The creative husband-and-wife duo shares their guide to life in the UAE…

Each month, we ask Dubai residents to share a guide to the UAE through their eyes. Their favourite places, hidden gems, must-try dishes, and local brands they love.

This month singer, creative director, and entrepreneur Layla Kardan (@laylakardan) and her husband, restauranteur and entrepreneur Hamdan Al Khafaji give us the lowdown on what they’re loving right now and the favourite spots that their combined 50 years’ worth of UAE living has brought them.

Stay here

Ritz Carlton Al Wadi

Our favourite staycation spot in the UAE is Ras A Khaimah. We love to get away and revel in its natural beauty, amongst the emirate’s majestic mountains, do a hike and maybe a zipline, and take in the fresh air. We love to stay at The Ritz Carlton, Al Wadi Desert. On the way, we stop at Thunder Road Pizza for a good authentic pizza and stock up on delicious Italian cheeses and European produce and condiments.

Relax here


We have created our own little haven – Contrast Sauna and Ice Studio. It seems like a plug, but it truly is an escape. Contrast is the perfect place to unwind, switch off, and rejuvenate at the same time. The space is calming and makes you feel you’re in the Mediterranean. @contrastwellness

Discover this

to the moon and back

Our morning routine consists of coffee at the cutest coffee shop, To The Moon and Back, in a courtyard in Jumeirah 2. It’s the most beautiful way to start the day and to practice our morning meditation. After coffee, we walk to Nessnass Beach. It’s busy but not too busy, and we love saying hi to the locals we’ve befriended over the years. It’s a real community and the perfect beach to take our son to swim as it’s not too wavy.

Visit here

The Palm’s new beach club and restaurant Tagomago transports you to Ibiza with the setting, vibe and menu. We’re not big fans of loud beach clubs, but we are so inspired by this beautiful space. It’s a great date spot or a place to go as a group. @tagomagodubai

Drink here

We love Honeycomb Hi-Fi in Downtown Dubai. It’s an incredible vinyl listening bar with great food and a casual ambiance, and the design is top. @honeycombhifi

Dine here

Penelopes Abu Dhabi

Our favourite restaurant is our own, Penelope’s at Yas Marina. Hamdan perfected the French Riviera menu and Layla curated the best talent in the UAE playing jazz and soul, and bringing so much life and flavour to the capital.

Images: Provided/Social