Fish Eyes in Dubai

I see MILES of fish eyes staring at me; all sizes and colors.  In addition to the freaky feeling that millions of fish are watching you, the Waterfront Market can be overwhelming with its selection of seafood.  And when you are finished with the fish, there is meat to haunt you (huge slabs hanging from meat hooks), then the not-so-scary fruits, vegetables, spices and grains.  It is a lot to take in.  Jimmy and I went to check out the Waterfront Market on a Friday (his day off from work) and I think we need t-shirts that say “we went to the Waterfront Market and survived.”

The old Deira Fish Market was moved to abrightly lit, brand new facility near the new Deira Islands (the islands are not yet accessible, but the waterfront market is – it is just onshore before the bridge to the islands).  The Fish Market is now the “Waterfront Market” – apt, since it is no longer just fish which are sold there.  The new facility is more like a large mall than what one would picture a “fresh from the boat” market would look like.  While the architectural character of the old market is gone – the characters remain, and it is a fascinating place to spend a morning.  (If you are going for fish, do not go in the afternoon – it is closed every day from 1pm on for 3 to 4 hours for cleaning).

In the fish area (which itself is as larger than most hypermarkets) you choose your fish, pay for it at the station, and then you can have it cleaned and filleted at another area.  For two medium sized Shari fish (from which we will have four meals for two) we paid 60 AED (about $16), and for a kilogram of shrimp 45 AED  (about $12).  You can definitely bargain; although we did not – we paid what was asked, and it sure seemed reasonable to me.  (The easiest way to bargain is to simply decline and simply walk away – the vendor will follow and offer you the product for less.)  Cleaning our “catch” was only 7 AED (about $2, worth every penny…).  The cleaning area is a huge operation, and fast – they give you a number and you collect your fish when called.   When cooked at home, we discovered that quite a lot of bones remained in our fish, but were still happy not to have had to deal with the cleaning. We also discovered that the market will send you home with the portions chopped from your fish – the fish heads, tails, etc., which we could have done without.  Next time I will know to ask they exclude them…

In addition to the fish market, there are three other distinct areas in the Waterfront Market: the meat market, the fruit and vegetables market, and the spice market.   All but the spice market were very busy the Friday we were there.  The spice/honey/dates market is still not fully occupied, but we were happy to find unsalted and lightly salted nuts in abundance here at great prices (unsalted nuts can be difficult to find elsewhere).

There are other shops, restaurants, and a waterfront promenade here; not a ton of tourists, but then tourists are not likely to need much fish to carry with them, after all.  If you live in Dubai and love fresh fish, meat, or just want to try something new and air conditioned (always a plus in the summer), this is a good bet.  On weekends, though, I suggest you go early – the parking fills up fast.  Just beware the fish eyes…





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