 dinar per person, $42+, but it’s so worth the price.
This photo of Reem albawadi is courtesy of TripAdvisor
When I find myself at Mecca Mall during lunch time I head over to Lebnani Snack. This local franchise is Jordan’s version of McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Jamba Juice combined in one colorful restaurant.
Lebnani Snack serves burgers, sandwiches, pizza, juices, and pastries made from fresh Halal ingredients. They have many locations in the city. It’s a great place to grab a quick lunch or snack, and definitely indulge in one of their fresh fruit cocktails. I love their Mango, Strawberry, Banana with milk cocktail, it goes great with a chicken shawarma sandwich!
Prices are reasonable, but expect to pay more for one of their pretty juice concoctions than you would for a sandwich.
I love to hang out at one of the outdoor bars in the Shmeisani area, they are great places to people watch. There are many places to sit down and have a cup of coffee or a tall glass of freshly squeezed juices.
We usually pick one of the busier places and hang out for a couple of hours.
If you’re not a smoker you can ask for a table away from the crowds. Smoking seems to be allowed at any table, but the waiters are very good and will be happy to set up a table for you where you want. The last time we were there they were ready to set up a table on the sidewalk so that we didn’t have to navigate the crowded restaurant!
When in Amman don’t be afraid to try the little hole in the wall snack shops you’ll find on the streets. They’re clean and serve tasty food at very reasonable prices.
This little snack bar in the Shmeisani area serves everything from burgers and fries to mixed grill platters. We had a feast of mixed kebobs (lamb, ground beef, and chicken) with salads, hummus, bread, pickles, fries, and drinks for less than 25 dinar, $35. But don’t let the small price tag fool you, the food was delicious! The meats were tender and tasty, the bread fresh, and the fries hot!
I can’t end this post without mentioning shawarma sandwiches. I don’t exactly go to a restaurant to eat this although I have to admit the chicken shawarma from the Kempinski Hotel’s room service is outstanding. Most of the time I grab a bag of sandwiches from the street vendors. When we stay at the Meridien Hotel there’s a man who sets up shop on the corner across from the hotel for about 1 dinar, that’s like $1.50. I usually send our driver to pick up several sandwiches, they are to die for!
So if you see a street vendor selling shawarma sandwiches grab one or two you won’t be disappointed!