The first meal of the day during Ramadan is inextricably tied to the setting of the sun, a process that, here in the UAE, seems to be all too brief but nonetheless dazzling – it’s over in a flash of orange behind a skyscraper, or a ball of fire melting into the sea.
One of the best places in Dubai to be at that moment has to be around Al Khail Road, set far enough back to have a panoramic overlook of the Downtown and Shaikh Zayed Road skyline as it turns from silver to orange to pink. There, you’ll find a hotel where you can enjoy that great view, before heading inside to an iftar that’s perfect for families.
The Marriott Al Jaddaf is serving a wide-ranging iftar in its The Marketplace restaurant, with a focus on Arabic dishes that will make most palates jump for joy. It’s a buffet-style iftar but as the restaurant is of a reasonable size, you won’t find yourself carrying plates across miles of dining room – everything is close to hand, from the live soup, saj and ouzi stations to the cold mezze and salad selection.
Soups include the classic lentil, and also a hearty chicken broth, fortified with tiny pasta, which made a soothing change before delving into the standards of Arabic cuisine. The baba ghanoush is fresh, tangy and wonderfully smoky, while rice and lentils is a spiced forkful to start your stomach on its iftar journey. There’s no fusion here, just freshly made dishes bursting with flavour.
It’s the extensive main courses where Marketplace’s iftar comes into its own. Executive chef Essam Nabhan has crafted a spread of hot dishes to showcase Arabic cuisine, including Emirati offerings such as harees and saloona. The former is a thick, lamb and wheat porridge laced with butter; the latter a chicken stew with a tomato broth. For lovers of meat, there are exceptionally juicy chicken kebabs (shish taouk), lamb chops and Friday’s favourite – the golden garlic-and-coriander-fragrant chicken wings.
Staff are on hand to quickly clear the evidence of those finger-licking wings so that you can move onto the sweets – we love the creatively plated double-decker dishes – dessert – jalebis, Arabic fritters, gulab jamuns – on the bottom, syrup and sauces above.
Iftar is Dh165 per person (Dh80 for children 6 to 12 years) from sunset to 9pm. Children below 6 dine for free. Call 04 317 7777.