A top dining destination with 11 Michelin-starred restaurants, Dubai boasts exceptional culinary experiences from underwater to sky-high. There’s one decadent meal, however, that stands out for its extreme setting: the middle of the desert. While there are many desert dining options near Morocco and Abu Dhabi, Sonara Camp is one of the most exceptional in Dubai.

Located in the middle of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve — aka the heart of the Arabian Desert — the “restaurant” is more than just a pop-up in a stunning sand dune setting. It’s an entire evening of activity for all ages set against one of the most picturesque backdrops in the world.

Desert dining at Dubai’s Sonara camp

The experience begins with a winding Jeep ride through the sand dunes, which takes guests to the upper camp, where tents are decked out with oversized couches and loungers oriented to watch the sunset. During the two hours before sunset, a server brings out drinks and appetisers like escabeche tuna mini tacos, smoked salmon blinis, and wood-fired burrata pizzettas.

On a recent trip to Sonara Camp with my family, the evening continued with activities like sand boarding, soft archery (it’s a suction cup instead of an arrow), volleyball, and camel rides. Of course, my four-year-old loved playing in the sand with the other kids who viewed the camp as a giant sandbox. The team also sets up a sunset photo session for every group.

Sonara camp
Image Credit: Dubai Tourism

When night fell, we ventured down the dune to a private table under a tent of twinkling lights, where a family-style feast awaited us, featuring grilled marinated chicken with peri-peri spices, chargrilled aged beef striploin in a tangy red chimichurri sauce, and the signature madfoon (a seven-hour slow-cooked lamb with Yemeni spices).

Cirque Du Soleil-Esque performers would pop up on stage set up in the middle as we chowed down. There was a fire-breather, a man who defied gravity with his balancing skills, a fire dancer, and more. Children can partake in the adult entertainment or opt to hang in the dedicated kids’ area, complete with a buffet serving mini wagyu beef sliders, toys, and an outdoor movie theatre.

Desserts like yuzu and raspberry sorbet with almond tuile and make-your-own s’mores topped off the evening. Once the entertainment and dining at Sonara camp ended, we took that winding Jeep ride back to the entrance marking the end of one of the most unique family dinners we’ve ever had.

If dinner theatre isn’t your thing, visitors can opt just for the upper camp sunset option, or even an overnight option called “The Nest,” where you sleep in a luxe tent among the dunes.

Of course, if you’d rather stay in the city, Dubai is filled with rare and exceptional dining options. The city is home to Ossiano, a Michelin-starred underwater restaurant at the Atlantis Palm hotel. You can also dine at the highest restaurant in the world — At.mosphere — located 1,450 feet above the ground in the Burj Khalifa. And Ain Dubai restaurant (currently closed for renovation) lets you enjoy dinner in the world’s highest observation wheel.

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(Credit for the hero and featured image: Dubai Tourism)

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