If you time traveled twenty years back and asked someone from back then if they thought the sea level city of Dubai would ever be a Jewish travel destination, they might think you were joking. It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of traveling to Dubai seemed like a pipe dream. However, it’s shaping up to be one of the best Jewish travel destinations this year.
Dubai is the shopping capital of the Middle East with the largest shopping mall in the world. It’s also the fourth most visited city in the world, but it hasn’t been considered a top Jewish travel destination until recently.
After the Abraham Accords, however, unbelievable things are happening, and new locations are opening up for Jewish travel that previously seemed impossible. Israelis are traveling to Dubai and making history, and Jewish people from all over the world are planning trips to this fascinating Gulf nation.
Dubai has opened up for Jewish travel. Whether you keep kosher, keep Shabbat, or are interested in exploring the sites in this gulf country, the UAE in general is a new Jewish travel destination that will surprise you with its food, culture, and lifestyle.
With 11 kosher places to eat, 11 Kosher restaurants, 6 synagogues, and a Mikveh, you should be sure to put this place at the top of your travel list.
Is there a Jewish community in Dubai?
There’s been a Jewish community in the UAE for a long time. Dubai Jews are a mix of the community that’s been there for a while, as well as many who have moved for work. Even Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela recorded a community in the area, in a place called Kis, from 1165 to 1173.
Currently, there’s a Jewish community in the UAW of around 2,000 people. In terms of minyanim, there’s a minyan on the Palm, Chabad of the Emirates JCC of the UAE, one at the TLV Restaurant in the H Hotel and one at the Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor. The Jewish community in Dubai now feels comfortable being Jewish in public, and public displays of religion are becoming more and more common in the country.
Can you celebrate Jewish holidays in Dubai?
Dubai is a great and unique place to celebrate Jewish holidays. There is a sukkah on Sukkot and candle lighting on Hanukkah in public in Dubai. There are also Passover programs in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. There are plenty of programs to celebrate Jewish holidays in Dubai and many hotels with kosher chefs that will prepare holiday meals.
Is there Kosher food in Dubai?
It’s easy and delicious to keep kosher in Dubai. There are many kosher restaurants in Dubai, including Glatt Kosher food at The Kosher Place, dairy at Ellie's Cafe and Bakery, Mul Hayam for kosher Israeli-style food, and The Armani/Kaf, certified by the EAKC. Many hotels also provide delicious kosher food, so you don’t even need to leave in the morning to find a meal.
But what can you do on a trip to Dubai?
Dubai is a place of extremes–from the tallest building to the largest prayer rug, it’s a city that has been designed to impress. But Dubai is more than its world records. It’s also an opportunity to learn about a new culture, visit beautiful architectural wonders, and gain a new understanding of the world.
Traditional Emirati Lunch and Conversation
Eat delicious local food, drink Arabic coffee, snack on dates and syrup-soaked donuts. This is a unique opportunity to ask a local expert about local culture and Emirati food, daily life, and dress. If you want to understand Dubai, this is the perfect (and most delicious) place to learn.
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One of the best ways to get to know a city is through visiting a museum. If you go at the beginning of a trip, your added knowledge will enhance and deepen your connection with the place.The Dubai Museum is located in the oldest building in Dubai and documents 3,000 years of Gulf history. Explore displays, dioramas, and historical weapons, as well as exhibits on the goods traded in Dubai and the Bedouin tribes that live in the city.
Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
The UAE is a melting pot of nationalities. The SMCUU is a place to educate expats on the traditions and customs of the UAE and to be a bridge between different nationalities living, working, and visiting the UAE. The center is located in the historic Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood. There’s traditional cuisine and conversations, as well as walking tours of the historic neighborhood.
Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood
If you’re interested in learning about Dubai in the mid-19th century, take a walk in this neighborhood located along the Dubai creek. Observe the traditional wind towers made from teak, gypsum, palm wood, sandstone, and sandalwood and meander through the alleys. Step into museums and galleries and try traditional food. There’s even a coin museum and a Calligraphy House that specializes in Arabic Calligraphy.
Dubai is so modern that sometimes it’s hard to remember that its past is interesting, too. The city was once lined with small villages of pearl divers and merchants, and pearl diving was an important part of life in the area as recently as the 1950s. The museum houses an exquisite collection of pearls, as well as information on the UAE’s pearling and seafaring origins.
The Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building.There’s nothing like it in the world, and it’s a big reason many people venture to this country of world records. At 2,722 feet, it replaced Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan. The design of the building comes from the Islamic architecture of the region and optimizes residential and hotel space. The building is surrounded by a 27 acre park with a water room featuring pools and water jet fountains.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
This beautiful mosque in Abu Dhabi was opened in 2008 and is a center of cross cultural communication and tourism. It’s one of the world’s largest mosques. 1,300 Iranian artisans hand-knotted the main prayer hall’s carpet, which is the world’s largest. The chandeliers are gold plated, the courtyards are filled with mosaic artwork and reflective pools. This is truly a feast for the eyes. The mosque welcomes 50,000 worshippers each day. There are free guided tours, but the mosque is especially beautiful at sunset, when the whole facade lights up.
Visit An Abrahamic Family House
This unique space is planned to include a church, synagogue, mosque, and educational center on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. It is meant to show the values shared between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In each house of worship, visitors will be able to learn about services, listen to holy scripture, and experience sacred rituals. There’s another building that will house conferences, events, educational programs, and discussions.
Adventures: Kosher Cruise & Kosher Desert Tour
Take a cruise on the Dubai River from the pier by the Hilton Al Habtoor Hotel and eat a delicious meat glatt kosher meal. Enjoy saxophone music while you see the downtown and Business Bay. Marvel at the skyscrapers of the city and see the colorful waterfall. Or take a desert trip including camel rides, beautiful sunset views, and a Glatt Kosher BBQ.
Chanukah / Passover / Adventures / Festivals
Check out Dubai for Passover at the Park Hyatt Dubai with Glatt Kosher food or the Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza Hotel, or Marriott. There are minyanim for both Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities, and the Chabad runs a Dubai Jewish Community Center.
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