In Dubai, Ramzan feasts are an exercise in indulgence, much like everything else. The city that does everything bigger, grander and flashier brings the same spirit to its iftars. Luxury hotels unveil decadent and exotic menus. Standalone restaurants try and match this with their own extravagance. There are innumerable options available to patrons but here are five that outshine the others because of their unusual spreads, unexpected setting and hidden surprises.
The Emirates Bio Farm, located between Dubai and Al Ain in Abu Dhabi, is an unlikely venue for an iftar. Cushioned amidst red desert dunes, this farm has a surreal quality to it. Go on a one-hour tractor tour, where you can watch how okra, eggplant, pumpkins, coriander, and more, are organically farmed in this desert oasis.
The specially crafted iftar menu uses same-day harvested vegetables and is served in a fully functioning greenhouse. Traditional Ramzan dishes are served with an organic twist such as the pumpkin kibbeh and beetroot muttabal, a Bedouin-style lamb dish that’s slow-cooked underground for over five hours in an earthen pot.
(AED180/Rs3400 for adults and AED80/Rs1500 for children between 12 to 6; every Friday and Saturday during the month of Ramzan; www.emiratesbiofarm.com)
The Flying Cup is worth the price of admission just for the view of Dubai, from 130 feet above the ground, and for being able to watch the sunset with your feet dangling in the air. When it’s time, break your fast with water, dates and a special iftar box put together by Operation Falafel. Enjoy hot coffee and cookies as night falls over the city. This intimate iftar experience is open to a maximum of 16 people at a time. (AED120/Rs2266 per head; flyingcup.ae)
Tucked in the sand-coloured alleyways of the historical Al Fahidi neighbourhood in Dubai, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding is for those wanting to sink their into the age-old ways of Ramzan. Join Emirati hosts in the central courtyard of the reconstructed wind-tower house to break your fast. Sip on Arabic coffee as the hosts step aside to pray.
Afterwards, find a spot on the floor and share a variety of iftar dishes prepared for the occasion. The hosts are happy to answer questions about Ramzan, the significance of fasting and the culture of the U.A.E. Guests are later welcome to join their hosts on a visit to the Diwan Mosque before returning to the centre for desserts and tea.
(On all days during Ramzan except on Fridays; cultures.ae/ramadan-iftar-program/)
Dubai Opera’s auditorium is a majestic iftar venue. Address Hotels & Resorts caters to a special iftar event here and puts together a sumptuous feast. Along with international favourites, there’s a variety of Arabic dishes including slow-cooked lamb ouzi, hot and cold mezze, mixed grills and delicious desserts. An entertainment trio on flute, percussion and harp, serenades diners with live music. dubaiopera.com/showlist/iftar-dubai-opera/
Frying Pan Adventures, a local food tour company’s signature Middle Eastern Food Walk, takes on a special iftar slant during Ramzan. The culinary journey winds through the back streets of one of Dubai’s oldest neighbourhoods–Al Rigga. Over three-and-a-half hours, you can taste some divine delicacies, listen to ancient Ramzan tales, and decode traditional customs such as why dates are the sacred fruit of Ramzan or what is the right way to drink gahwa (Arabic coffee).
Besides the usual favourites, such as crunchy falafels, creamy hummus, street-style Egyptian pizza, try the Ramzan specials—a rich apricot drink, a juice made from grape molasses and a syrupy cheese and nut turnover.
(AED350/Rs6610; open to 14 years and above only; fryingpanadventures.com)
Chaitali Patel is the former Associate Editor, Special Projects at National Geographic Traveller India. She's partial to nature, history and the arts. She believes that every trip is as much a journey within as it is one outside.