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.
The most exclusive mall in Abu Dhabi is celebrating in style this Ramadan. Activities include henna painting, Arabian coffee, falconry displays inside the mall and a calligrapher setting up residence for the duration for guests to appreciate traditional arts and crafts from the region. There’ll also be a special photography exhibition on Sheikh Zayed.
For the first two weeks of Ramadan you can expect a series of cultural evenings at arts hub Manarat al Sadiyat. Expect storytelling, a “conceptual iftar” that blends Emirati and Arabian cuisine with dishes like lentil soup with crispy rice balls as well as a souq where you can pick up some batik paintings. There’s also oud classes and puppet shows, and the event goes on until 11.30pm.
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.
It’s only been open since March, but already brand new five-star hotel 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.
This neon-lit Japanese restaurant is one of the chicest in town, with a spectacular view of superyachts 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, as well as non-alcoholic cocktails, all soundtracked to cool lounge music.
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. On the roof, Grill@25 has a Suhour set menu and hookah from 8pm-2am.
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.
The ethical New York burger chain that sources 60 per cent organic ingredients is putting a Ramadan Burger on the menu. Mouth-watering slow-cooked lamb is paired with date relish and feta in a brioche bun. There’s also complimentary Arabic coffee with a date at sunset.
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.
This casual dining joint in The Galleria mall has an exclusive sunset menu until 3am during Ramadan. Dishes include a quinoa hot pot, charcoal tandoor grills and group menu deals exclusively for the holy month, also offers delivery to enjoy with family at home.
Iftar takes a Lebanese twist at Sambusek – styled on Beirut fine-dining. Throughout Ramadan there’s an evening buffet with dishes like dates and grilled meats and fish as well as a Suhoor (pre-dawn) menu available, which you can enjoy on the hotel’s sunset terrace.
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.