REVIEW: Suhoor at Majlis Al Safina
There is a conviviality and sense of community at Ramadan in Dubai that brings the country together in a way that perhaps only New Year’s Eve can rival.
Whether Muslim or not, evenings throughout the Holy Month provide a genuine spirit of togetherness, where groups of friends, family and work colleagues can share food, shisha and several hands of cards in a warm yet understated atmosphere of celebration.
Despite its scale, the Majlis Al-Safinah, located in the large ship-like Safinah Ballroom docked in front of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, manages to provide the ideal setting for all of the above, with a deftly achieved blend of refinement and informality.
We arrived for Suhoor, which kick-starts here at 9.30pm, and judging by the queues for the valet for those departing Iftar, it is obviously somewhere that is getting it right.
We were led to a table amid the grand, golden-beige interior, complete with wall-to-wall carpeting, palm trees and trellis-partitioned private dining areas, and were instantly enveloped into a pleasingly familiar combination of music from a live oud player – all the classics, too, from “Habibi Inta” to “Ya Gamil Ya Gamil” – and the aroma of double-apple shish smoke. So far, so nostalgic.
We catch one of the passing trolleys to grab a coconut water before ordering a Sahara Cooler (a juice of strawberries, lime juice, mint leaves and soda water) and a fresh lemon-mint juice and the first wave of mezzes.
Let’s be clear, here, innovation isn’t on the menu – which is more than fine with us and, we suspect, everyone else in the room – and within a few minutes, our various table decorations were being rearranged for the bowls of hummus, moutabbal, grilled halloumi and tabbouleh. It was all as you’d expect; the sort of upscale Arabic food where the bread basket comes with starched linen.
The second round involved arrayes, kebbeh and lamb chops, the third a couple of mixed grills from the charcoal grill comprising shish taouk, grilled lamb and kofte, again checklist-ticking Levantine Arabic food that, as neatly executed as it was, will please everyone.
Dessert was more of an East-West affair, with the obligatory qatayef (with ashta cream) and a cool, creamy New York Cheesecake laden with strawberries. Followed by mint tea and a shisha order of our own, there was still plenty of time to sit back and let the conversation drift.
By now every seat in the room was occupied, every table engaged in whatever Ramadan activity their own family tradition dictates. Just as it should be.
Majlis Al Safinah
Where: Jumeirah Beach Hotel
When: Iftar from Sunset-8.45pm, Suhoor from 9.30pm-3am
Contact: +9714 432 3232, website