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I have to go to Dubai and Oman soon. I don't like eating in hotel restaurants because they are overly expensive and not representative of the country you're in.

 
In Dubai, it may be that hotel and resort restaurants are actually representative of the country you are in.

I stumbled across this rather opinionated piece from yesterday: "Why I'd Rather Die Than Visit Dubai" by Sathnam Sanghera on thetimes.co.uk

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Ah, Dubai...if Wall Street only realized...

"How Dubai's Fantasy Skyline Almost Tumbled To Earth" by Steve Rose on theguardian.com

There has been virtually no publicity for how its developing implosion will affect the many European and Asian banks who have played a major role in funding it or the North American banks also involved. Rooms at the new Atlantis resort were literally $44 a night recently: "Atlantis Slashes Room Rates as Visitors Stay Away" by Suzanne Fenton on gulfnews.com

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I am currently on my first trip to the Emirates. I am staying with my sister in Ras al-Khaimah, about an hour north of Dubai. We spent the day in Dubai Friday. While we BY NO MEANS scratched the surface, what I saw were chain restaurants, from all countries, and little else. My sister, who goes frequently, agrees, by the way. Tim Hortons? Check. Ping Pong Dim Sum? Check. Nando's? Check. Yo sushi? Check. Rosa Mexicano? Check. If you are in the areas near Dubai Mall (the largest in the world), the Burj Kalifa, etc. you are going to be hard-pressed to find anything "local." We are going back next weekend, and after googling and getting advice we settled on a reservation at Rivington, a British chain, because it offers a view of the fountain right in from of the Burj. Sad commentary on what's available. Of course, if you want to shell out big bucks, there are some outposts of major famous restaurants, but that doesn't interest either of us. However, I did force a stop at Eataly in the Dubai Mall. We had a very good Margherita pizza and a delicious spinach salad. Honestly, it was the best choice we saw.

We drove around the Palm, to see the Atlantis. Not sure why, on a blistering day, we felt the need to see a massive chain hotel, but I was curious about the whole Palm development and I am glad I witnessed it. All the places there are catering to tourists and locals who want a resort lifestyle. Nothing is authentic or local except the relentless heat!

Here at Ras al-Khaimah (RAK), authentic is easier to find. But it's a mix of cultures and cuisines that represents the nationalities of the workers here, and perhaps a smattering of "middle eastern" cuisine. Driving around RAK we see tons of Indian restaurants, and lots of local "cafeterias" serving combinations of Indian and Chinese. There are many roasted chicken places.

The local food, made to serve the local workers, has been delicious and cheap. We had a giant plate of falafel with bread and a plate of raw and pickled vegetables for the equivalent of about $2.75. We picked up Indian one night, and an order of dal and an order of chili chicken was less than $4 and made three meals. We stopped at a tiny storefront where Afghan guys make flat bread on a wood fire. A giant round of bread, enough for snacking and to accompany a meal, about fifty cents. But the Lebanese we had was from a chain (Sea and See) near our apartment was good, but not stellar. It was also more expensive, though still cheap by big city standards. Food at the local marina, which can serve booze because it is a "private club," was dismal. Bad fried bar food. Something like Sysco clearly thrives here.

Yesterday we drove to Oman (a sentence I never imagined I'd write!). Once you cross from RAK into Oman the landscape changes dramatically, with a winding and steep road on the side of mountains overlooking the sea. We went about 40 kilometers to our destination (a tourist boat) and I was on the lookout for a quaint seafood restaurant or waterfront cafe on the way. Nope. Just not happening. We saw fishing boats and fishing villages but no restaurants. The boat captain told us all the fish go to Dubai. Nothing stays in Oman.

Dubai is some weird mash-up of Dallas new-found oil weath and sprawl, Shanghai breathtaking, sky-scraping architecture and Vegas stimuli excess. It's all huge, newly created, flashy, expensive and lacking a soul. And, it's blast-furnace hot.

I am looking forward to seeing Dubai at a more relaxed pace next weekend. We're staying two nights and using taxis, so we can explore more areas without worrying about navigation and parking. I am in awe of my sister's calm and confident driving, even though maps and navigation programs are often inaccurate because things change so fast and people drive like maniacs. If I have any Rockwell-worthy food experiences, I will report.

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Tony Bourdain did an episode there in No Reservations which, IIRC, covered the high as well as low spots; the latter are to be found in the older traditional parts of town ("Old Dubai", around "the Creek")  and in areas frequented by the imported laborers, which may be pretty much the same thing.  Here is one link:

"34 Things To Do in Old Town Dubai" by Oliver Robinson on timeoutdubai.com

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Tony Bourdain did an episode there in No Reservations which, IIRC, covered the high as well as low spots; the latter are to be found in the older traditional parts of town ("Old Dubai", around "the Creek")  and in areas frequented by the imported laborers, which may be pretty much the same thing.  Here is one link:

"34 Things To Do in Old Town Dubai" by Oliver Robinson on timeoutdubai.com

I did check that out, and was intrigued...those places are not terribly woman friendly, and eating outside in this heat is not appealing to me. We are going to be near the creek...but the creek is pretty gritty, from what I understand. I am not afraid of gritty, mind you...just not eager to be ogled while I eat, sweating the whole time!

Today we had coconut rava (hope that is spelled correctly) in an Indian vegetarian restaurant in RAK, in a part of town that is frequented mostly by locals. My sister, having lived here 5 years, knows many good places off the beaten path. Good stuff, less than $5 for both of us.

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I was in Dubai in 2015.  I don't know that I posted anything here because we really ate at all chain restaurants.  We had just gotten back from India, all of us had been or were sick and we were all craving American or safe foods.  We rented a really nice hotel suite/apt from hotels.com that was right around the corner from the Marina Mall and made american breakfasts (Marina View I think).  We ate at the lebanese restaurant at the Marina Mall, forget the name [Burj al-Hammam DR].  The next couple days we ate at Shake Shack, Hakassan, Doner Kebab Dubai Marina and Counter Burger.  

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Mom and I just got back from four days in Dubai, which was a resting stop from our bigger trip to Bali.  We stayed at the Habtoor Grand (I didn't know upon booking it that it is essentially a very nice Marriott, but as a note, American hotel chain, filled with booze, so we didn't really need to stop at Duty Free to pick up booze at the airport.  (The duty free section in the airport has a nice selection of twist off cap wine, as well as, pretty much anything else you want).  While we were there, it was definitely hot- between 98-104 degrees.  We didn't frequent the beach much from our hotel because it really was a trek through our hotel out to the beach, although the water is bath water warm and very nice.  The pools at our hotel were nice, so we got into a pattern of tan maintenance, pool relaxing for a few hours watching people parachute in at Skydive Dubai in the morning, at heat of the day, we then went and did some shopping indoors, then did activities at night.  The staff at our hotel were very nice and accommodating.  We found a couple roaches in our room in Mom's bag, which we highly suspect likely traveled with us from luggage storage in Bali all day, or from the airport. But the staff fumigated our room and luggage and apologized to us (which really wasn't necessary, we told them we were worried they came from our previous hotels luggage storage).  Anyway, it did scare us half to death, but it wasn't at all on them.  They also brought us roses and cake and all this stuff, for my Mom's birthday, which was really sweet.  They would bring you a bucket of ice for wine, etc.  And they were super quick to respond to any call (can't find the light switch for..., can't find the hair dryer, etc.).  We absolutely adored this hotel.  The people we met at the pool were really nice too.  We had lunch there one day, and the ONE complaint is that they need cloches for the outdoor grill at the pool because the birds are fierce.  They had a surprisingly good chicken quesadilla at the pool grill. 

The first day we got in super early and our room wasn't ready at 6:00 am, so we laid on the beach loungers, tanned and napped until restaurants opened down the beach for breakfast.  We walked down the beach and ate at Eggspectations (which is horribly ironic as Mom and I go to the Annapolis one a lot because it's by our hairdresser).   BUT this one was like 5 times better than the Annapolis one and makes me want to send the owner of that one to Dubai to see how it is done.  The food and menu were much better.  We walked back up by all the camels and etc.  That night we went to the Dubai Mall so we could see the fountain show and do the top of the Burj Khalifa.  We ate at Wafi Gourmet, so we could eat pita while watching the fountain.  It was good, we had a mixed grill to share and greek salad with hommos.  Mom had never had the pita that comes to your table all puffed up (I can't believe I have never taken her to Lebanese Taverna or Zaytinya) and loved that.  She liked seeing the fountain show.  We got the fancy top of the Burj Khalifa tickets by accident as the others were sold out, but that was a lot of fun, and it is so cool to see the fountain show from up top.  The next evening we did a safari tour.  I did a cheaper one of these before, but we did the more expensive Platinum Heritage tour so we could do the tour in vintage land rovers.  This was perfect (Mom isn't really a dune bashing type) we got to see gazelle and antelopes in the wildlife preserve, a falconry demonstration, camel rides, henna, bread making, etc.  The food was much better than the other safari I did before.  And the land rovers were super cool, Matt would have loved that.  It was worth a bit more money.  It was Ramadan so they didn't do all the dances, I wish Mom could have seen those.  We also did the Mall of the Emirates one evening and enjoyed that, we ate at another Middle Eastern restaurant and Mom had roasted lamb and it was very good, I had kabobs that were good.  I can eat this type of food over and over again, and Mom really liked it, so we just kept on our trend.  Mall of the Emirates was more overwhelming for some reason than the Dubai Mall, I had much more of a lost sense there.  We wanted to walk the Marina one evening, but it was just so gosh darn hot and Mom just wasn't up for that.  She had a grand time shopping in some of the Arabic brand stores.  She tried to convince the manager of this store called Choices that they needed a DC location, she was telling them that older American women appreciated the covered up demur looks in their store, which were incredibly fashionable as much as Muslim women.  And everyone was so nice to her, we had fun in the dressing room talking with women about different looks they were trying on and things Mom was trying on.  Mom had never been to a Muslim majority country before, and she was very surprised to find what she called a space age city in the Middle East.  I am not sure what she expected, but she really had a nice time.  Mom and I were amused at all us foreigners going through the security panels to eat in the food court at one of the malls during Ramadan. Anyway, she had a great birthday trip, and Dubai I think is a good pit stop to Bali or some other destinations to break up the trip.  We came back with super full suitcases, so obviously we had a good time there. 

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