A Culinary Tour of Al Gharabia

On my recent road trip to Liwa with my good friend Terryl, we decided to eat in local restaurants wherever possible.  This helped the budget to stretch further and to be honest with you there are limited fine dining options outwith the hotels and makes for a far more interesting blog post.

En route to the Western Region the traffic was quiet so we paused to take a photo of one of my favourite UAE signs.  When I arrived here 4 years ago I joked that the culture in the UAE is so different from home that it felt like another planet but this sign serves to remind me that we all inhabit the third rock from the sun!

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First stop of the day was ADNOC to fill up with their delicious Coffee Planet caramel latte. The UAE does some things marvellously well, and the petrol stations of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company are definitely on that list; these must be the best gas stations in the world (and the petrol’s only 29p per litre!)

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We travelled along the notorious E11 toward Gwaifat, pausing breifly to check out the pleasant 3* Mirfa Hotel.  It’s located on the beach, about 90 minutes drive from Abu Dhabi, and looks a great place for a relaxing weekend, with a lovely outdoor pool accessed via a stunning atrium which houses the bar and restaurant.  (N24 06.128 E53 28.729)

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Pressing on we had a look at the 5* Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort.  As you approach the building from the road it doesn’t look anything special but step through the glass doors and you cannot fail to be impressed by the luxurious furnishings and beautiful layout.   (N24 09.870 E52 38.523)  You can book through their website here.

photo linked from the Danat website

After a quick tour of the Dalma Island Ferry harbour/terminal, where there was a cafe but it was only selling tea, coffee and crisps , we headed inland to Ghayathi where we stopped for lunch at Ali Baba and the Forty Farooj (chickens) restaurant. (N23 50.565 E52 48.523)

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This popular local restaurant serves up the usual middle-east “fast” food, such as shwarma, saj, manakesh, chicken biriani and fruit juices.  None of us were particularly hungry but we managed to work our way through salad, humus and manakesh, total cost including our fruit juice was 34AED – under £3 each!

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Having stayed at the building site that was the Ghayathi resthouse back in December 2012, I returned to see how the renovations were doing and boy did I get a surprise!

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The Ghayathi hotel, as it is now known, is finished, complete with swimming pool, attractive reception area and restaurant.  I was astounded that they could achieve such a lot in 6 months – you can read about my previous visit here.     No website but you can call to book on 02 8741444 – they opened on 1st July and the prices are likely to be 800aed per room. (N23 51.419 E52 48.702)

Moving further on – about 130kms in fact, my next recommendations for restaurants are in the centre of Liwa in Mizaira’a city.  We didn’t visit the Al Asma restaurant this time but I’ve had a few good meals here in the past, all for around 15AED per person. ( N23 07.941 E53 48.112)

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Also in Mizaira’a city we came across the Al Hadaani restaurant, and although we didn’t eat here, we will next time we are in town.  When you are looking for a reliable cafe/restaurant, always look for one which is busy, as the high turnover of food diminishes the chances of tummy upsets.  If for instance it’s a Pakistani cafe then look for one which is well used by nationals of the Indian sub-continent; they know a good curry or biryiani when they see one! (N23 07.974 E53 47.969).

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Our base for our Liwa Onroad trip was my “second home” in Liwa, ie the Liwa Hotel.  Sitting on top of a hill with panoramic views over Mizaira’a, this 3 star hotel has been gradually, but extensively, renovated over the past year.  If you haven’t been to the hotel this year you are in for a treat!  Gone is the awful wallpaper, old carpets and dingy decor, and in its place guests can enjoy modern spacious rooms with lovely comfortable beds, beautiful soft furnishings and majlis style seating on your private balcony.  They restaurant serves great food too with a wide choice of starters, mains and deserts.  The waiters and waitress are very attentive and friendly and it’s a real pleasure to eat there. ( N23 07.470 E53 46.548.)  Click here to view their website.

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The second day of our trip saw us head up to the biggest city in Al Gharabia – Madinat Zayed.  It’s not that big, but it does have a mall and in the sanaiya (industrial) area you will be able to buy car parts such as shocks, should you ever need them.  We toured around and had a look at the resthouse, which is closed; renovation work has begun but there was no sign of life when we visited on a Sunday afternoon.  After all the driving around we were hungry and we came across a really lovely “local” restaurant – the Al Nafoora. (N23 39.544 E53 42.121)   They offer salad, soup, bread, chicken mandy and water for only 30aed (about £5) per person.

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We concluded our visit to Madinat Zayed with an exploratory drive along a new gatch deep into the desert.  Judging by the tracks on the sand which covered it in places it was well, and recently, used so I felt relatively safe proceeding on my own.  We came across a works party who were installing electric pylons and they wouldn’t let me past as they said it would be dangerous for me to proceed (little do they know….).  When turning the car I noticed a JCB digger with a thistle painted on it, and thistles being the national emblem of Scotland I just had to get my photo taken next to it!

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With the light fading we headed back to the hotel and had a light supper whilst reclining on the lovely sofas on the outdoor terrace. After over 1000kms driving in 2 days we were exhausted and joked with the staff that they should just throw some blankets over us and wake us up when our breakfast was on the table!

Our route for the next day saw us returning to Abu Dhabi via Himeem.  Having had a large breakfast at the Liwa Hotel we weren’t able for an early lunch however I must recommend the wonderful Al Anas restaurant there as we’ve had a few offroad groups stopping there for lunch which costs 10-11aed per head. (N22 57.361 E54 17.861)

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We did have time to visit the “Top of the World Plateau/Google Earth View” spot.  Terryl was a little nervous as we were on the top of a dune on a manmade plateau – she could have gone a lot nearer the edge, it’s only an 80 metre slipface!

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No visit to Liwa is complete without a coffee at the sumptious 5* Qasr Al Sarab (N22 54.040 E54 20.261)

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and thus being replenished with caffeine we headed north on the long road home to Abu Dhabi!

  1. Chris says:

    Nice blog Marina; enjoyed reading it. We will definitely visit (and revisit) some of these places when it’s cooler.

  2. Terryl Lewis says:

    Was so lucky to be the passenger!!!! Was an amazing trip! Thanks Marina – am ready for the next reckie !!! Xxx

  3. Nicholas says:

    When you head back to Delma, go to Qasr Libnan in Delma Mall. They had good fish when we were there a while back. Also, there is an Indian place near the mall that was excellent, as well as a really good Afghan bakery.

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