Dubai: a land of sand, concrete, and glass, right? To the first-time visitor, it may seem that way, but venture deeper into the heart of this bustling metropolis and you’ll find some hidden oases in this desert city — peaceful restaurants and cafes perfect for a breakfast with friends or a lazy afternoon with the family. We’ve put together a list of our three favorites. Pay a visit to all of them–just don’t tell anyone we told you.
This natural oasis in Dubai is just five minutes from the glittering towers of downtown. While the drive may make you feel like you’re leaving the Burj Khalifa way behind (there’s nothing but sand for the most part), the trip is well worth it. Turn into the Al Barari villa complex, and the tarmac highway and sandy backdrop become a maze of gently meandering roads lined with trees, flowering bushes, and small shrubs. Follow the signs to The Farm nestled among the greenery; later, you can admire that green landscape from inside the airy, bright interior, whose clean lines and light palette remind you of a posh beach house. The dishes are organic, including corn-fed chicken flavored with lemon and rosemary – which kids will love ordering from the iPad menus. Opt for a table on the terrace and let the gentle breeze bring you back to life, while the sight and sound of dragonflies skimming over the adjacent stream send you into a happy haze.
Arabian Tea House
Dubai’s historic Bastakiya quarter is home to narrow cobblestone streets lined with traditional wind-tower houses. Embrace the tranquil silence here at the Arabian Tea House, which creates a traditional Arabian social setting in the courtyard of one of these dwellings. Cross the threshold of the wooden door, and the sounds of the street behind you are drowned out by the calm of the courtyard ahead. Take a seat on one of the comfy cushioned chairs shaded by the enormous tree in the courtyard’s centre before taking to the menu. Don’t like tea? Don’t worry. There are plenty of other beverage choices, including their famous lime-mint juice. Sit back and chat with the fam, or simply people-watch for the afternoon. If the hunger pangs kick in, the kitchen serves up delicious salads in very generous portions. Don’t forget to stop and admire the handicrafts and art on display here – you may be tempted to take some home with you.
If you’re looking for an oasis in Dubai with some live entertainment, then pay a visit to Dubai Garden Centre in the outwardly unassuming neighborhood of Al Quoz. The bright green bushes and colourful flowers on sale form a gorgeously vivid backdrop to the venue’s Roseleaf Cafe. The decor is retro-cool (mismatched cups and saucers, lace tablecloths), which reflects the simple fare available, including sandwiches and great coffee. Saving room for some homemade sweets is a must. Visit on a weekend and you’re likely to catch performances by local musicians. And if you need reading material to go with that coffee, Roseleaf Cafe also houses a great little bookshop. Open a great book, and you’ll be inside an oasis within an oasis within an oasis.