Over the last decade, Dubai’s reputation as a culinary capital has continued to grow. And as the city’s enthusiasm for all things edible has developed, a number of food festivals and culinary tours have sprung up. Without a doubt, the biggest event on the culinary calendar is the Dubai Food Festival. Held annually over three weeks during February and March, it features markets, masterclasses, celebrity chefs, beach parties, food truck festivals and much more. This year’s event also welcomed the inaugural Dubai Restaurant Week, whereby 30 fine dining restaurants offered discounted set menus, giving globetrotting gastronomes yet another reason to visit.
Dubai Food Festival incorporates Taste of Dubai, another hugely popular food festival that turns ten in 2017. The three-day al fresco event takes place in March and features fine dining food stalls and cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs (Tom Aikens and Atul Kochhar were in the kitchen this year), together with a bumper line-up of live music.
Local food bloggers have also led the way when it comes to fun food tours. Arva Ahmed launched Frying Pan Adventures in 2013, walking explorations of Old Dubai that uncover the best ethnic eats that are firmly off the tourist map. Today, it is the city’s leading food tour operator with a range of fantastic itineraries available year-round, including the Middle Eastern Food Pilgrimage and Little India on a Plate. If you’re interested in exploring Dubai’s melting pot of cuisines and the hidden gems known only to locals that are off the regular tourist beat, these tours are a must-do to immerse yourself in the local culture.
Meanwhile, Samantha Wood, the blogger behind FooDiva, takes foodies on a secret dining adventure at three high-end restaurants. During the FooDiva Dine Around Dubai experience, diners enjoy signature dishes presented by chefs and paired with wine chosen by sommelier Lindsay Trivers, while Samantha, a 15-year UAE expatriate known for her honest restaurant reviews, dishes up platefuls of foodie wisdom. Visit the website to see when the next event takes place. Over at Secret Squirrel Food, you can follow Australian expat Karen McLean on her secret food tips for Dubai.
Those looking to learn more about Emirati cuisine should visit The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding in the historic Al Fahidi district. The interactive cultural meals feature typical Emirati dishes such as chicken machboos, while guests are encouraged to ask questions about local culture with no topic off limits, learning about the history and culture of the region, while indulging in either a traditional breakfast or lunch.
Arabian Adventures also offers a range of food tours, such as Flavours of Dubai which explores 2nd of December Street, one of the city’s most colourful streets that is lined with ethnic eateries, followed by an authentic Emirati meal. It’s a real off-the-beaten-track experience and a great chance to sample regional street food.
Desert Adventures is another recommended tour operator that offers a number of tempting culinary experiences. The Secrets of Arabia tour, for example, explores the enchanting Al Fahidi quarter with its narrow sikkas (lanes) and restored barjeels (wind towers), before feasting on a four-course Arabic meal by candlelight at the impossibly romantic Bastakiah Nights restaurant overlooking the Creek – desert dining in ultimate style!