More than 250 tonnes of fish and 300 tonnes of food pass through Dubai’s Waterfront Market (WFM) every day. Working 365 days a week, 24 hours a day and spread over 120,000 square feet, it is a one-of-a-kind market in the region. Last month it completed 5 years of operation and released this infographic to commemorate the occasion.
Selling everything from fish, vegetables, meat, fruit, dates, spices and more, the WFM is a focal point for all Dubai residents – from families looking to meet their weekly needs to shoppers wholesalers looking for the best ingredients. With cafes, playgrounds, restaurants, a currency exchange and a market that sells clothes, toys and more, the market has something for everyone.
WFM is a paradise for seafood lovers. Over 350 different varieties of fish are available in the market. From extremely rare eels to the most popular fish varieties like Kingfish, Hammour and Sheri are sold here.
The whole fish market is divided into four sections – dried, frozen, fresh and live fish. The fresh market supports more than 300 local fishermen who bring their catch to the market every day.
Some of the fish is sold at live auctions where retailers are in control. More than 5000 customers attend the live auction every day. The others are sold in the 440 fish stalls to more than 30,000 customers.
Dried and frozen fish come from 80 countries around the world, including Alaska and Norway. In addition to Dubai Municipality inspectors, the WFM has employed its own inspectors to ensure the freshness of the fish. “One of the specialties of this market is that whatever the weather, sunny, windy or dusty, we will have fish for you,” said Adil Alharmoodi, operations manager at the Waterfront Market.
For even fresher seafood, customers can head to a counter where they can order live lobsters and crabs from a tank.
The fish is cleaned and cut like clockwork. More than 130 housekeepers take care of hundreds of customers every day in an organized manner. There are special counters for women and families. Live videos inside the area provide insight into how the counters are cleaned and sanitized between each batch of fish.
Fruits, vegetables and more
Fresh and colorful fruits and vegetables are lined and stacked throughout the fresh produce section. More than 120 stores sell local organic produce in addition to imported fruits and vegetables. An entire hallway is dedicated solely to green leafy vegetables. More than 200 different types of products are sold in the section.
The WFM is one of the few markets in the world to have a resident chef on its premises. Originally from Greece, Christos Lymperis has been in the UAE for 12 years. He hosts weekly cooking classes on Friday evenings. Using produce from various sections of the market, it showcases a wide variety of dishes that visitors can easily recreate at home.
Asked to choose his favorite items from the produce section, he said he loves tomatoes and dill. “Tomatoes remind me of my home country,” he said. “We use a lot of tomatoes in Greek cooking, so I have a preference for that. Also, dill is one of my favorites for the flavor it adds to salads, sauces and bisques.
This section also boasts of more than 30 varieties of dates mostly sourced from local farms. Dried fruits of all kinds are also available here. In addition to this, more than 80 local farmers and producers sell their products in this section. Many unique items are available here, including honey, honeycombs, pickles, eggs, and more. You can also find this ostrich egg.
Spices, meat and more
Besides fish, fruits and vegetables, there are several other sections at the WFM. Customers can choose the best cuts for their patties, curries and more at the meat department. A bulk shopping area gives customers the opportunity to buy household items like ghee, oil and rice.
Market restaurants allow customers to buy fresh fish and bring it to them to cook. Dishes can’t get any fresher than this!
Whatever spice you need, you can find it at the Waterfront Market. From the dried lemon used in Arabic cooking to the pungent turmeric powder used in Indian cooking, the spices here cater to over 180 nationalities.
Six hidden gems at the Waterfront Market, according to Chef Lymperis
1. Hammour: The Waterfront Market is home to some of the best fish in the area. However, when asked to pick his favorite, Chef Lymperis named the Hammour. “You have to try the local Hammour fish,” he said. “The quality and taste are just superb. Whether you choose to fry it or make a curry out of it, it’s delicious.
2. Olives: Tucked away in a corner of WFM near the Spice Market is a store that sells some of the best olives from around the world.
3. Local produce section: In the local produce section, customers can find unique pickles, farm-fresh eggs, and honey.
4. Original Ceylon Cinnamon: While cinnamon is a common ingredient used in many cuisines, the best form of this spice is the original Ceylon cinnamon stick. Visitors can buy it at WFM in the spice section.
5. Freshly ground spices: Also in the spice section, customers have the option of getting freshly ground whole spices.
6. Custom Meat Patties: In the meat section, buyers can choose custom patties according to their needs. “Sometimes restaurateurs come in to buy patties and they specify how much fat they want in them,” Chef Lymperis said. “The varying amount of fat will give different flavors to dishes.”
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