It started with the odd pop-up or two and now, desert dining has become one of the most popular trends of the year. We can see why, too – these picturesque venues take diners far away from bustling city life and into a serene environment.
As well as showcasing the UAE’s natural beauty, many of these pop-ups also offer a variety of unique food, beverages and entertainment. And the lure of a road trip is an added incentive to visit.
Here’s a look at some spectacular desert dining venues that have popped up and are currently open. Most of these are only open during the cooler months, so you might want to hurry if you’re planning to go.
Although you might want to wait until it stops raining.
Not a Space
One of the original desert dining pop-ups, Not a Space quickly gained a cult following when pictures of it emerged on social media. Located at Al Faya, Sharjah, the moon-themed spot features comfy bean bags, beverages and light bites (think cinnamon rolls) out in the desert.
There’s live entertainment in the evenings, and it offers activities from yoga sessions to moon painting workshops. Another bonus? It’s pet friendly.
Open daily, during winter; 6am-1am; Al Faya; https://linktr.ee/Notaspace
One Degree Cafe
Come winter, One Degree opens its pop-up experience, located on the Dubai-Sharjah border, about a 40-minute drive from Downtown Dubai.
The venue has garnered a cult following since it first opened in January 2021. The reason for its popularity is its location in the middle of the desert, offering guests some of the best mountain and dune views they can get, all from the comfort of the eclectic seating options – think cushions on the sand and plush sofas.
One Degree has live entertainment such as fire breathers every evening, and has also expanded its food offerings, serving items as varied as Spanish lattes and acai bowls to burgers and hot dogs.
Open daily, 4pm-1am; Dubai-Sharjah border; www.onedegree.ae
New kid-on-the-block The Uncommon only popped up a few weeks ago, but has already taken the desert dining scene by storm. What’s cool about the space is its unique set-up, which features a lot of mirrors. Even the kitchen area is done up in a cool mirror exterior, ensuring the focus is very much on the beauty of its backdrop.
The menu features mostly beverages, with light bites such as pastries and croissants thrown in.
Open daily, 4pm-1am; Sharjah; Instagram: @theuncommon.ae
Link by mara
Another new desert pop-up, Link by mara is currently in its soft opening launch phase. There’s still plenty to love about the space, which has been inspired by AlUla in Saudi Arabia – especially its excavated cushioned booths.
The venue offers fusion street food, from spiced edamame and mini beef tacos to shakshuka bruschetta. Even better, there is an option to buy meat at the venue and barbecue it yourself over your booth’s firepit. There are only a handful of big dining booths and seating is on a first-come first-serve basis, so get there early.
Open daily, 4pm-3am; Sharjah; Instagram: @linkbymara
A clock-themed winter pop-up has opened up in Dubai. The pop-up is located on the Dubai-Hatta Road, about a half-hour drive from Downtown Dubai, but offers desert vistas that take you far away from the bustle of city life. Expect comfy bean bags, big Instagrammable installations that light up at night, and speciality coffee. The menu is limited to beverages and sweet treats for now.
Open daily; 4pm-midnight; until March 31; Dubai-Hatta Road; Instagram: @klock_cafe
Another new spot offering coffee with a desert backdrop is Coffee House, located in Sharjah, off the Sharjah-Kalba Road. A number of hot and cold beverages, desserts and baked treats can be picked up from a food truck, and enjoyed in the space that features rattan chairs, gazebos with white curtains swinging in the wind and lit-up trees.
Open daily; 3pm onwards; off the Sharjah-Kalba Road, Mahafiz, Sharjah; Instagram: @coffeehouseae
For those looking for a luxe version of desert dining, there’s always Sonara Camp, which has accrued quite a following over the years.
The family-friendly venue offers a fine-dining experience right on the dunes. There are activities such as sandboarding, volleyball, soft archery and an owl show, live entertainment and white tablecloth dining, with dishes such as slow-cooked pulled lamb and black Angus strip loin on the menu.
Sonara is set in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, a gorgeous place where you can spot the odd gazelle and oryx, and it’s recently opened a second location at Ras Al Khaimah’s Al Wadi Nature Reserve. Prior booking is required.
Open daily, 4pm onwards; Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve and Al Wadi Nature Reserve, Ras Al Khaimah; www.nara.ae/sonara/