Experiencing iftar, the act of sitting down as a community to eat at the end of a day of fasting is likely to be the highlight of Ramadan, whether you’re a local observing the fast or tourist experiencing the tradition for the first time. And Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital and cultural hub is the best place to immerse yourself in the custom. Throughout Ramadan dozens of restaurants, hotels and markets offer unique menus and hold events, and Abu Dhabi is seen at its buzzing best at night. Here’s our guide to goings-on in the city during the holy month.
If you go to one iftar in the capital this month, make it this one. The Westin’s Fairways restaurant is an oasis of calm in the city, overlooking the best golf course in town. Iftar will be sound-tracked by a traditional qanun player picking Arabic melodies as well as a buffet packed with delicacies from the region like saffron ice cream and tender lamb ouzi. From 9pm onwards, there’s free-flowing tea and coffee and shisha.
The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa; +971 2 616 9999
For something a little different, there’s iftar with a Japanese twist at famed Madrid Japanese restaurant 99 Sushi – and you won’t leave hungry. The ten delicious courses consist of delicacies like steak drizzled with teriyaki sauce and crisp prawn tempura. Leave room for the mochi ice cream balls for dessert. The restaurant will also serve suhoor and the restaurant looks out onto the marina, inside the glittering Galleria Mall.
The Galleria, Four Seasons hotel; +971 2 672 3333
For the first two weeks of Ramadan you can expect a series of cultural evenings at arts hub Manarat al Saadiyat. Called Ramadan Arcade, expect storytelling, music performances from contemporary and traditional Arab guitar musicians, lantern and claypot-making workshops as well as a souq where you can pick up some batik paintings. There’s also oud classes and puppet shows. The event goes on from 9pm-11.30pm.
Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Hwy, Saadiyat Island; +971 2 657 5800
When the sun goes down in Abu Dhabi, the city comes alive during Ramadan, and there’s no better view than at St Regis’ weekend Iftar in the Sky at the world’s highest suspended suite – 220m high with a view of the Corniche – from sunset to 10pm throughout the holy month. You can also keep your feet on terra firma at their Terrace on the Corniche, with Arabian dishes, live cooking demos and tables in their garden terrace.
Nation Tower, Corniche Rd; +971 2 694 4444
With its beachy setting, Saadiyat Rotana is celebrating Ramadan with a special iftar in Sim Sim restaurant. It’s a great opportunity to try foods such as luqaimat and fresh Arabic bread. You’ll get the full Arabian experience – an oud player will be tickling the strings after prayer time. You can also buy sustainable crafts from local charity Al Ghadeer, the proceeds of which go towards empowering underprivileged women.
Saadiyat Island; +971 2 697 0000
This neon-lit Japanese restaurant is one of the chicest in town, with a spectacular view of super yachts weaving in and out of the harbour, and clean white colour palette. When the sun goes down, dine on their light menu of fluffy sushi rolls, tender tuna maki and tongue-tingling wasabi. The restaurant will be offering special plates during Ramadan and is open until 1am, as well as non-alcoholic cocktails, all soundtracked to cool lounge music.
Souk Qaryat Al Beri; +971 2 558 1117
The open kitchen restaurant Kuzbara is focus of Ramadan celebrations at this business-focused hotel. There are cuisines from all over the world but during Ramadan you can expect to find live cooking demos at iftar time. Velocity Sports Bar and Lounge is one of the latest joints in the city to stay open – until 3am on most nights.
Shk Rashid Bin Saeed St; +971 2 304 7777
This Mediterranean seafood restaurant is nestled in the Eastern mangroves, with outdoor terrace and view of twisted waterways and sparkling city in the distance. For the duration of the holy month, the restaurant is plating up a special hot and cold mezze buffet with a Lebanese twist for the evening iftar meal, alongside their regular a la carte menu and special freshly squeezed Ramadan juices.
Eastern Mangroves Promenade. Dhafeer Street; +971 2 441 8244
You’d be forgiven you’re in the middle of a Bedouin tribe’s desert camp as the Four Season’s ballroom is transformed into an Arabian tent for the duration of Ramadan. There are iftar and suhoor packages all throughout the month, as well as shisha pipe. Dishes include date cake, chicken tagine or katayef.
Known for its jaw-dropping cakes and desserts, café Chateau Blanc is putting on an “around the world” themed iftar menu. There are three options to choose from, with Middle Eastern, continental or Asian menus. From 6-9pm every night dishes like wakame salad, lentil soup and smoked beef brisket are served along with a welcome drink of golden saffron sahlab.
3rd Street, Villa B03; +971 2 626 2651
View of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque from the Rosewood Abu Dhabi
Loca is a UAE favourite for Mexican cuisine and drinks. Mexican chef Juan Flores serves a range of well- known Mexican dishes such as fajitas and burritos along with more traditional Mexican fare you might not have tried before – such as handmade corn-husk tamales. During the holy month, it’ll keep its doors open during the day – a great option if you’re visiting the city as a non-Muslim. But come iftar time, you can feast on multicoloured plates of red chilli chicken broth and cheese-stuffed enchiladas dripping with tomatillo sauce.
Al Maryah Island; +971 2 582 3639