Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Farmer's Market on the Terrace in Dubai

The Farmer's Market on the Terrace in Dubai

When I was about to move from Italy to Dubai one year ago, one of the (many) things I started wondering about was what kind of food I would have eaten daily. I was not much concerned about the availability of food, or the possibility to find products I was used to; on the contrary I thought I would have found a much wider variety of foodstuffs, thanks to the multicultural city that Dubai is. My thoughts were more related to the quality and origin of what I was going to buy, cook and eat. Given local weather conditions and characteristics, my idea was that not much could be grown locally with the consequence that most of supplies had to fly from all over the world to local supermarkets. My ideal of food shopping is a bit different though: I prefer to buy products, especially the fresh ones, with a supply chain as short as possible; if it where possible I would buy everything directly from growers and producers (have a look at my profile to know what I think, and have always thought, about the food I want to eat). This habit of mine takes origin mainly from my family's costumes: when I was a child part of the fruits and vegetables we consumed at home where grown by my grandparents in their farm, together with olives for making oil and grape for wine; and so eggs, chicken and other foodstuffs. What they didn't produce came mainly from other local, small, family-run farms. Many years later my mom still buys the food for the family as much as possible in the same way, and living very close to the countryside the task is quite easy for her. I moved from there long time ago and lived for many years in some of the biggest cities in Italy, Milan for a long time than Turin for a while before coming to Dubai. But the way I used to buy food didn't change much: fruits and vegetables from farmers (in Turin I was so lucky! I had a daily farmer market at five minutes walking from where I lived), olive oil directly from producers (in each Italian region it's possible to find different types of olive oils), and the same grains, wine, pasta, cheese, and actually most of the food we had. It was also a good excuse to travel and go out of the city during weekends. I love seeing first hand where and how food is grown and produced, talking with producers, knowing the people behind what we eat and also tasting new products and knowing different ways to use products.
So when moving to Dubai, I thought I had to give up this way of shopping and convert to supermarket; also I thought that some products would have been available but absolutely overpriced.
My main concern was related to vegetables since, even if we are not a vegetarian family, we make a really huge consumption of vegetables, of all varieties. And eating stuff coming from hundreds miles away, plus pricey, was not an attractive idea to me...
But luckily I was completely wrong! Because Dubai has a unique, real, farmers market, and finally the new season has just started: last Friday, November 28th, The Farmer Market On The Terrace officially returned and will be held every Friday till the end on May in a beautiful location, an avenue shaded by palm trees in the Ballroom Gardens at Jumeirah Emirates Towers.
The Farmer Market On The Terrace is a market where you can shop vegetable directly for local farmers, that is the people who have planted, grown and collected the vegetables you buy: no middle-man, no distributors, no other interest than selling their products. And these products are not only seasonal and local, but also certified organic. Buying from farmers is not much different than going in the field and choosing what you want to bring home (without the hard work of collecting!): this means that everything is super fresh - will last long at home - and with a really reasonable price (don't have to pay for transport and intermediaries; what  you pay is all for the farmers).
And shopping from farmers market is good for every body:

  • good for buyers and their families and their children, who can eat seasonal, fresh food, grown locally with organic methods; meals prepared with fresh and pure ingredients taste always better and are much healthier. And they help to save money too. Also I think it's an opportunity to educate the youngest to eat what is available in that season.
  • good for local farmers, who can further invest in their business thus contributing to local economy.
  • good for the environment: organic farming methods, no travelling, minimum use of refrigerators, all these has a positive impact on the reduction of environmental pollution and contamination and help .
    The Farmer's Market on the Terrace in Dubai -veggies
From now to the end of May, when due to the local climate, the growing season ends and the market has to close, this will be my certain appointment of every single Friday morning.
I have just one regret though: that I haven't discovered earlier. In fact when I arrived last year, it took me a while to become familiar with the city and what it has to offer, especially with regard to fresh, local, organic, sustainable food. And unfortunately when I finally heard about The Farmer Market On The Terrace the season was at the end, so I had to spend the summer waiting for November to come (luckily I spent two months in Italy where summer is a wonderful season for vegetables).
I really hope that people new to Dubai but also longtime residents discover this place, because fresh, local, organic vegetable are really different: once you try, it's difficult to buy differently.
And at the Framers Market on the Terrace, in addition to seasonal, organic vegetables and eggs from local farmers, it is possible to buy bread, cakes, jam and other delicacies from Baker & Spice, raw Yemeni honey from Balqees Raw Yemeni Honey, rice, spices and other organic product from Down to Earth Organic Foods, Greek olive oil from Astraealocally roasted organic coffee from Coffee Planet and more. There are also healthy cooking demos by chefs and other activities.
And, important logistic information: there is plenty of parking!
The Farmer's Market on the Terrace in Dubai -bakery

The Farmer's Market on the Terrace in Dubai  - honey
On the first day of this season, the sixth, last Friday, I left home early in the morning as I wanted to be one of the first to arrive at the market, to walk around, see and choose; but when I arrived, early as planned, the market was already busy, with people sipping coffee, talking with farmers while choosing their veggies, buying bread and croissant for breakfast...a really warm atmosphere, that I immediately enjoyed. I stop at different stalls, buying some greens here, tomatoes (amazing cherries of different colors!) there, than broccoli, green beans, eggplants and more; a jar of Yemeni honey and extra-virgin olive oil from Samotracia island, in Greece (I can't live without olive oil and consume huge quantities  - maybe because I am Italian? - I use it with almost everything; and eating tons of vegetables...).
The Farmer's Market on the Terrace in Dubai

Then I had the opportunity to take part to a delicious breakfast organized by Baker & Spice - thanks for the kind invitation - where I met many local foodies (food writers and photographers, chefs, bloggers, ... I cannot name all), as well some of the market's protagonists, and also taste some delicious treats prepared by Baker & Spice staff using the products available at the market. The weekend couldn't start in a better way!
The Farmer's Market on the Terrace in Dubai - breakfast

About The Farmers Market On The Terrace
The mind behind The Farmer Market On The Terrace is Yael Mejia, Baker & Spice food consultant.
The first ever Farmers’ Market on the Terrace in Dubai was set up and organised in 2010; initially it was held on the terrace outside Baker & Spice in Souk Al Bahar (and this the origin of the name) then, as the number of farmers and customers grew, moved to the actual location in the Ballroom Gardens at Jumeirah Emirates Towers. It is a real Farmers Market as all the stall are manned directly by farmers.
Location: Jumeirah Emirates Towers' Ballroom gardens
Opening time: every Friday 8 – 1 p.m. Season 2014/2015 runs from 28th November 2014 to end of May 2015
You can find them on Facebook and Twitter 
The Farmer's Market on the Terrace in Dubai - Hashtags

Take note of the above hashtags! And if you want to know more about The Farm Markets on the Terrace inauguration day have a look at these interesting readings by Dubai-based bloggers: Debbie Rogers author of Coffee Cakes and Running, Dima Sharif of Dima Sharif, Ishita Saha of Ishitaunblogged. Minna Herranen of Naked Plate, Prachi Grover of Orangekitchens , Sally Prosser of MyCustardPie, Carla Dabis Halabi of Memoirs of a tastebud, Noreen Wasti of Noni's Place. Shruthi Joseph of Cinnamon Weekend, Abigail Concepcion of Cuddles and Crumbles, Drina Cabral of Eaternalzest.

Disclaimer: I was kindly invited by Baker & Spice to the bloggers' breakfast on the terrace, that I really enjoyed, but all I wrote above is 100% what I believe and put in practice in my every-day life; I have already written about my ideal about food products in my bio here and  in several previous posts on this blog. You'll meet me again at the Farmers Market on the Terrace every single Friday, because I appreciate the ideal and want to support it but, most important of all, because I want to shop like this and enjoy the market.


  1. Good article Francesca, I Know how it iwhen we move from one place to another and especially when we come from abundant areas that have many seasonal varieties that are always rich! So can totally relate, and which is also why I love The Farmers' Market On The Terrace as I get to experience that again during the season and eating amazing, Organic and ver Fresh Food, who says no to that!
    Was lovely to see you, stay in touch x

  2. What a gorgeous post. As you know this Farmers' Market is close to my heart and my whole approach to food shopping for the week changes as soon as the season arrives. I've brought many visitors from overseas and it's not just an impressive array for Dubai but comparable with many agricultural places in the world. See you on Fridays. :)

  3. Thank you Dima! We'll meet there then...

  4. Thank you Sally! You're right, and it's something that probably nobody expects to find in a city like Dubai. I'll bring my European visitors too. See you there :)

  5. Beautiful post Francesca... sad that I didn't meet you. Next time perhaps... I am sorry I am also caught up in my own worlds of clicking pictures, jotting notes that sometimes I think I lose out on many things in the real world. I am enjoying reading your posts:)

  6. Thank you Ishita! It was a busy morning, actually...I hope to meet you soon too, at the farmers market maybe! I'll be there on Fridays.

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