I f you’ve been taking a meander around (or abra across) Dubai Creek in the past few months, you’ll have noticed the rapidly growly and eye-catching new area that is Al Seef. Found upon the shores of the Bur Dubai side of Dubai Creek, the brand-new destination from property developers Meraas is set to be packed with shops and restaurants. We’re here to tell you a little more about what’s happening.
Al Seef is an area of Dubai steeped in history, with a huge amount of Emirati culture. The first phase of the Meraas project opened late last year, and as with other locations from the holding company – including The Beach, BoxPark, City Walk and new beachside location La Mer – its unmistakably modern, shipping-container style design links them all.
This latest attraction leans heavily on the contemporary elements of life in Dubai in 2018, but in equal measure, reflects and pays homage to the city that once was. In the early 20th century, life in Dubai centered round the Creek. It still separates Dubai’s two primary districts – Deira and Bur Dubai – and was the emirate’s principal trading hub. The Creek homed the only port or harbour in the city, and was hugely important in developing Dubai’s pearl diving industry, which helped the economy to flourish.
Meraas’ Al Seef is looking to bring together to contemporary elements of Dubai today, and marry them with historical nostalgia and influences from the mid-late 1900s. The developer is set to “put a modern façade on one of the city’s more historic and traditional areas”, with a huge development offering dining, retail, leisure and tourism attractions, plus a whole lot more.
The 1.8 km-long strip is split into two very distinct regions. There’s the modern site that has the contemporary Meraas hallmarks you’re familiar with (those shipping container buildings) – while the other side is modelled on Old Dubai, with narrow corridors, market stall traders and buildings that have been created with an “already old” finish. There’s deliberate rust on street-side pillar boxes or electrical outlets, and air conditioning units, while modern and efficient, are made to look as if they’ve been there since the ’60s.
At the moment, the first phase is gradually building on its September 2017 opening, and the site in its current form is very much a dining and retail destination in its own right. With a wealth of restaurants, cafés, diners, jewellery stores and various other retail outlets, plus outdoor spaces for markets and public events, there’s already plenty to see.
Restaurants now open
This Lebanese bar and restaurant calls itself the “best of both worlds” because not only can you sit and while away a few hours with some top grub, but you can also do a spot of retail therapy while you’re there.
Open Sun-Thu 9am-2am; Fri-Sat 9am-3am, (058 896 1961).
Al Hamidieh is making some bold claims. “Famous for preparing the best Arabic dishes in UAE”, it says. We’re looking forward to some classic dishes, traditional recipes and a relaxed vibe here.
Open Sun-Thu 10am-2am; Fri-Sat 10am-2am (056 105 8521).
This popular and colourful US ice cream chain has set up shop in Al Seef’s old quarter, offering its usual sweet-tooth treats. You’ll have to keep an eye out for it, though, its shop-front is demi-disguised to suit its locale, which gives this branch a unique look compared to the rest of the modern franchise across the city.
Open daily, 10am-midnight (054 438 6590).
Probably the flagship (no pun intended) dining experience at Al Seef is Bateaux Dubai. This established Creek cruise – it’s been running for more than ten years – is the ultimate in water dining in the city and offers packages inclusive of soft drinks (Dhs415) or house beverages (Dhs520). You’ll get a four-course meal during your two-and-a-half hour cruise. Similar to the boats you’ll find gliding along the Seine – it was built by French designers – this is a unique way to spend an evening and you’ll get fantastic panoramic views of Dubai’s Old Town including the souks. It’s well worth a visit for tourists and residents.
Open daily, 8.30pm-11pm, boarding at 8pm (04 814 5553).
Because there’s one thing we’ll never tire of out here, and that’s heat-quelling ice cream. This Italian chain serves up some tasty once-a-week treats, milkshakes and more.
Open daily, 10am-midnight (04 321 9011).
If continental European sweets aren’t quite what you’re in the mood for, perhaps this Indian quick eats and candies will be? There are plenty of savoury dishes too at Bikanervala, which was set up in Delhi. Grab shakes, kulfis, chaats, curries, breads, pizzas and sandwiches.
Open daily, 10am-midnight (043 885 553).
Home to freshly made grub with local flavours and a menu inspired by local traditions fused with contemporary tastes and trends, Dukkan dishes up, you guessed it, lots of burgers, fries, chicken and more.
Open Sun-Wed 10am-11.30pm; Thu-Sat 10am-2am (no number).
If you’re not after a shake, burger or fries head to Hello Fruits for a health kick instead. This healthy living café concept majors in big shakes, fruit cocktail, fruit protein shakes and “power smoothies” including peanut maca strawberry, zucchini protein shakes and banana chocolate shakes.
Open daily, 10am-10pm (04 302 0806).
This popular eatery specialises in traditional tastes of Egypt, North Africa and the Middle East. Mixed grills, salads, mezze, fresh juices and more are accompanied by views over the promenade and Dubai Creek.
Open daily, 8am-1am (04 358 5822).
Kava & Chai
Speciality teas and coffees are the name of the game at this traditional Arabic hangout. It has trendy, open-plan décor that serves as a great makeshift office for a day away from the hustle and bustle. And where better to settle down to some work than with a cup of chai near the Creek.
Open daily 8am-1am (055 399 5355).
Kona Grill’s arrival at Al Seef marks the first expansion of this US chain outside of the Americas. There are 45 restaurants in the US and the company prides itself on a varied menu. This is reflected here, with the menu boasting a bit everything, including a load of sushi, meats from the grill. Its rooftop terrace peeks out over the Creek for a relaxing vibe while inside there’s some trendy décor.
Open daily 11am-midnight (04 379 5662).
La Marquise claims to provide “the best experience in Arabic café culture”, and you’ll find a tonne of traditional dishes, including a range of appetisers such as sambousek, falafel and baba ganoush, coupled with contemporary grub from around the world. Think omelettes, pancakes, salads, soups, eggs and more. Perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner then.
Open daily 10am-midnight (04 343 3328).
If you’re yet to try London Dairy’s cookies and cream flavoured ice cream then you need to head to the chain’s new store – you won’t be disappointed. Other flavours like caramel biscuit and strawberry cheesecake are well worth a chomp, too.
Open daily 10am-midnight (04 343 3328).
Now this is one of the cafés and restaurants in Al Seef’s old town that boasts a mega view. Found on the first floor, chow down on some Lebanese and Armenian food while taking in the entire view of Dubai Creek and the many passing dhows, vessels and water taxis.
Open daily 10am-1am (04 396 6644).
You might easily miss this place because of its charmingly innocuous store front, but it has one of the most surprisingly serene spots just round back. You can practically tip your toes in the Creek from the decking area of this little café – so it’s a great choice for some quiet refreshment.
Open daily 9am-12am (04 341 1313).
One of the top shawarma spots in Dubai, Shawerme has just opened up in Al Seef, so grab a drink to refresh and munch away at a whopping great chicken or lamb shawarma made with freshly baked bread wraps.
Open daily noon-3am (04 223 3292).
Sul Fiume has a comfortable terrace area where you can enjoy some traditional Arabic dishes to accompany your flavour.
Open daily, 9am-midnight (04 342 0100).
One of the staples at Meraas destinations, The Brass is a coffee shop that specialises in top quality roasts and artisanal preparation while providing an environment for working out of the office, catching up with the team, hanging out with your friends in the evening or getting an early morning coffee to perk up your day. Stick to your standard morning mocha paired with a range of tasty baked goods, or try something completely different in the form of one of The Brass’ signature blends including lavender honey or cinnamon lattes. As the sun goes down the music mellows to create a really chilled night time ambience. There’s also an “east meets west” theme, which is reflected in the range of Arabic and Turkish coffees and sandwiches on offer.
Open daily, 8am-midnight, www.thebrass.ae.
The Stuffed Burger
While you can readily access and leave Al Seef by taxi, metro and Dubai Water Taxi, if you’d prefer to roll out then head to The Stuffed Burger for a whopping great hunk of beef stuffed with cheese (inside the patty, thing of dreams) and slapped in a bun. That’s where you’ll find us…
Open daily, 10am-midnight (600 545 541).
Times of Arabia
A fine-dining restaurant offering traditional Arabic grub, and one that prides itself on its authentic hospitality, grills, kebabs and mezzes. If you don’t find us filling our faces with stuffed burgers, we’re likely to be at Times of Arabia ordering manakish (stuffed with cheese, naturally).
Open daily, 10am-midnight (04 358 8861).
Restaurants and hotels coming soon
The second phase of Al Seef will bring with it tonnes of exciting, and ambitious, plans for the area. Starting off, principally, with the three hotels which are due to land at the site in the coming weeks and months ahead.
You’ll find two of them in the modern end of Al Seef, with Jumeirah coming on board to lend a touch of hospitality expertise. The two Zabeel House hotels will offer 200 rooms and 150 rooms, and are planned to be a more traveller-friendly option.
A new hotel in the old town will be in keeping with hotels and inns of the area. There will be a central reception area, of course, but rooms will be located on the floors above shop fronts, and guests will have to navigate their way through narrow streets to find their dorm.
“By combining traditional and modern design elements, the destination highlights the role the Creek has played, and continues to play, in the evolution of Dubai, and reinforces the city’s position as a leading international tourism destination by enriching the experience for visitors and creating new economic opportunities for local businesses,” said His Excellency Abdulla Al Habbai, Group Chairman of Meraas, upon the opening of Al Seef’s first phase.
Planned to join the site’s third hotel will be a floating market, an authentic souk based on the designs of those from the 1950s, plus even more shops, dining options and attractions such as the below…
If you like your burgers fresh from the grill, wrapped in foil, slathered in cheese and bacon and unmistakably, gloriously indulgent, then the city’s latest branch of Five Guys coming to Al Seef soon should be on your list of things to watch out for. Already a popular burger chain in the city, with outlets in Dubai Mall, Dubai Marina Mall and at The Beach, opposite JBR, we’re sure this US-export will be a massive hit when it lands at Al Seef – especially with its prime location right on the waterfront.
Whether you’re pounding the pathways of Al Seef, heading from shop to shop, or moseying on through the old town just doing a bit of window shopping, you’ll soon be able to take a second to rest your feet and take in a quiet bite at this little café – lovely.
This Palestinian restaurant says it wants to transport its guests back to the old city of Nablus. Grab a traditional kunafa (which, if you’ve not had one, is a glorious sweet combination of pastry and cheese) and chill out in the alleyways of old town Al Seef.
This fresh Thai hotspot is, according to the Meraas website, coming to Al Seef soon. We imagine, judging by its name, that we can enjoy some classic dishes – probably including pad Thai – coupled with gorgeous views out over Dubai Creek.
This restaurant, which specialises in flatbread, brings a top Italian dish of the same name to the fore. Have it with some traditional Italian ingredients (think basil, tomatoes, mozzarella et al), fresh veggies, meats and even chocolate. If you love pizza, you’ll love this and it’s one that’s on our go-to list.
This chilled-out eatery is serving up some Mediterranean bites, if you’re after a relaxing munch by the river. Expect Italian classics paired with fresh seafood.
This is from the same guys behind sandwich specialists The Carving Board, which arrived in City Walk by way of the States late last year. Expect all-day dining and international dishes with a friendly feel.
Yum Yum Tree
There’s a bit of everything on offer at Yum Yum Tree – pizza, pasta, Chinese food, stuff for the kids – you name it, and you’ll probably find some variation of it.
Shops now open
Of course Al Seef isn’t just about the food, there are some cool retailers likely to catch your eye as you’re wandering along the promenade, such as this on-trend sunglasses store. Ateliee Optics says it’s all about fashion and sporty designs. So, if you forgot your sunnies for a day at Al Seef, fear not, there’s an excellent excuse to buy some new ones.
Open daily, 10am-10pm (055 506 6152).
Eter Story (Jealous Gallery)
Now this is something of a gem on the Al Seef strip. A luxury Arabic perfume store awaits passers-by, so stop on in and get yourself some real traditionalscents and flavours.
Open daily, 10am-10pm (800 637 227).
If you happen to live nearby in and around the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood of Bur Dubai, you might want to pop in for a bit of grocery shopping at this mini market found in the old end of Al Seef.
Open daily, 8.30am-12am (04 221 8743).
If you’re planning a gift for a special occasion (hint, Valentine’s is fast approaching), it’s time to hotfoot it over to this store for some luxury watches and jewellery that’ll make it look like you had it planned all along. Nice one.
Open daily 10am-10pm (058 218 1977).
Jovoy Rare Perfumes
Equally, you could say it with perfume instead. Jovoy Rare Perfumes will see that you find the perfect gift, and an usual one at that, seeing as it specialises in lesser-found scents, as the name suggests.
Open daily, 10am-10pm (800 637 227).
Everything you need to treat your various ailments will be found on the aisles of this apothecary. Get your creams, ointments and lotions here.
Open daily, 10am-10pm (800 637227).
Shops coming soon
Aref Abdul Raheem
There are few more elegant or formal pieces of dress for men of the region than the kandora – considered to be local dress of the Gulf area. Find any type of dishdasha, thawl or kandora here, at this classy dress store.
Mona Beauty Centre
Time for a bit of a refresh and unwind? Mona Beauty Centre offers a range of spa and beauty treatments designed to make look and feel like a brand-new person, a perfect way to cool down during the warmer months.
If you’re looking for a new guitar, here’s your place. How about some new headphones, speakers or other gear for your hobby? That too. The new Yamaha shop opening at Al Seef soon will have pretty much everything you need for your at home studio, or to kit out your home cinema.