The UAE newspaper, Gulf News reported last month that it is now illegal to smoke shisha (hookah) while driving. Disobedient drivers will be fined DHS 800/₹13,955. That’s how popular shisha is in Dubai. While some locals may be habituated to smoking water pipes with high nicotine content, the version of shisha found in restaurants and touristy places are virtually harmless with negligible tobacco content.
And so, if you’re looking for some cultural downtime in Dubai, it would be a good idea to add shisha to your list. There are several shisha flavours that one can choose to puff on, ranging from fruit to mint. Though they’re commonly available at several F&B venues of the city, there are a few who offer more than just a shisha experience. Here is a list of five places where one can grab a drink and enjoy a good meal while sampling shisha to last a long evening.
It rises from the sea — well not quite literally though. A pathway from Jumeirah Beach Hotel continues over the sea and ends at an anchored glass-walled circular room with rooftop seating. This party destination is known to have one of the best views of Dubai on one side and waters of the Arabian Gulf on the other side. The most desirable seats, of course, are at the lounge deck on the roof; but when it gets too hot or too cold, the plush sofa seating inside, by the windows are good enough. The indoor restaurant, The NineZero has a pan-Asian à la carte food menu, but the setting is more like a lounge bar and nightclub. Sunset is the best time to visit because the views are stunning in the afterglow; especially if you have a shisha in one hand and a flavoursome cocktail in the other.
- Jumeirah Beach Hotel; open daily 5pm-3am; tel: +971 55 500 8518; jumeirah.com.
Barasti Beach Bar
This is the place one would want to visit for music, drinks, bar snacks and shisha. It is spread across two levels — the top floor is where you have the screen where you can watch sports with a chilled beer. The lower level stretches to a large al fresco seating. Typical to a beach bar, catchy tunes from the DJ’s console just might have you dancing barefoot on the sand. This venue is perfect for a lazy beach day against the backdrop of Dubai Marina, or for a night out partying. When the sun sets, the space turns into a lively lounge bar. Every now and then Barasti has themed nights, some involve you dressing up in costume, others mean a change in decor and themed cocktails. In the day one can borrow floats and tubes for, as the bar puts it, “a good dose of vitamin sea”.
- Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina; open Saturday-Wednesday 11am-1:30am, Thursday-Friday until 3am; tel: +971 4 318 1313; barastibeach.com.
It aptly describes itself as an “edgy sports bar with a gastro-dive feel, serving nouveau drinking food”. This is where one can catch the latest game on a big screen, grab a few chilled beers and even have a full meal. Its flavoured shisha are served on the terrace that overlooks Dubai’s water canal. There are chairs lined along the wooden bar, and sofa seats with low tables for those who just want to catch a game. Matches are broadcast on screens on both floors of the bar. Every Tuesday, there is a special offer of AED 95/₹1,656 per person for chicken wings and two beers — a perfect post-work setting for one when travelling alone for business. Happy Hours are daily between 4pm and 7pm on selected beverages. For those who are here just for the food, there are several dining tables so you can eat comfortably.
- JW Marriott Marquis; open daily 4pm-2am; tel: +971 4 414 0000; jwmarriottmarquisdubailife.com
Post work, one can sink into one of those poolside cane chairs and order a stiff drink with a shisha and some nibbles. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual where you can instantly kick back and switch into party mode, against the Marina skyline. A calm blue light from the bling signage over the bar blankets this rooftop space, with additional lighting at tables from blue-lit silicon cubes. Unfortunately the infinity pool is off-limits when the sun goes down. But it’s just as lively, much later into the night. Post 10pm this place turns into a laid-back lounge bar. It is known to be more crowded on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On weekdays there is live entertainment. When the sun shines bright, you can sunbathe on one of the lounge chairs, and unwind to catchy tunes.
- The Address Dubai Marina; open daily 9am-1am (shisha is served 6pm onward); tel: +971 4 436 7777; theaddress.com.
This is where you’re guaranteed to experience typical Emirati culture in a traditional setting. The outdoor seating has numerous open tent-like structures within which is low sofa seating. The coffee table is a large steel plate — significant of communal platters — balanced on a wooden stand. Right in the middle of this space, among sand-coloured walls and green palm trees, there is an ornate waterbody with an opulent fountain. Arabic nuances such as lamps and the traditional coffee jug add to the ethnic feel of The Courtyards. You’re encouraged to drag a leisurely evening here, starting with flavoursome shisha and the elaborate hot and cold mezzeh platters. Visiting here is almost like being entertained in an affluent Arab host’s living room. Respecting local culture and tradition, the dress code insists on keeping your shoulders and knees covered. And being a formal setting, it requests you not to wear flip-flops.
- One&Only Royal Mirage; open daily 7am-1am; tel: +971 4 399 9999; oneandonlyresorts.com.