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Dubai Summer Surprises: Secrets and fries

This DSS, we celebrate the unusual and offbeat. Cast your eye over our curated list of 45 things to do — one for each day of the shopping festival — for a truly different experience

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    Modhesh WorldImage Credit: Supplied
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    Fries at Logma restaurantImage Credit: Supplied
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    VII Dubai Terrace Bar and Lounge Image Credit: Supplied
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    Black Diamond icecream at Scoopi CafeImage Credit: Supplied
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    Wagyu Slider at Burger RebelImage Credit: Supplied
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    Burrata Salad at Bianca Mozzarella & Co.Image Credit: Supplied
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    Pole dancing classes at Pole Fit DubaiImage Credit: Supplied
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    Fit 4:15 classes at Fitness First, Business BayImage Credit: Supplied

1 Courtyard cool

It’s been open for several years now, bringing together dishes from around the Arab world and all clearly labelled as such. You get a free lesson in food geography, but it’s still a surprise how few people know of Khan Murjan. In part at least that might be because this open-to-sky courtyard restaurant is tucked away on the gound floor in Wafi Mall. But don’t let that stop you — the food tastes as if it were made by an Arab granny, the restaurant has shisha, and the service is charmingly negligent.

Details: Open from 10am to midnight. Call 04 327 9795

2 Seventh heaven

If you’re the sort of person who hasn’t gotten used to being indoors in the summer, VII Dubai could just be the place for you to kick back and enjoy a libation or two. This rooftop terrace bar at the Conrad Dubai overlooks what is the city’s most interesting architectural wedding cake, the Dubai World Trade Centre, but one can imbibe its wonderfully blended beverages while seated inside a temperature-controlled greenhouse. The food menu offers just enough to keep hunger at bay.

Details: Open from 8pm to 3am. Call 050 169 6777

3 Cool buys

Never mind if you can’t speak Arabic. Within a few months, every Dubai resident is usually able to toss around phrases such as yalla habibi and shu hada, terms now printed on cute mugs, flip-flops and T-shirts at Nomads Dubai. The online purveyor of pop culture is perfect for those who don’t want to brave the heat!

Details: Shop at facebook.com/NomadsDubai

4 Suit up

The funny thing about Dubai’s scorching summer is that you’re dealing with the freezing temperatures indoors because of the AC cooling, which of course is the perfect reason to wear a onesie. Norwegian company OnePiece has found favour with celebrities such as Khloé Kardashian and Liam Payne and is available at Virgin Megastore. Two things you didn’t know: it’s got stunning (outdoor) designs for the hot weather, including one with shorts, and its store at Boxpark is offering seasonal discounts.

Details: Open from 10am to 10pm. Call 04 343 6369

5 Home to heritage

If you’re new to the UAE, a visit to Shaikh Saeed House in the city’s Shindagah area provides an insight into how far the country has come. Once the home and seat of the Dubai’s ruling family, this 1896 building has been preserved as a museum, with coin and stamp collections, and a pearl diving exhibition.

Details: Open from 8am to 8.30pm Saturday to Thursday and 3pm to 9.30pm on Friday. Call 04 393 7139

6 Designer life

Interior designers and stylists swear by Objekts of Design, the furniture store at Al Quoz. Check out its inspired reproductions of the famous Egg and Tulip chairs.

Details: Al Kuthban Building, Shaikh Zayed Road. Open from 10am to 10pm. Call 04 328 4300

7 Sing out

The karaoke lounge at Rixos The Palm is perfect for a summer birthday party. Especially if your soprano is (forcibly) confined to a very private studio in your bathroom. It’s free to hire and accommodates up to 15 guests.

Details Open from 5pm to 2am. Call 04 457 5555

8 Palatial pleasures

Seven-star Dubai ups the ante on every front, so why should afternoon tea be any different? Forget the usual stops and book The Palace, a fauxlde-worlde hotel in Downtown Dubai, for a bit of a treat. Tea here includes a two-hour spa journey that combines a few different treatments.

I arrive to be greeted by a lovely cucumber, ginger and apple welcome drink served on a silver tray, before being led to a changing area and then to my room. It starts with a scrub, fittingly, one that combines four different types of tea: green to detox, black to rejuvenate, white to calm and red to... I forget. Siby, my therapist, scrubs my back and shoulders very smartly indeed, rubbing away all the dead skin before a nice cleansing shower. Then it’s time for an hour-long Singapore massage.

I tend to like my massages strong and forceful, the way I live my life, and Siby obliges. Part-way through the process I remember that I chose this treatment for a change — it’s meant to be a nice, easy therapy, with mild, even strokes, so I set him free to proceed as normal. The ensuing strokes are light and delicate, with brushing movements that work their own special kind of magic. The best bit is the extremely unusual stomach massage, which works the abs rather nicely. Siby ends with a head massage and facial, the benefits of which I only see the next day when I realise the dark circles under my eyes have almost completely disappeared.

Then, I’m led upstairs to the main event —for tea in the grand lobby. At short notice, the chefs probably scrambled to assemble a gluten-free tea Charlie, but they deliver — even if I end up with a plate of fresh fruit and cardboard-y gluten-free sandwiches. (GF diners, be warned: any restaurant needs 24 hours’ notice, especially for things such as scones). To drink, try Red of Arabia, a spicy, malty, naturally sweet brew that leaves one feeling to the manor born.

Details: The Tea of Spring rite costs Dh1,000 through DSS and is available at The Palace Hotel Downtown Dubai. Call 04 428 7888

— Keith J. Fernandez/Editor — GN Focus

9 Scoop of gold

Jumeirah Road has evolved from quiet suburban transit point into a strip of tasty delis and multicultural gourmet establishments. At the end of the road, opposite the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, sits Scoopi Cafe. It specialises in fresh gourmet ice cream.

How does one make fresh ice cream? By preparing a new base every morning, bringing it into the cafe and using liquid nitrogen to turn it into fresh ice cream when someone orders. In vapor form, the chemical needs to be stored at -140 degrees Celsius. Brr. Owner Zubin Doshi says this is what makes his ice cream unique - its freshness.

At 100ml, Scoopi offers more generous servings of its 12 flavours than other establishments - particularly that pink American joint with 31 flavours, which serves a paltry 65ml. The madagascar vanilla, which has beans sourced from the island nation off Africa's east coast, is specked with tiny black dots of the bean and soft on the tongue. Its richness leaves you feeling the need for a post-dessert dessert. Dessertception. The cafe's refreshing coconut water sorbet fits this bill nicely.

There's also a Dh2,999 version of the dish that GN Focus couldn't afford to try. It's sprinkled with 24-karat edible gold and (probably) the world's most expensive saffron, served with an equally exclusive truffle and comes with a Versace bowl and teaspoon set you can take home. They've sold nine of the Black Diamond so far.

If you'd like to taste gold for a lot less, you can get a gold-showered chocolate-coated date for onoly Dh10. Of course, all chocolate is organic, which is almost a requirement for cafes in this area. When word gets out about this place, its 24-year-old owner may become Dubai's most eligible bachelor. In return, we're hoping for a free Black Diamond.

Call 04 448 9526

— Riaz Naqvi/Staff Writer

10 Cheap s*uce

We know you’ve done Dubai Outlet Mall and can’t abide last season’s collections. But we bet you didn’t know the fashionista fave S*uce has a store. Nuff said.

Details: Call 04 441 7383

11 Marina dance

Looking to get fit but bored of the routine? Try Capella Club in Dubai Marina, which offers everything from tae kwon do and hip hop yoga to bachata and burlesque.

Details: Call 04 452 6000

12 Eating history

Special Ostadi in Bur Dubai has been a culinary institution for almost 40 years. Mohammad Al Ansari’s restaurant serves simple but tasty Iranian favourites like chelo and joojeh kebabs.

Details: Open for lunch and dinner on weekdays and dinner on Fridays. Call 04 397 1933

13 Wet workout

We know it’s hot but why not think counter-intuitively? Sweat Training at Bar Park near Skydive Dubai has its benefits, including flushing out toxins.

Details: From Dh80 per session. Call 056 261 7359

14 Cheesy treats

The glorious burrata salad, which comes served in a mason jar (pictured) at Bianca Mozzarella & Co, is the sort of thing that gets hashtagged foodgasm on Instagram. And it is. Guiseppe, manager and schmoozer in chief, explains that’s because they use just the heart of this Italian cheese. The result is a gloriously creamy taste of Italian summer. A mozzarella, cherry tomato and goose ham starter is almost as good, but the mains (we didn’t try the pastas) certainly aren’t at the same level, so order a selection of cheesy small plates tapas-style, and you’ll do well.

This modern deli at BoxPark has everything that most casual Italian restaurants in the city don’t: light food, authentic atmosphere without being a pastiche, and mostly Italian patrons. In keeping with our summer theme, we tried the generous cheese platter, which, with its eight different hard, soft and blue cheeses, many new to our shores, engendered a strong discussion about the merits and demerits of each. And before we stepped out into the sweltering night, we treated ourselves to another delight — a velvety smooth espresso ice cream that was somewhere between a gelato and softy in texture. Beware the hashtag multiplefoodgasm.

Details: Open from 10am to midnight. Call 04 345 5300

— K.J.F.

15 Keep sweet

Visiting Godiva Chocolate Café at The Beach is mandatory for any chocoholic. Try the Sin Cake, a decadent triple chocolate treat featuring a chocolate layer cake topped with a silky mousse, a rich ganache and crunchy bits. Fondues and chilled drinks are other highlights of the menu, which also features savoury sandwiches and main courses.

Details: Open from 1am to 10pm. Call 04 551 6883

16 Against all odds

Living in a city can dull even the sharpest athletes, but parkour can help shake things up. The French military discipline focuses on surmounting obstacles while staying in motion, and pioneer Stephane Vigroux is now offering classes at Umm Suqeim Park.

Call 052 9308 709

17 Stimulating experience

Caffeine chasers, this is for you. Check out Raw Coffee in Al Quoz, which serves up some malty delights.

Details: Warehouse 10, 7a and 4a, Al Manara, Al Quoz

Call 04 339 5474

18 Fashionably fit

Staying fit is hard, but getting some stylish clothes is motivation in itself. Hautletic, founded by Dubai resident Priya Bhatia, retails comfortable, couture-worthy clothes from labels such as Splits 59, Alala and Vie Activewear.

Details: Open 10am to 7pm. Call 04 338 4088

19 Rebel on my plate

Rebels resist convention. And one food category that embraces disruptive change is the burger (think sizes, shapes and endless fillings). But even in this milieu, Burger Rebel, which recently opened a second outlet in Souk Al Bahar, brings something different to the table.

Fun puzzles offer intellectual stimulation and salads get shaken out of jam jars. The trend continues with the chicken wings, given a 21st-century makeover with a garlic and Parmesan coating, offering the right balance of seasonings while staying true to roots. Another standout is the Wagyu slider (pictured), pairing perfect medium-rare beef with caramelised onions. The Burger Rebel slider — beautifully cooked beef tongue with a horseradish and mayo sauce — comes highly recommended.

Details: Burgerrebel.com

— Eduan Maggo/Editor — Country Guides

20 Reading Islam

The Juma Al Majid Centre for Culture and Heritage is home to 500,000 cultural items and about 3,000 periodicals. It’s well worth visiting for anyone interested in Islamic scholarship.

Details: Salahuddin Road. Call 04 607 4600

21 Eating Emirati

Finding Emirati food in the UAE has until recently been almost impossible, unless you’ve been eating at yours or someone else’s home. Thankfully, the food boom of the past few years has changed that, and you can now eat like the Freej aunties at a few places around town, from the atmospheric (if rather twee) Al Fanar at Dubai Festival City to the more upmarket Seven Sands at The Beach, JBR and the fusion-like Karak House in Downtown Dubai.

Our favourite, though, has to be Logma, which was among the first wave of restaurants to sprout up at Boxpark on Al Wasl Road. For the true old-Dubai experience, simply order a karak chai (or hard tea) and a plate of fries.

Fries first: they’re thin, crispy and begging to be slathered in mayonnaise. They come tossed in fried mint, which enhances the crispiness while cooling you down, and they’re just thick enough to engender a sense of satisfaction. Crucially, they won’t leave you feeling stuffed and repentant afterwards. This is helped somewhat by the Indian-style strong and milky tea. It comes served in a glass and is an energising brew that would find favour with anyone.

Details Logma is open from 8.30am to midnight. Call 800 56462

-K.J.F

22 Pole fit

While every regimen has its merits depending on the kind of body you want, if you’re bored of the treadmill, weights, Zumba or even CrossFit, give a new-age workout a shot.

I chose pole dancing and at the outset I will say that anyone who thinks it is easy – based on grungy scenes in the movies, if people are wondering about the dance technique at all – has never tested its waters. Not only does it require immense upper body strength, especially in the arms, shoulders and core, but also discipline to reap rewards.

I signed up for the introductory session at Pole Fit Dubai in the Marina. I was told categorically to not use any body lotion at least 10 hours prior to the class, and to be dressed in shorts. Once I started the class I knew why.

The metal poles can get slippery, and since you sweat, moisturized skin makes it impossible to stay on the pole or twirl around it. Moreover, climbing, spinning and holding a pose requires you to keep the pole between the high thighs so you don’t slip and you’re balanced with a nice posture. Naturally it pulls at your skin.

Starting the class with an intense warm-up, Sarah, the instructor, went on to make us do shoulder and bicep workouts. Holding the pole as high as possible, we lifted our bodies off the floor with no support from the legs – a version of pull ups on a vertical pole. Then we worked abs by lifting the knees together while holding the pole from the sides. Once this part of the class was over, we moved on to choreography.

Starting off with a basic spin, we hooked our legs on the pole – one move from the front, and another with a hook from the back -- and spin using as much momentum as possible. It wasn’t easy at first – I was holding on to the pole so tight I could barely cover half the spin, but it got easier as we progressed. A pirouette, and then came the real challenge – a pole sit (sitting cross-legged on the pole with no support except holding on with the thighs and core) gradually leading to a full plank and hold.

As I write this review, I can barely feel my arms, while my abs, legs and back are beginning to turn sore. Need I say more?

Details: Dh100 for an hour-long class. Take a friend along to get a 25 per cent discount, valid until August 31. Call 04 551 6911

— Tania Bhattacharya/Staff Writer

23 Fabulous fish

Maskouf, a big-bellied fish, is the centrepiece at Al Bait Al Baghdadi, an Iraqi restaurant off Deira’s Al Muteena Street. Pick your own fish, and watch it being prepared and charcoal-smoked. Best eaten with salt and vinegar or mango chutney.

Details: Open daily from 7am to 1.30pm. Call 04 273 7044

24 Sharp corners

Look beyond the pricey mall-based bespoke tailors for a sharp suit to trot out when temperatures drop. Whistle & Flute, tucked away in an alleyway behind Iranian Hospital, will both copy old favourites and cut new coats.

Details: open 9am to 1pm and 4pm to 8pm. Call 04 342 9229

25 Electric youth

We know it’s too hot to cycle around Dubai in the summer. But what if you had a motorised bike? Dutch designer Janpeter Eilander’s B4 Bikes are just the thing and are available from Simon Motorsport in Dubai Investment Park 2.

Details: B4-bikes.nl. Call 04 883 0851

26 Asia unlimited

If savoury fish cakes and kang kong gloriously stir-fried in garlic is your thing, head to Dapoer Kita, the Indonesian restaurant near the Karama fish market.

Details: Open 11am to 11pm on weekdays and 1pm to midnight on Fridays. Call 04 379 5501

27 Close to art

Passionate about art but can’t find quite the work you want to see on your walls for the next 20 years? Ring Deepa Bhatia and Rachael Brown of Capsule Arts, who connect collectors with artists looking for commissions.

Details: Capsulearts.com. Call 04 388 1799

28 Wave position

Launched  last year, Surf House Dubai is today a hip hangout for the city’s wave riders. But guess what it also has a yoga studio that’s worth a visit now that the surf’s down. Ashtanga yoga classes resume on Sunday.

Details: Near Umm Suqeim Park on Jumeirah Road. Call 04 321 1309

29 Bags of style

Gilded skulls, Star Wars Hello Kitty dolls and retro-inspired curiosities elegantly space out the racks of the Zoo Concept, which seems to specialise in things you didn’t know you wanted but simply must have. If your living room needs livening up or you’re looking for a gift for someone, such as a handbag in the shape of a rotary phone, you’re sure to find it at this chain.

Details: Open daily from 10am to 10pm. Call 04 553 0656

30 Fit in 45 minutes

With my gym nickname being Treadmill Sprinter, I couldn’t resist a group class with treadmill sessions and strength training. Fit 4:15 by Fitness First, an intensive burst of four 15-minute exercises of 15 minutes each, is a high-intensity interval training workout guaranteed to burn around 1,000 calories.

Alternating between cardio on the treadmill and resistance using dumb-bells, instructor Munaf takes the lead. “It is a mix of cardio and strength training. The interval training along with running makes it more enjoyable, and it allows the body to continue burning calories even after the workout,” he says. “It has an excess post exercise oxygen consumption effect.”

Treadmill speeds depend on your fitness level — 5-6km/h for walkers, 6-7kmph if you’re a jogger, 7-8kmph if you are a runner or 8-10km/h if you are an athlete. Choose a comfortable speed, for you will need the energy during the resistance training, as I realised. Inclines are also increased as you run. Six minutes in, I’m off the treadmill and ready for strength training.

The weights depend on how much you can lift, varying from 1-6kg or higher. I juggle between dumb-bell exercises — thrusters, dumbbell bent over rows, chest presses and sit-ups — and body weight sessions, including stepping lunges, burpee stepper jumps and more in six minutes before hitting the treadmill again. There’s a breather between sets for water, but it’s not for long. My workout ends with a stretching session.

Fit 4:15 shows how quality over quantity matters in fitness and with constant feedback from the instructor, it’s also personal. I felt the burn throughout the session, sweating even after the workout despite the air conditioning. I will be back for more.

Details: Get a guest pass for Dh100 for a class, or grab a voucher booklet of 12 vouchers for Dh849 at Fitness First Business Bay. Summer deals and discounts on until August 1. Join between August 16 and 22 to get a Fitness First and Adidas goody bag. Call 04 437 0576

— Krita Coelho/Staff Writer

31 Lankan odyssey

Those in the know say it’s the city’s best Sri Lankan restaurant. If you’ve got a craving for devilled fish or watalappan, Ayubowan is at Jumeirah Lakes Towers’ Lake Point Tower in Cluster N.

Details: Open from 7am to 11pm. Call 056 253 5455

32 Look sharp

Dutch expat Anneke Verkaik has sold quirky spectacles on Dhiyafah Road (now 2nd December Street) for more than 20 years at her shop, Anna by Top Vision Optics. Expect frames from the likes of Belgian designers Wim Somers and Patrick Hoet, better known as Theo, as well as designs in new and astonishing materials.

Details: Open from 10am to 8pm, Saturday to Thursday. Call 04 398 4888

33 Take it private

Iranian expatriate Ramin Salsali created Dubai’s first private museum in 2011, but it’s so private few people know of this centre for independent art collectors. The Invisible Landscape and Concrete Futures, a solo exhibition of architectural models and sculptures by the Palestinian artist Hazeem Harb, runs until August 31.

Details: Viewings by appointment only. Call 04 380 9600

34 Baby business

Maha Gorton, a mother of three, got started in business as many people do: by creating things she couldn’t find herself. Little Farasha is the result. The label offers handcrafted, Middle Eastern-inspired accessories such as dribble bibs and bags cut from the keffiyeh for trendy babies and glamorous mums.

Details: Little Farasha retails at Pitter Patter in The Dubai Mall. Open from 10am to 10pm. Call 04 325 3662

35 Cycle of life

Think you’ve got spinning down to an art? Then it’s time to try Souplesse, the latest French fitness craze that is as much about fluidity and grace as it is about fitness. Think of it as ballet on a bike.

Details: Souplesse Cycle runs classes at Dubai Motor City. Call 04 554 7346

36 Game on

Chances are your children already know and love Al Karama King Games, but even if you’re living in new Dubai, this store is worth driving down to the old city for. Buy, sell or rent video games, or seek advice on repairing consoles.

Details: At Karama Centre, open from 9.30am to 1.30pm and 4pm to 11pm from Saturday to Thursday. Call 04 336 4619

37 Quirky designs

The UAE’s love for all things beautiful continues with the launch of Cities, a design and lifestyle store that retails furniture, toys and gadgets from designers such as Tom Dixon and Georges Amatoury. Hazeem K. Al Jesr’s shop opened at the Galleria Mall on Al Wasl Road late last year. 

Details: Open 10am to 10pm and until midnight on Fridays. Call 04 343 4301

38 Export from Al Quoz

Tom & Serg’s new café on Shaikh Zayed Road, The Sum of Us, sits behind the new Sheraton and is similar in look and feel to the Al Quoz original and serves items that could be drawn from the original’s menu. It’s fine fare. Do try the locally roasted house blend from Raw Coffee.

Details: Open 8am to 10.30pm every day. Call 056 445 7526

39 Turning Japanese

Nippon Bottle Company at the Dusit Thani Dubai is a Japanese street-inspired bar decked out in neon signs, Edison bulbs and videos of Tokyo. Settle at the bar, order something to eat and a nice long beverage and chances are you might never want to leave.

Details: Open from 6pm to 3am. Call 04 357 0779

40 Decadent delights

Debauve & Gallais, exclusive chocolatiers to the French royals, is a 200-year-old brand that has found favour for its use of pure cocoa butter and an aversion to preservatives, additives and chemicals such as soy lecithin.

Details: Located in DIFC. Call 04 386 8000

41 Great escapes

For a brain-testing evening with friends, simply put them to the test, Houdini-style. With the Real Life Escape Game at Sunset Mall’s Challenge Chambers, people are forced to rely on their intellect, intuition and team skills to figure out how to escape a small room they’ve been locked in.

Details: From 10am to 10pm. Call 050 2

42 Cold comfort

Fifty-degree-Celsius temperatures often make you want to seek out the cold. Doing so at Cryo Health helps improve your well-being. The Emirates Tower-based facility claims to help combat injury, ageing and medical issues by subjecting the body to extreme cold (as low as -160 degrees Celsius) for a few minutes. It’s a favourite of Demi Moore, so why not give it a shot?

Details: Open 10am to 8pm. Call 04 351 8300

43 From the north

Jokes about the Great Leader aren’t allowed, but you can head over to Pyongyang Okryu-gwan in Deira and discover North Korean food for yourself.

Details: Open daily from 10.30am to midnight. Call 04 298 1589

44 Adrenaline rush

Tried everything cold? We bet you haven’t had a go at the Snow Bullet. This 16-metre-high zip line is the world’s first in sub-zero temperatures and crosses a distance of 150 metres. Guaranteed to cool you down while releasing plenty of endorphins.

Details: From Dh150 at Ski Dubai. Call 800 386

45 Yellow fever

OK so we’re a bit desperate as we reach the end of this self-imposed target, but did you know that Modhesh World has a sports zone? The kids can stay fit this summer.

Details: 9am to midnight, from Dh20. Call 600 555 559

— With input from M. Sen

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