By Kara Newman www.msnbc.msn.com
Business travel in the small desert city of Dubai can be thirsty work.
In a town known for its high-stakes fortunes and opulent real estate, the drinks may flow after hours, but “it’s more about the sheesha that goes with the drinks, than any one cocktail itself,” explains resident Cindy Hammel, a professional copywriter.
Perhaps this should be unsurprising; in keeping with Islamic principles, alcohol is not freely available in Dubai. Instead, sheesha, flavored tobacco smoked from a water pipe (hookah), is the preferred social lubricant. Moroccan tea service or a staggering array of fresh fruit juices are found in many venues.
But, when dusk falls, Dubai’s nightlife comes alive, and the party isn’t confined to the weekend.
In a stroke of luck for business travelers, thanks to licensing laws, Dubai’s bars are almost exclusively located within hotels (choose wisely; not all properties have bars), and many of these have club-like atmospheres, with DJs and late-night revelry.
Zuma, located in the downtown financial district, is “usually buzzing with the financial crowd,” Hammel says. The restaurant, known for its Japanese food, prominently features sake as well as a list of non-alcoholic fresh-fruit “cleansers and boosters,” such as the mojito-like yoshi nura (mint and ginger mixed with sugar and fresh lime juice, topped with soda water).
Also along Sheikh Zayed Road, Vu’s Bar is on the 51st floor of the Jumeirah Emirates Towers, and offers expansive views and a list of 200 cocktails.
Locals who want to see and be seen favor the sleek black-and-white Armani Prive Nightclub, a VIP lounge within the Armani Hotel Dubai.
In the Downtown Dubai area, Calabar draws them in with Latin-inspired cuisine and cocktails, and a large outdoor terrace space with beanbags, couches and sheesha overlooking the Dubai Mall fountains, perfect for after-work lounging.
Within the Dubai Marine Beach Resort, the trendy Japanese restaurant Sho Cho glows with blue neon and a flamboyant arrangement of fish tanks. The outdoor sushi lounge faces the water, although the main activities here, among both Western and Arab expats, are drinking and dancing rather than eating.
Farther along the coastline, the Jumeirah Beach Hotel’s 360 Degrees rooftop lounge is located at the end of the jetty, giving revelers the impression of being surrounded by water. Look for music, cocktails, and of course, sheesha.