Our city’s waterways are bursting with life – and it’s not just cargo and luxury yachts making waves. We look at the different dhow companies vying for your dirhams
Dhows have been built in Dubai for thousands of years, but in the last two decades their purpose has evolved from one of trading and fishing to encompass more recreational pursuits. Watching annual races such as the Al Ghaffal Traditional 60ft Dhow Race (which returns to Dubai International Marine Club on Saturday May 18) is just one way to enjoy a slice of the emirate’s rich maritime heritage. Another is to head out on one of the city’s dozens of dhow dinner cruises, which combine sightseeing with traditional Arabic entertainment and sprawling buffet dinners. But how to choose? Though there are many stunning yachts and more modern boats lining the banks, we decided to put the focus on traditional vessels, and have walked the length of the Creek and Dubai Marina to bring you the ultimate dhow cruise directory.
Dhs100 and under
Large windows on the lower deck allow guests to enjoy the view from the dining room. Head outdoors for photo opportunities.
From Dhs75 per person. Al Ghubaiba Tours, Bur Dubai, www.alghubaibatours.com (04 359 9970).
Cleopatra Floating Restaurant
A haven of kitsch ancient Egyptian paraphernalia, from pixelated depictions of the female pharaoh to death masks in the dining room. As well as tanoura dancing (Egyptian folk dance) and a magician, there are several puppet and costume shows to enchant and bemuse guests. From
Dhs100 per person. Cleopatra Dhow Cruise, www.cleopatradhowcruise.com (052 920 2233).
Private parties can charter the Falcon Oasis lunch cruise dhow. The minimum group size is between 20 and 25 people, and if their own hype is to be believed, the kebab platter on board is ‘the best’.
Dhs100 per person (minimum 20 passengers). Bur Dubai, Falcon Oasis, www.falconoasis.com (04 351 0103).
Rikks Floating Restaurant LLC
They have 4 dhows on the creek.
3206 – Churchill Executive Towers, Burj Khalifa Area, www.rikks.net(04 458 6664)
Best for vegetarian diners
Rainbow Star Floating Restaurant
Magic, tanoura dancing and henna tattooing await on this cruise, which has a vegetarian focus (though meat dishes are also available).
From Dhs100 per person. Rainbow Hotel, Bur Dubai, www.rainbowhotel.ae (04 357 2172).
Floating Majlis, Tour Dubai I, Tour Dubai II, Al Kirsh (Shark) and Arabian Discoverer offer tour options including a one-hour guided tour of the Creek, a two-hour dinner cruise and a romantic cruise for couples.
Tours from Dhs45, dinner cruises Dhs225. Bur Dubai and Deira, www.tour-dubai.com (04 336 8407).
Best for families
Universal Floating Restaurant
Over a period of two hours, watch a tanoura show, magic show and, curiously, a fighting show. Guests are also invited to have a henna tattoo as a souvenir of the experience.
Dhs80 per person. Universal Travel & Tours, Bur Dubai, www.gulfholidays.net (04 344 6766).
Dhs200 and under
Al Falaj Floating Restaurant
This renovated boat features the classic dhow hull, with a contemporary, glass-clad dining setup. The effect is smart, and coupled with commentary on the passing sights, it will appeal to holidaymakers. The neighbouring Amazon, in traditional dhow form, offers the same experience.
Dhs200 per person. Amazon Tours, Bur Dubai (04 326 6651).
Al Khaleej Dhow
Don’t fear the suggestion of a ‘dancing horse show’ – they’re only costumes. There’s also tanoura dancing and a buffet.
Dhs120 per person. Rayna Tours, Deira, www.raynatours.com (04 297 2626).
Al Shater Floating Restaurant
As well as unlimited soft drinks and a buffet dinner, there’s also a live singer on board, plus pick-up and drop-off service if needed.
Creek Princess and Palace on Sea
These long, narrow dhows are operated by Saluja Tours & Cruises and both have air-conditioned indoor seating as well as outdoor decks up top, where seating is available right up to the bow.
Dhs125 per person. Bur Dubai (04 379 8184).
Relax in the comfort of the air-conditioned lower deck or up on the open-air Majlis deck. The ‘Taste of Arabia’ package includes unlimited soft drinks and an Arabic and International buffet.
Dhs125 per person. Universal Travels & Tours Bur Dubai, www.universaltoursdubai.com (04 344 4311).
Ramee Cruise II
Big but not quite beautiful, this dhow features a buffet dinner catered by the four-star Regent Palace Hotel.
From Dhs120 per person. Ramee Hotels, Bur Dubai, www.rameehotels.com (04 396 3888).
Rawdha Cruises Liner
This small, simple vessel boasts none of the grandeur of some of the dinner cruise dhows, but offers an efficient, reasonably-priced way to see all the main sights along the Creek.
From Dhs150 for one hour for two people, Dhs250 for up to ten passengers. Deira (050 475 6655).
Best for a quick trip
This rustic, no-frills dhow offers hire by the hour for sightseers, and the option of longer excursions for day trippers.
From Dhs150 per hour for up to three people. Desert Ship Rentals, Bur Dubai (055 152 6143).
Oasis Palm Floating Restaurant
A large boat with relatively small windows, Oasis Palm serves up an Arabic and international buffet, magic show, and pick-up and drop-off service.
Dhs150 per person. Oasis Palm Tourism, Bur Dubai, www.opdubai.com (04 296 8889).
Best for private parties
Dhows operated by this company include Al Rehal, Al Tayyba and Al Shabab, all varying in size. As well as shared cruises, you can also book a private charter, and the packages available include DJ hire, belly dancers and international buffets.
From Dhs200 for two people. Star Queen Tourism, Bur Dubai (04 355 9424).
Sun & Sky Floating Restaurant
Bearing a striking red canopy over the top deck, this vessel is easily identifiable. Fill your face with a buffet dinner, be entertained by a magic show and DJ, marvel at tanoura dancing and get a henna tattoo before you leave.
Pick-up and drop-off is included in the price. Dhs120 per person. Sun & Sky Tourism & Travel, Bur Dubai, www.sunandskytravels.com (04 351 6300).
More than Dhs200
Al Faris Floating Restaurant
Operated by the same company as the Al Falaj and Amazon, the Al Faris is a much larger vessel, with the capacity to host up to 130 guests. On dinner cruises, there’s music and tanoura dancing instead of commentary.
Dhs350 per person. Bur Dubai (04 326 6651).
This intimate vessel offers cruises for up to ten passengers, taking them on an hour-long jaunt up and down the creek for sightseeing and photo opportunities.
Dhs300 per hour. Bur Dubai (050 725 1256).
A large vessel with cream canopies over the top deck and sweeping wooden staircases down to the bow, Lama runs a two-hour buffet cruise catered by Mövenpick Dubai Deira, plus tanoura dancing.
Dhs250 per person. Bur Dubai, www.lamatours.com (800 5262).
Most romantic setting
Rustar Floating Restaurant
Claiming to be one of the world’s largest floating restaurants, this vessel is so spacious there’s even room for a rock waterfall. A red carpet receives arriving guests, who also have access to a paid bar.
Lunch cruise Dhs220 (adults), Dhs150 (children); dinner cruise Dhs295 (adults), Dhs200 (children). Bur Dubai, www.rustarcruise.com (04 395 7941).
Sultan Sea Cruise
Cruising the creek since 2004, Sultan claims to be one of the largest floating restaurants in the Middle East. Inside, it looks to be among the smartest. Expect dates and Arabic coffee on arrival, a ‘lavish’ buffet and a performance by a traditional tanoura dancer.
Dhs220 (adults), Dhs120 (kids). Bur Dubai, www.sultandhowcruise.com (04 379 9919).
Aisha Floating Restaurant
Cruise through the marina and around Palm Jumeirah. A buffet dinner is served and entertainment is provided by a professional belly dancer.
Dhs170 per person. Deep Sea Adventure, Dubai Marina West, www.deepseaadventure.net (04 297 2511).
Best for private parties
This 120ft dhow runs two-hour dinner cruises throughout the week with a 30-minute belly dancing show.
Dhs130 per person. Relax Dubai, Dubai Marina West, (behind Lotus Hotel Apartments & Spa) www.dhowcruise.net (050 924 0550).
Best for sightseeing
Pull up a bean bag and enjoy a no fuss open-air tour around Dubai Marina, the coast in front of JBR and the Palm Jumeirah. This tour is great if you’ve got time to kill or want to pack your visitors off for an hour.
Dhs60 per person. Bristol Yacht Charters, Dubai Marina Walk (04 430 9941).
Vessels Sheikha and Tour Dubai III run hour-long guided tours around the marina and lagoon near the Palm Jumeirah, and two-hour buffet cruises (which include a licensed bar), complete with belly dancing for entertainment.
Tour Dhs65, dinner cruise from Dhs250. Between Dubai Marina Mall and Dubai Marina Yacht Club, www.tour-dubai.com (04 336 8407).
Take in the sights of New Dubai on a tour that cruises through the marina and Palm waters. The price includes not just any tanoura show, but a ‘mystical’ one at that, while stronger drinks are available from the bar.
Dhs140 per person. Universal Travel & Tours, Dubai Marina West, www.gulfholidays.net (04 344 6766).
Venus Floating Restaurant
One of the few vessels to have a fully-licensed bar on board (though you will have to pay extra for drinks), Venus serves up the usual buffet dinner and unlimited soft drinks within the package price. There’s also a Tanoura dance show.
Dhs180 per person. Dubai Marina West, venuscruises.com (04 357 2200).