Monday, August 22, 2011

24 Hours in Dubai

Dubai, UAE

Today it is about NOT eating.  To add to our experience of being in Dubai, we are going to experience fasting for Ramadan and not eat or drink until this evening’s sunset.   But it is about 107 degrees out during the day and we have been walking in the spice and gold souqs (the local trading markets).  And so my son, daughter and I do finally break down and drink some water, but only when back in the taxi since one has to be careful to not eat or drink in public during the day.  My husband shows us all up and sticks to the plan and doesn’t even have water.

After a morning of seeing the sights, which is a bit challenging in this heat, we end up at the hotel pool and drift in and out of slumber for the next four hours.  The pool attendants keep coming by offering ice-cold towels and seem to be checking on everyone to make sure no one gets heat stroke.

We are becoming more and more excited about breaking our fast this evening. As sunset gets closer we are also becoming more and more cranky.  But we are quite proud of ourselves for holding out for these 12 hours. 

We now know that breaking the fast is a time of celebration and partying each evening.  We’ve seen large tents set up all over the city for this very purpose and our hotel has a special Ramadan Cafe where light meals, refreshments and “Hubbly Bubbly” or Shisha” (more about this later) is served from 8:00 pm to 2:00 am in the morning.    Apparently many Muslims will stay up quite late socializing and eating and then sleep until very late the next day.  This way they don’t have to be without sustenance for too many of their waking hours. 

By sunset we are famished and so head directly to Tagine, the Moroccan style restaurant at our hotel.  We need more than light snacks but hope to visit the Ramadan Cafe after dinner.  Our crankiness gradually subsides as we sample a pastilla and a soup to start, followed by a couscous, a chicken tagine and a lamb kabob dinner, all while lounging on colorful pillows around an intimate table. 

After dinner our children go ahead to the Ramadan Cafe – which now is hopping with locals and tourists.  When I join them, after my husband heads back to the room to do some work, they are already at a table smoking the Shisha and drinking Turkish coffee.   I too order a coffee, which, at least at the moment, is the best coffee I’ve ever had.  It is very syrupy and almost sweet.  I proceed to taste the appealing looking thick mixture in the bottom of the cup – not a good idea!   Apparently Turkish coffee is prepared by boiling finely powdered roast coffee beans and serving it in a cup and drinking after the dregs settle.

Now the Shisha…  I suppose this is much like the hooka pipes back home which everyone seems to be quite into.   But these strange looking contraptions are looking quite authentic.  Everyone has by their chair this chimney like apparatus with long tubes and a smoking spout on the end.  I try my daughter’s, which is mango-flavored.  It is an interesting taste and experience – very mild, somewhat relaxing.  My son’s is a combination of favors and I find it a bit too strong.  Occasionally a shisha “attendant?” (I don’t know what else to call him…) comes by with his bucket of hot coals and adds fresh coals to the chimney looking thing.  He also takes off the smoking spout and sucks in huge gulps in order I suppose to get the pipe working well again.  Or he just wants to smoke too, in which case he has a serious case of nicotine addiction.

I really should have stopped with the coffee and a few puffs of the Shisha and I know I will regret this but I order a dessert and ask the waiter to choose something.  It is sweet rice like pudding, probably made with couscous, topped with pistachios and almonds and it is delicious!

As we head back to the room through the cooler 85-degree night, we are feeling overly sated and not feeling particularly as if we had sacrificed much on this fasting day. 

This is a good link to check out making Turkish coffee.


  1. I love this description --I feel like I am there! The food and coffee sound divine, and it is all the more interesting because I don't know if we will ever get to Dubai. I am wondering if the Shisha smoke is inhaled or just sits in your mouth (I am off to Google to find out!)

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