Alcohol is available for non-Muslims at all hotels, hotel bars and hotel restaurants in Dubai. Non-Muslim expatriate workers can also get a liquor license to allow them to buy alcohol for home consumption. All non-Muslims may also buy alcohol at Dubai Airport Duty Free, with a final bottle stop available just after immigration at baggage claim.
A beer is generally in the region of Dh15-20. The legal drinking age is 21. Licensing hours vary greatly, as many of the hotel bars are allowed to open and close whenever they want. Closing time is normally around 0100 or 0200.
The club scene is a curious one, with nightclubs often delineated along ethnic and national lines. Increasingly, big name DJs are being attracted to Dubai, as a Western-style clubbing scene starts to develop. By law, clubs must close at 0300. Many clubs are over-25 only. Dress codes for bars are generally relaxed, although some bars and all clubs insist on no jeans, trainers or sandals. A more mellow night out can be had at one of Dubai’s coffee houses, where you can smoke apple-flavoured tobacco from a shisha pipe.
The monthly listing magazine, Time Out (www.timeout.com ), can be found in many hotels, offering a full rundown of what is happening at night in Dubai. Hotel concierges are also often able to provide guests with the latest nightlife information.
One of the oldest ex-pat bars, The Irish Village , Aviation Club, off Al-Garhoud Road, is still going strong, with a good range of beers and an outdoor seating area. It faces stiff competition from more recent arrivals, such as Carter’s , The Pyramids, Wafi Centre, a stylish haunt of the 20- and 30-something brigade. Monday night happy hour is something of a local institution, with all cocktails priced at Dh10. Even more stylish is the minimalist Ginseng , Wafi City, with its mood lighting, Asian themed decor and first-rate cocktails. The lowest common denominator is catered for at Rock Bottom , Regent Place Hotel, Bur Dubai, a rowdy drinking den with three pool tables, live music and a dancefloor. A new favourite of Dubai’s ‘beautiful people’ is the swish Sho Cho , Dubai Marina Resort, Jumeirah Beach Road, a bar cum restaurant with a real buzz, live DJs, great cocktails and an outdoor jetty for special parties. The Fatafeet Café , Alseef Road, has good views of Dubai Creek and is an atmospheric coffee house in which to try a traditional shisha.
Dubai adheres to the Muslim ban on gambling and there are no casinos in Dubai.
Zinc nightclub on Sheikh Zayed road is one of the most popular nightclubs in Dubai, recently winning first place in local magazine awards. Planetarium, housed in the most genuine London-style club venue at Planet Hollywood, Wafi City, is another popular haunt. Scream , Ramada Hotel, Al-Mankhool Road, is a warehouse-type venue that blasts out the latest techno to an appreciative crowd. Pancho Villa’s, Astoria Hotel, Al-Nahda Street, has become a bit of an institution on the Dubai club scene, with a mainstream choice of music, a restaurant and frequent live bands. For more laid-back R&B, Oxygen at the Bustan Airport is a more mellow choice. Amnesia, Dubai Park Hotel, Sheik Zayed Road, is becoming more and more popular, especially with its ‘Ladies Night’ on Thursday. Beach parties at the Mina Siyahi are continually popular.
Planet Hollywood , Wafi Pyramids, off Al-Qataiyat Road, is a good option, with an eclectic selection of good bands and covers outfits. Bordertown , Al-Rolla Road, is a Mexican theme bar that stages live bands most nights of the week. For nostalgia fans and baby boomers, Dubai is famous for retro chic, with superstars of the 1970s and 1980s such as the Human League, Kajagoogoo, Blondie and Kim Wilde – regularly visiting Dubai. The Irish Village , Aviation Club, off Al Garhoud Road, also hosts many live acts. One of Dubai’s best cover bands can be found at Jules Bar, Airport Meridien Village, where a filipino ensemble belts out the latest hits, usually better than the originals.