The Chinese round table
Does Dubai have a China Town?
Johnny: Five thousand Chinese people live and work in International City. It’s certainly the biggest Chinese community in the UAE, and everything is Chinese-style here. Some old men come over to look after our babies for us, while both parents are at work. They only speak Chinese, but can still get by because there are Chinese supermarkets, clothes – even the barber shop is Chinese-owned. We all feel relaxed here.
Kuku: There are 3,000 Chinese companies in Nasr Square in Deira too, so the population there may be greater than those that work and live in International City.
What makes you stay in Dubai?
Johnny: Frankly speaking, we make money here, and Dubai is more ‘internationalised’ than the neighbouring emirates. And I like the air here – it’s clean. In our home town the air is quite dusty.
Wu: More Chinese are coming to live in Dubai all the time. It’s cheaper here than before.
Angie: International fashions and cosmetics are cheaper here.
Johnny: Also, more tourists are coming from China than ever before. On August 26 last year, the UAE and China signed an agreement to promote tourism between the two countries. Now all China’s travel services have pooled their resources, but they’re still too busy to accept everyone’s UAE travel applications. All flights here are currently fully booked.
Kuku: About 90 per cent of Chinese tourists wanted to come to Dubai for the Chinese New Year. Europe and China are too cold at the moment.
What do you miss from home?
Johnny: The food and the green trees and grasses.
Harrison: My family and friends. But I am Muslim and like the Islamic environment here. For example, I always take my clients to a restaurant called Abu Ali. One day I left Dhs200 in my chair. When I returned six months later the shisha man gave it back to me. That was great.
Johnny: I am a Buddhist, and I can’t find a temple here. I miss those.
Wu: I miss the food. There are only a few restaurants here that achieve the true Chinese taste. We get our ingredients sent over from China, although we source seafood from Oman and Fujairah.
How will you celebrate the new year in Dubai?
Wu: We watch Chinese Central TV. Every year it airs a four-hour performance at a big gala event. All China’s top stars appear. It makes everybody feel a bit homesick!
Wu: Southern people eat sticky cake – it symbolises high hopes for the new year.
Which are your favourite Chinese restaurants in Dubai?
Kuku: Splendid in International City is one of the best. It serves food from the south of China. Whenever the Chinese have a big gathering in Dubai they have it here.
Angie: They need private rooms in restaurants, because Chinese people don’t enjoy eating in open restaurants.
Do you take New Year’s Day off work?
Johnny: The majority don’t – they keep their businesses and shops open for customers. We’re all very much hoping to get the day off, though!
There will be traditional cuisine, decorations and 20 live cooking stations in Saffron at Atlantis. Dhs195 per person excluding drinks. February 13-28, lunch on February 14. (04 426 2626; www.atlantisthepalm.com)
Splendid is offering a 10-course family meal deal, including live seafood dishes. Dhs888 for eight people, from 4pm-8pm, February 13-14. International City (04 422 1258)
Dubai's best Chinese restaurants
China Sea: While you can always order from the menu at China Sea, we encourage you to ignore it and instead point to fresh ingredients in the well-packed shelves near the front.
Al Maktoum Street, Deira (04 295 9816)
2,000 Years: We sampled a dish of honey-drenched Chinese figs. They also do Shanghai specialities.
Next to Renaissance Dubai, Deira (04 271 2000)
Imperial Gardens: Head here with a Cantonese-speaking friend – as you sit down you’ll be offered both English and Chinese menus, the latter containing three times more dishes.
Capitol Hotel, Satwa (04 346 0111)
Spring Bamboo: Packed with both Chinese locals and tourists, the adventurous should try the braised frog hotpot.
Near Mövenpick Hotel, Oud Metha (04 335 5131)
Xiao Wei Yang Hotpot: Order a hotpot and you’re presented with two vats of bubbling oil (one spicy, one not) and asked to dunk ingredients of your choosing into the cauldrons.
Baniyas Road, Deira (04 221 7177)
The Chinese Business Community from the North East (Jiang Zhe, Guang Dong Are), is hosting a banquet on February 12 at DragonMart, during which 12,000 dumplings will be served. A Chinese team will do a dragon dance from 3pm. On February 14 the Spring Festival begins, featuring traditional activities and a fair. Chinese people will write couplets and lantern riddles. There will also be ancient music, songs and dances. (04 433 6200; www.dragonmart.ae)