Bordered by Jumeirah and Bur Dubai, this busy neighbourhood is home to one of Dubai’s most important landmarks. Sitting at the end of the main 2nd December Street (formerly Diyafah Street), Union House played an important role in the establishment of the United Arab Emirates. Home to a sizeable population of expats, Satwa is a bustling low-rise neighbourhood with bags of street life, from popular roadside eateries to the groups of fearless street cats who linger underneath tables to catch scraps.
An old stalwart on the bustling 2nd December Street scene, Al Mallah is the place to go for simple Arabic fast food. Skip the mezze, which are much better elsewhere (try Sidra across the road), and munch on their winning shawarmas and falafel sandwiches.
2nd December Street (04 398 4723).
Al Satwa Road
Take a stroll down this noisy, chaotic street and peruse a huge range of fabrics, shop after tiny shop of Indian and Pakistani sweets, bargain homewares and clothes.
Check out Raoof Sweet Restaurant (04 344 3184) for delicious halwa, gulab jamun and jalebi.
Hidden away down a side alley off Al Satwa Road, this tailor has been in business for 30 years and commands a loyal customer base. For best results, bring in the item you want copied, or detailed photographs to discuss with the tailors. You’ll need to bring your own fabric, but there are plenty of shops nearby selling all manner of colours and materials.
Off Al Satwa Road (04 344 7563).
This licensed Italian eatery in the Chelsea (formerly Rydges) Plaza hotel offers a cosy, cottage-like ambience for a relaxed evening meal. On the menu you’ll find all the usual pastas and pizzas, but it’s also unexpectedly great value, and offers bags more character than many of the city’s newer pizzerias.
Chelsea Plaza Hotel, 2nd December Street (04 398 2222).
Pan De Manila
This Filipino bakery serves up freshly-baked sweets from the Philippines, such as chocolate crinkles, pandesal, ensaymada, hopia, pineapple pie and rolled cake Brazo de Mercedes.
Al Mankhool Road, across from Al Hana Centre (056 799 5722).
An essential stop on any visitor or resident’s list of things to do in Satwa (and indeed the whole of Dubai) this long-standing Pakistani restaurant was a local favourite long before legions of celebrity chefs dropped by to spout about the authentic, off-the-beaten-path cuisine. The path to Ravi’s is in fact very well beaten, and for good reason. Chow down on dal packed with ginger, no-fuss tandoori chicken on the bone and piles of fresh crisp-edged breads.
Opposite Co-operative Society, near Satwa roundabout (04 331 5353).
• Up until December 2011, 2nd December Street – Satwa’s arterial main road – was called Al Diyafah Street. The name was changed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktourm, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, to mark UAE National Day, which falls on December 2.
• Satwa is home to Union House, the site of the UAE’s (and one of the world’s) largest flags, which is raised on a 120-metre flag pole and visible from several kilometres. Union House is a place of historical significance in Dubai, where on December 2 1971, the treaty to create the United Arab Emirates was signed.
• Satwa is the subject of Dubai-based filmmaker Mahmoud Kaabour’s critically acclaimed Satwa Stories, a spoken photo-novella made in 2008. It highlighted the area’s characters and best secrets ahead of what was – at that time – an impending demolition of the neighbourhood to make way for a new development called Jumeirah Garden City.
View Deira guide
View Karama guide
View Bur Dubai guide