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Smoke Rings

Exploring Dubai in search of just the right spot for a spot of shisha

In Dubai the ancient custom of shisha has become so ubiquitous that it is now illegal to smoke one of these water pipes while driving. But while some locals may be accustomed to a higher concentration of nicotine, the version of shisha found in restaurants and touristy places usually have a much lower tobacco content.

And so, if you’re looking for some cultural downtime in Dubai, it might be worthwhile to add shisha to your list. There are several shisha flavors that one can choose to puff on, ranging from fruit to mint. Though they’re commonly available at several venues in the city, there are a few that 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 long into the evening.

360 Degrees

It rises from the sea — well not quite literally. A pathway from Jumeirah Beach Hotel continues over the water and ends at a glass-walled circular room with rooftop seating. This party destination is said to have one of the best views in the city – with Dubai on one side and the waters of the Arabian Gulf on the other side. The most desirable seats, of course, are on the rooftop lounge deck. But when it gets too hot or too cold, the plush sofa seating inside by the windows is good enough. The indoor restaurant, The NineZero, has a pan-Asian à la carte menu, but the setting is more like a 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 flavorful cocktail in the other.

Jumeirah Beach Hotel; open daily 5:00 PM – 3:00 AM; tel: +971 55 500 8518;

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 can sit back with a chilled beer and watch sports on the big screen. The lower level stretches out to a large al fresco seating area. Typical of a beach bar, the DJ’s catchy tunes might just 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. Every now and then Barasti has themed nights, some that involve dressing up in costume, while others mean a change in decor and themed cocktails. During the day you 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 11:00 AM – 1:30 AM, Thursday-Friday until 3:00 AM; tel: +971 4 318 1313;

Bridgewater Tavern

Aptly described as an “edgy sports bar with a gastro-dive feel, serving nouveau drinking food,” this is where you can catch the latest game on a big screen, grab a few chilled beers and even have a full meal. Its flavored shisha are served on the terrace overlooking Dubai’s water canal. Chairs are lined along the wooden bar and sofa seating with low tables is available for those who just want to watch the games, which are shown on screens on both floors of the bar.  Happy hours are daily between 4:00 PM and 7:00 PM 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 4:00 PM – 2:00 AM; tel: +971 4 414 0000;


Post work, the atmosphere of Shades is relaxed and casual where you can instantly kick back and switch into party mode. Sink into one of those poolside cane chairs and order a stiff drink with a shisha and some nibbles. 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. After 10 o’clock this place turns into a laid-back bar. It is known to be more crowded on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On weekdays there is live entertainment. During the daytime, you can sunbathe on one of the lounge chairs and unwind to catchy tunes.

The Address Dubai Marina; open daily 9:00 AM – 1:00 AM (shisha is served 6:00 PM onward); tel: +971 4 436 7777; 

The Courtyards

Here’s a place you’re guaranteed to experience typical Emirati culture in a traditional setting. The outdoor seating is a cluster of open tent-like structures with low sofa seating inside. The coffee table is a large steel plate – reminiscent of shared platters – balanced on a wooden stand. Right in the middle of this space, amid sand-colored walls and green palm trees, there is an ornate water feature with an opulent fountain. Arabic nuances such as lamps and the traditional coffee jug add to the feel of The Courtyards. You’re encouraged to spend a leisurely evening, starting with flavorful 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 since it’s a formal setting, flip-flops are definitely not on the best dressed list.

One&Only Royal Mirage; open daily 7:00 AM – 1:00 AM; tel: +971 4 399 9999;