For a long time, including the years during which I was living there, the images that my mind paired with Dubai, involved sandy dunes and dusty rooftops, a burning sun, gigantic glass buildings, luxury sport cars on endless highways, the sound of drums and prayers, a cultural melting-pot, fancy yachts and shades of gold, all in a cloudy and fragrant shisha halo. Sounds cliché? Well, that is how it is like 🙂 but that is only the background, to which, according to our own experience, more personal images would add up. Dubai was my residence for 3 years before moving to Bangkok, and I just flew back there for the first time after relocating. Before the trip, I was very curious to see if my impressions of the city would change, because I know that for the past few years: I have changed.
Call it youth or soul searching, but controversially, in this country where rules deter, I partied much, I wasted a lot (myself, time, money) and luckily one day I woke up and decided not to find excuses to numb myself, going from a less bling and blinding, to a more meaningful life! This blog post is to shed light on places that helped me go through this transition plus some newer additions to the Dubai greener lifestyle, as recommended by my “local” besties there.
There is no moral to the story…. but if there was one, it would be: no matter where you live, you have the choice to create the environment that will help you grow in the best positive and nurturing way.
“Dubai’s 1st & Premiere Center for Holistic Healing, Mental Well-Being & Personal Growth”.
Before moving on to the food-related venues, this is one place I wanted to talk about. Illuminations is a wellness, yoga & meditation center, but above all, a great meeting point between holistic practitioners and novices, a place where I always felt good and welcome to practice and build inner strength.
Cafés & Restaurants
As options are many, I wanted to highlight particular venues per main areas of Dubai:
1 – The Beach, JBR: Almaz by Momo
Even without advertising a “healthy” cuisine, Middle-eastern food, when using fresh ingredients, is a great option to load on some superfood and vegetables: fattoush salad, hummus, falafel, tabouleh… and you got yourself a vegan feast there!
Plus, when we arrive in a country, the first food we want to experience is local food, right?
Well, Almaz by Momo is in fact a Northern African restaurant, so you will find Moroccan dishes such as pastilla or mechoui, but also, a wide variety of Middle-eastern food with my favorite staples on the picture below.
2 – Dubai Marina: Baker & Spice
A very European-style deli, offering products from the farms and markets of the UAE. Mainly organic, I never doubted on the freshness of their products, nor their creativity in their innovative recipes where east meets west!
You can create your own plate combining home-made salads displayed in big salad bowls, freshly baked tarts, breads, pastries and more. They have several branches but I always found that one super relaxing on a week-end. Go down for a healthy breakfast, sitting by their breezy outdoor tables facing the marina, with a good cup of coffee. A great way to start the day.
3 – Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT): The Fit Food Kitchen
If you are in Dubai for tourism purposes, you might not spend much time in JLT (as they call it: Dubai Marina’s “ugly sister”) but I lived there a couple of months and I have to say that their options in F&B were a lot more to my liking than the ones on Marina (which I found for the most very touristic and mainstream).
The Fit Food Kitchen was one place I was glad to discover. Their motto includes: “a healthier body” and living “a happier life”! Their menu includes healthy breakfasts, salads, wraps, burgers and main courses. Great after a work-out or run around the Lakes.
4- The Greens: Arrows & Sparrows
In this residential community (indeed very green!), you will find some peace & quiet. If you are a golfer, you might hang out around there at the Address Montgomerie Hotel & Golf, and why not stopping by for lunch in the neighbourhood? Arrows & Sparrows is a casual concept, that serves healthy all-day breakfast (açai bowls, avocado on toast, smoothie bowls…) as well as lunch and dinner, with a kid-friendly menu. They have great baristas and a passion to cook.
5 – The Palm: The Retreat Palm Dubai (M Gallery)
My health-freak friend (she knows who she is!) highly recommended me this place so you could go with your eyes closed!
This hotel is part of the M Gallery by Sofitel “Serenity” signature hotel collection, and Dubai’s first holistic wellbeing resort. Unlike most hotels in the region, you won’t be greeted with arabic coffee and dates, but a much healthier beverage and on a top: a welcoming scent.
They have several F&B options, and besides, I think the whole trip to the Palm is a relaxing journey you don’t want to miss during your travel in the UAE.
6 – Al Quoz: Wild & The Moon
Wild & The Moon is already one of my favorite spots in Paris, and they are in Dubai too (yay!). It is the perfect concept to cater for the visitors and regulars of this Dubai artsy district called Alserkal Avenue. An industrial area in Al Quoz turned into a cool hang-out with art galleries and hipster cafes in the heart of Dubai.
You will find there some delicious hot beverages, organic cold-pressed juices and healthy, gluten-free food and snacks.
7 – Umm Suqueim: The Surf Café
For the past years, I have to say that Dubai has picked up a very chilled vibe which was missing. Dubai beach front has indeed seen some cool & trendy cafés pop out, and The Surf Café is certainly one of the first you should check out. Breakfast, ceviches, seafood…etc. This cafe offers fresh and satisfying meals in a laid-back yet polished environment.
8 – Jumeirah 1: Comptoir 102
If you are sensitive to design and style, Comptoir 102 will probably seduce you at first sight! It is a concept store with edgy furniture, stylish jewellery and more, and in terms of F&B, they promote “real food for every day life”. They serve sugar-free, dairy-free, raw, vegan and gluten free options to bring harmony between body, soul and the environment.
9 – Dubai International Financial District (DIFC) : The Açai Spot
The very popular amazonian açai berry has become more and more available worldwide including in Dubai. At the Açai Spot, it is the star on the menu! You can pick from their already conceived options or create your own, but also, for something savoury, they have several options such as a kale salad or avocado sandwich. If you are passing by this business district for meetings or just to visit, that is a perfect pit stop to recharge.
10 – Downtown: The Social House
If shopping is part of your agenda while in Dubai, chances are you will be passing by the Dubai Mall. Although massive shopping malls tend to get me dizzy and are not my favorite options for a relaxing meal, there is one place that I quite liked (and close to the exit leading to the famous fountains) called the Social House.
They have a great combination of Asian and Western dishes, with pleasant service.
11 – Sheikh Zayed Road: Organic Foods & Café
Besides the store that you don’t want to miss (it is THE organic store reference in the UAE), they also have options for quick & easy refreshments and food on the go or for week-end brunches.
In their stores, besides food, they also carry a wide range of household products, cosmetics, skin care, etc. The best place to shop in Dubai!
12 – Order in?
Some days we just want to stay in and if you are looking for something healthy, the options below are my best references:
Bringing the world optimal wellness through good, wholesome and healthy food. Specialized in meal plans (and watching your calories intake) but you can order per single meals too.
Simple with fresh, good quality ingredients, specialized in office food delivery, executive lunches and corporate catering. You also find their packaged meals (I love their salads) in Spinneys and Waitrose supermakets.
Various sizes, predesigned selection or create your own, Just Salad intially started in New York and has made its way to the Dubai healthy scene years ago. The plus: they have re-usable bowls to fight against plastic waste.
Zaatar w Zeit
Widely available across the UAE, this joint specialises in middle-eastern casual & fresh food, perfect for a breakfast, lunch or later meal on the go. Their labneh: I found it excellent!