Deira Crawl – Al Rigga Street | Al Shami Restaurant and Qwaider Al Nabulsi.

A personal shame to say that it has been years since I last did a Deira Crawl. What’s a Deira crawl you ask? It’s my lingo of a walk through the streets of Old Dubai where the neon lights shine bright enough to compete with the streets lights along with the drool worthy images plastered inches above the various signboards of the Deira eateries.

As weekend arrives, so does the need to instantly dine out. It’s a Dubai lifestyle that comes with a (undisclosed) premium price package where one can either dine at a lavish weekend brunch or do what I do (occasionally) – experience a Quasis, Deira, Karama, Bur Dubai Satwa.. crawl.

In a surprisingly general consensus of craving Arabic cuisine, my family and I ventured forth to treat our taste buds to the deliciousness that Deira has to offer.

The parking fairy was on our side on a Friday night. Can you imagine that? As Friday being a weekend as well as a free parking day which the whole of Dubai celebrates with an excuse to drink more and increase shawarma sales thereafter. Don’t believe me? Head down to Deira and notice the thriving shawarma joints in person.

Our first stop for the night was at the institutional Al Shami Restaurant opened since 1987. You must know that there is a branch in Sharjah but our semi-spoilt lifestyle ever since we were young, was to find every and any excuse to visit Dubai and thus; till this day – we’d drive to Dubai despite options-branches-cuisines in Sharjah.

The two mighty shawarma reels is probably one of the reasons of Al Shami’s attraction through the years as the marinated meat resembles the thighs of a well fed cow.

Moving on, Al Shami for 8pm was nearly full – mainly the “Deira al fresco” dining surrounded by pot plans which bordered the adjacent Mandi place (which is also famous, more on a future post – no promises) as the weather was settling to the cooler side considering end of October.

The crowded al fresco meant indoor seating in a brightly lit, semi air-condition Al Shami. The menu strictly consists of Arabic favorites of grilled meat, chicken, fish and so on with a few select and humors “western dishes option” and hey, the chicken on machine is a good laugh as well.

When you’ve lived in UAE for years as my family and I have, Arabic fare is nothing new to us; in fact, I know less about Indian food. Okay, I kid. I know both well and therefore, the ease of ordering what I considering the holy trio – hummus with meat, moutabel and fattoush. Of course, one would argue, what about babaganoush? Yes, it can be added but those are my favorites while the rest remain steady contenders.

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The glistening olive oil in those deceiving plates which give you an impression of a never ending hummus was wiped clean and made us full before the mains could hit the table. The order is nearly always accompanied with freshly baked pita bread and a platter of fresh uncut vegetables – complimentary!

You’d think that grilling meat would take time, right? Wrong. With the influx of customers that the restaurant is lucky enough to entertain; the waiting time is mere minutes and hard to realize when your face is stuffed with hummus dipped bread and pitted olive in the other hand.

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Rustic plating of grilled meat slightly charred to perfection retaining its meaty juices is placed under Arabic bread which softens from the heat and released juices creating its own flavor and a fight at the table for a bite of the bread. Did I mention fresh juice is cheap? AED10 per glass – freshly squeezed nectar. I’d go back just for juice, I swear.

The chicken ordered was soft and gave a sudden impression of pre – boiled. Hard to interpret but who cares as the taste was overbearing the ridiculous thoughts.

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After billing and tipping – you must always tip, a late realization, but tip you must. We walked our way on the paved paths of Deira noticing various groups of joggers, eaters, lazy wanders, lost tourists, friendly yet suspicious faces, those that lay down with the wooden planks on their back surrounded by the great old Deira trees and watch the night sky shimmer all along the way as we crossed roads to enter Qwaider Al Nabulsi.

The sweet shop had its saccharine on display just as diamonds at a jewelry shop with the sugary syrup heating in the corner to be poured over the cuts of Arabic sweets.

A plate of kunafa mix was ordered which contained slices each of a soft and rough kunafa. The cheesy goodness was devoured; committing what I think was a cardinal sin for those squats I did just hours before the indulgence.

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Warbat phyllo pastry crushed and crumbled as I forked it dearly to split the center and expose the cheesy and creamy insides. What a treat and what a fantastic night.

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Deira Crawl is an indulgent way to create lifetime memories either with a lonesome discovery walk or with family and friends to accompany your path. While you are at it, cheap shopping finds is a plus as I type this wearing my AED20 shoes which was mistaken for an AED400 shoes (shh, did not correct). Hush now and crawl away…

Al Shami Restaurant
Al Rigga, Deira
04 2695558, 04 2697030
Qwaider Al Nabulsi
Al Rigga, Deira
04 2275559, 04 2283339

Fret not, if you are in search for a offical tour that would guide you and educate you on all that you need to know, make sure you contact Frying Pan Adventures – Dubai Food and Culture Tours

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