What’s On goes back in time with a feature on retro bars, clubs and activities in Dubai, including 1920s restaurants, 1980s clubs and 1960s parlours.

Boutiques in Dubai
Retro art in Dubai
Vintage shops in Dubai

From retro restaurants to vintage car rides, here are just a few of the ways you can roll back the years in the UAE.

Dubai Museum Of The Moving Image

Phenakistiscope. Dutch peepbox. Zoetrope. Praxinoscope. And a Kaiser panorama. These wonderfully named objects are just some of the 200 artefacts on display at the Dubai Museum Of The Moving Image. The remarkable collection – gathered over 36 years by businessman Akram Miknas – is the only one of its kind in the Middle East. Located above Lila Café in Tecom, the museum chronicles the history of the moving image up to the invention of cinema. The oldest piece in the museum is the Dutch peepbox, dating from 1750, which gives a glimpse of early attempts at 3D. The early cameras are beautiful, intricate machines, mostly housed in elegant wooden cases.

MCN Building, Tecom, Dubai. Tel: (04) 4216679. Metro: Internet City. Sun to Thur 11am to 7pm, except Wed 11am to 9pm, Sat noon to 7pm. Dhs50 dubaimovingimagemuseum.com

Dubai Moving Image Museum

Café Belge
Lose yourself in the era of flapper girls and F Scott Fitzgerald – all with a distinctly Belgian twist – at the rather beautiful Café Belge in the Ritz Carlton DIFC. The soaring ceilings and art deco aesthetics will transport you to the Roaring Twenties, especially if you go on a Saturday afternoon, when dancers do the Charleston around diners’ tables. Read our review here.

Ritz Carlton DIFC, DIFC, Dubai, daily 6pm to 2am. Tel: (04) 3722323. Metro: Financial Centre. ritzcarlton.com

Cafe Belge, DIFC

Platinum Heritage Safaris
Even if cars aren’t your thing, you’ll still appreciate the cool factor that comes with driving over desert dunes in a classic 1950s Land Rover. Platinum Heritage’s vintage vehicles make a desert safari – a rite of passage for all Dubai dwellers – extra special. Strapped into the back of a Land Rover jeep, with the city far in the distance and nothing but sand stretching in all directions, it’s easy to believe you’ve been transported to another time.

Tel: (04) 3884044. platinum-heritage.com

Platinum Heritage Safaris

The Odd Piece
Stepping into The Odd Piece in Wasl Square is like visiting a super chic flea market tucked down a side street in Paris. Jeddah-born founder Arwa Hafiz has a brilliantly eclectic eye for mixing eras, colours, and textures and has given Dubai the gift of its very first vintage furniture and design shop. Seated on funky 50’s armchairs that have been lovingly restored, Arwa shared her story. Check out more boutiques just like The Odd Piece, here.

Al Hadiqa Street, Al Wasl Square, Dubai, Sat to Thur 10am to 9pm, Fri 3pm to 9pm. Tel: (04) 3884640. Taxi: Opposite Safa Park. the-oddpiece.com

The Odd Piece - boutique shopping in Dubai

Reform Social And Grill
The next time you visit this gastropub in the Lakes, squeeze in a trip to the retro sweet shop. You won’t find any Jelly Bellies or Black Jacks in here, more like sherbert and humbugs – all stored in old-fashioned glass jars. Sweet tooth still not satisfied? They do ice cream cones too.

The Lakes Club, Emirates Hills, Dubai, daily 8am until late. Tel: (04) 4542638. Taxi: The Lakes Club. reformsocialgrill.ae 

Reform Social and Grill

Audrey’s Cat
Proprietress Lynda Kirby is a true historian when it comes to jewellery and her collection offers everything from Victorian brooches to 1950s sweater guards and 1970s chain link necklaces. The best part is that she sources most pieces directly from the original owners and always has a wonderful story to tell about anything you take home, and will even host a charming tea party for you and your friends. Read about other boutique shops here.


Some days we need hard-core dance tracks to power us through a workout. On others, we just want to rock out to some Prince or a little Madonna, the early years. With this in mind, the girls behind NYLA Method have introduced Throwback Thursdays – the usual barre-based workout, but set to classics from Whitney Houston et al. Find out more here.

Emirates Golf Club, Emirates Hills, Dubai, Thur, Dhs115. Tel: (04) 4549880. Taxi: Emirates Golf Club. nylamethod.com

Reform Social and Grill

Societe Dubai
In case you don’t still have your copies of E.T., Dirty Dancing, and Top Gun on VHS, you can catch them and other ‘80s classics at Societe Dubai this summer. The retro venue is screening old favourites every Wednesday night this summer, complete with beanbags for lounging and popcorn for munching. Check out their school disco night.

Marina Byblos Hotel, Dubai Marina, Wed 8.30pm. Tel: (050) 3571126. Metro: JLT. societe.ae 

Societe Dubai

This may be difficult for some to accept, but enough time has elapsed since the release of Britney’s Baby One More Time for the track to be officially deemed ‘retro’. You can expect to hear Brit’s 1999 debut along with plenty of other smash hits from the ‘90s at Retro Mahiki every Wednesday.

Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai, Wed 7pm to 3am. Tel: (04) 3807731. Taxi: Jumeirah Beach Hotel. jumeirah.com/mahiki

Mahiki, Dubai