Al Hadheerah

Head to the dunes for classy Arabic food 19 Reviews

Meal Deal
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An ‘Arabian Nights’ themed evening with live entertainment. Dhs1,500 (with soft drinks), Dhs1,700 (with house beverages) (Wednesday)

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Dubai may have one of the world’s most diverse and fast-emerging restaurant scenes, but where’s the Emirati food? We asked local food experts and followed up leads in our quest to find it. Like desert mirages, most of these rumours vanished on investigation. One recommendation took us to the beautiful Bastakiah Nights restaurant, which didn’t have a single Emirati dish on the menu, but instead served disappointing Lebanese and Iranian dishes of the sort you can find in budget cafés find from San Francisco to Sydney. We had to up our game.

Bab Al Shams is where our quest to find the real cooking of Arabia eventually led. We’d heard that the Al Hadheerah restaurant at this three year-old resort, from Dubai’s home-grown luxury hotel chain Jumeirah, takes real pride in its regional cooking. This proved to be an understatement (the only thing understated about Al Hadheerah). In Dubai it seems ‘more’ means ‘better’: more food, more entertainment, more lavish decoration – just much, much more than a simple meal.

Built to resemble a fortified Arabian desert village, the rustic-looking buildings have been designed to look centuries-old with their pre worn paths, meandering routes, and numerous nooks and crannies. The sandy courtyard is covered in Arabian carpets that look as if they might fly, and illuminated by Islamic stained-glass lanterns.

Choose a rooftop seat, a recessed carpeted pit or a table in front of the stage. The first assault on the senses is the lavish outdoor buffet with a dozen food counters serving scores of carefully created Arabic dishes, including – at last! – proper Emirati food.

Rice is a staple of traditional Emirati fare. The Emirates’ position as a trading port ensured ample supplies, so it’s fitting that there are properly spiced rice dishes here, not unlike the famous polows (aka pulaos, or pilafs) of neighbouring Iran. No expense was spared with these; one type was laden with red barberries and pine nuts, another with chunks of lamb, similar to a proper biriani from a Moghul court.

Whole lamb is another signature dish of the region, and here it’s cooked in the traditional way. A pit is filled with lit charcoal and a large, covered metal vessel is lowered in to slow-cook for six hours. Tender, flavour-packed hunks are torn off by hand. Another whole lamb dish was layered over rice strongly infused with saffron; no expense was spared.

There’s also a counter laden with local fish (grilled to order), skewers of whole chickens, hot breads fresh from the ovens, plenty of pulse-based dishes and salads, all enticingly fresh and scented or flavoured with the correct spice mixtures, such as za’atar (mainly comprising the local oregano).

There was still more – much more. Some of the local sweets look like a variant on doughnuts, but just taste these deep-fried confections: delicate and light, not too sweet. Plus nut baklavas made from ground almonds, delicately scented with rosewater or orangeflower blossom. This was just dinner. A band was already playing Arabic music on stage; a belly dancer joined them at 8.30pm and by the time the camel rides, Arabian horse displays and a tunic-twirling Sinbad appeared, we were wondering if we were hallucinating.

Of course, this is like a Disney version of Arabian Nights and you’re paying top dollar for it; but it’s done very slickly and isn’t too cheesy (though having your photo taken with a cymbal-clacking maniac and then being issued with a ticket to buy the photo can leave you feeling as if you’ve been mugged). We had a great time, but we’d also found the Emirati cooking we’d been seeking – disappointingly for us not in an affordable Bur Dubai caff or in someone’s home, but in a luxury resort in the desert.

Bill
Buffet for two people
Dhs790
[All-you-can-eat buffet costs Dhs395 Thu-Fri, Dhs375 Sun-Wed, Dhs275 for children over five years]
Bottle of mineral water Dhs16
Total (excluding service) Dhs806

By Guy Dimond

Time Out reviews restaurants anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.

Details

  • Location: Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa, Dubailand, Dubai
  • Tel: 04 809 6194
  • Travel: Next to Endurance Village
  • Website | Send mail

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Al Hadheerah On The Map

User reviews

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  • Users voted this restaurant most suitable for: Family friendly

User reviews:

Posted by: MR on 30 Jul ' 13 at 10:34
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Different experience, but this place is not for summer time and definitely not suitable for iftar in this heat. They have fans, which only blow the hot desert heat more intensely at you! Would love to go back in winter sometime.

Posted by: Janette on 23 May ' 12 at 04:57
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  • Best for: Romantic

I was on holiday from South Africa and was taken by my hosts. The ambiance was superb and the music and show was great, however, the music was loud. The food was authentic and enjoyable however, not 5 star standard. The downside was the photographer who was at the table continually when the performers mingled with the guests, and the whilte wine we ordered was not cold. Unforgivable on a hot night. As I was visiting Dubai I would not go back but it is a good experience for visitors.

Posted by: jane on 13 Mar ' 12 at 12:48
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Excellent place- great food and entertainment

Posted by: Mai on 15 Feb ' 12 at 04:18
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

i went to Al Hadeera last month as we had the "entertainer" coupons, but even with those we still felt we got ripped off!

there is a large selection food, but below standard ! a shame for a five star hotel... then the music and the dancers were just horrible and reflected the Arabic tradition so cheaply..i was ashamed as an Arab to be sitting there and seeing such a cheap show. the singers were literally screaming their heads off, not singing!

it was one of the worst exeriences i had in Dubai!

Posted by: Javid J on 16 Dec ' 11 at 18:09
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

Not worth 425 Dh (even with Ent. voucher)., unless you like loud arabic music.

Selection of food could be better for such a place, particularly for seafood.
Service is below average from waiters, though there was a guy who overlooked them, he was very attentive and nice.

Most brilliant piece of that place is when you drive back, make a stop on that dark road with no road lights. Get out of a car and watch the stars.

Posted by: Mohammad on 24 Jul ' 11 at 11:37
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

One of the best places to take visitors from outside Dubai. It's a very entertaining and fun place, even for kids. Food in buffets is usually horrible... This one I would for sure say is above average. The service was not very good... the staff make you feel that they hate the fact that they are stuck in the middle of the desert to service you.

Must look for some sort of a discount deal, otherwise paying 395 is way too much.

Posted by: Ahmed on 06 Feb ' 11 at 13:43
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Very expensive 395 Dirhams with this money u can feed a family for one full month in a poor country. The food is v nice and the restaurant decoration is good but the price is v high just for one time food this is a huge price they should be in 200 s because all what they have is not worthwhile for 395 in a single shot.

Posted by: M on 05 Jan ' 11 at 20:58
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  • Best for: Romantic
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Its one of the best restaurant ive ever been to.

the food the entertainment every thing was perfect to me

Posted by: Alice Short on 26 Sep ' 10 at 07:53
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

We went on Friday night as my parents were over and thought a weekend at Bab Al Shams would be lovely.

The service was utterly horiffic, we had to ask for more mineral water three times before getting any and resorted to getting our own. I don't object to getting my own at all but you need to decide if you are a self service buffet or a table service restaurant and stick to it.

The music was so loud that we could hardly hold a conversation adn thank god I had Entertainer vouchers because at 375 a head not including alcohol without them would definately not have been anywhere near value for money.

Overall I was incredible disappointed

Posted by: sorav on 19 Mar ' 10 at 12:46
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Best restaurant in town

Posted by: Nadia on 03 Dec ' 09 at 04:29
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

I went two times. The food was cold and far from good. The setting and the ambience are nice. But the music is way too loud, especially when you're there with small children.

Posted by: Kulsum on 30 Nov ' 09 at 21:24
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

No one to take care of the guest while we walk in!!! Can actually have a free meal and walk out... Food is col... no one to guide you through... complicated dishes.... and for all this paying so much... not worth it!

Posted by: Alex Christie on 25 Oct ' 09 at 05:03
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  • Best for: Romantic
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

Dinner on 24 October 2009. A unique experience (why aren't there more places like this?), especially good for first-time visitors to the Middle East, buffet selection is impressive but overall quality of the food not outstanding. Would have given them more stars if the entertainment had been a little less "in your face" too (all through dinner we could hardly talk to each other because of the sheer volume of the sound system used by the entertainers). Although a unique experience, the quality of the show plus food unfortunately did not justify the high price.

Posted by: Mark on 26 May ' 09 at 07:27
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Best restaurant I have ever been to food great, service friendly all together fun fun fun

Posted by: Jaber on 01 Apr ' 09 at 12:47
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  • Best for: Business lunch
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

Well, I did like the show. Especially the Arabian Caravan show with the horses, camels, etc.

But the food is what I was after, and the food was bad. Not bellow average, not bellow expectations, it was plain bad.

The variety was horrible, imagine when you are a person who does not like dates, and finds that the sweets buffet items are all (nearly) based on dates! I had to have Baskin Robins Ice Cream as my sweet!

The dishes are cold and you can get much better quality and taste in other restaurants in the town that would cost you WAY less than Al Hadheerah offers.

If you are after the show, try it out. If you are looking for good food, this is not the place.

Posted by: ahmed hussein on 01 Apr ' 09 at 10:14
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Posted by: ghazi saad on 01 Apr ' 09 at 10:13
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  • Best for: Romantic
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Posted by: talal nasralla on 01 Apr ' 09 at 10:12
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Posted by: Kolin Jamil on 01 Feb ' 09 at 12:07
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

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