You might be craving hungover falafel after a heavy weekend or perhaps looking for the perfect spa treatment to end a tough day. Or maybe you’re simply looking for a culture-filled way to spend an afternoon or an undercover shisha to take the edge off those thunderstorms forecasted… Whatever the case, Pink Jinn’s got you covered with these 6 Middle Eastern experiences, all in the heart of the capital!
- Hit the Hammam to relax and recharge
The traditional Arabic bath ritual is a common favourite among tourists visiting the Middle East, particularly Morocco and Turkey. But you might not have been aware that you can experience the Hammam in various locations across central London.
If you’re looking for luxury, try the Spa at Dolphin Square’s Moroccan cleansing ritual or the Bentley Hotel Spa’s Turkish Hammam. If you’re after a more authentic experience, go for the family-run Arabian Hammam on Edgware Road.
Harrods Turkish Baths, Knightsbridge
- Browse the hottest Arabic titles at the London branch of Cairo’s biggest bookstore
In 2016, Egypt’s largest chain of bookshops – ALEF Bookstores – opened its first UK branch branch on Baker Street. Its shelves are treasure troves of the best English and Arabic fiction and non-fiction titles, while its laid-back vibe and friendly staff make it easy to browse for hours on end.
ALEF is great for Arabic resources if you’re studying the language and it also plays host to a number of interesting talks, workshops and book signings. For example, it recently hosted bestselling Turkish author Elif Shafak, who unveiled her latest book, Three Daughters of Eve and spoke about the role of women in Middle Eastern society.
ALEF Bookstore, Baker Street
- Wander through a blue-tiled riad in Kensington and Chelsea
Leighton House Museum on Holland Park Road is truly one of the city’s hidden gems. Tucked away in the greenery of London’s Royal Borough, the former home of the Victorian artist Lord Frederic Leighton bears the hallmarks of his travels in the Middle East and North Africa. This includes an ornate hall with a golden dome, intricate mosaics and bright Islamic tiling.
Standing in the peaceful entrance hall with blue zelij on all sides and a water fountain trickling in the background, you’ll feel as if you could be in a riad in Morocco. Leighton House is the perfect way to soak up some culture and escape the hustle and bustle of the city – without leaving zone 1!
Leighton House Museum, Holland Park Road
- Dine out on authentic Middle Eastern cuisine on the Edgware Road
Possibly the most famous Middle Eastern experience in London is the vibrant restaurant scene on the Edgware Road. Though not as cheap as it might be in the Middle East, the food is delicious and authentic. Most common are Moroccan and Lebanese restaurants, but if you look a little harder you’ll find food from absolutely everywhere in the region on one street.
It’s more of an immersive experience than just a meal out. Many restaurants put on entertainment such as belly dancing, and you can go hours in some places without hearing English spoken at all.
If you’re looking for something slightly less authentic and more upmarket, however, try Mamounia in Mayfair or Knightsbridge – the Lebanese and Moroccan cuisine served is excellent (but pricey!).
London’s Edgeware Road is famous for its array of Middle Eastern restaurants
- Visit an exhibition at one of London’s Middle Eastern cultural hotspots
The Brunei Gallery in the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) regularly plays host to contemporary and historical exhibitions from the Middle East. Currently running is ‘A Perilous Journey: Stories of Migration’, a poignant exhibition providing an insight into the refugee crisis in Europe. If you have time, pop into the SOAS library to browse the UK’s best selection of literature on the Middle East.
Another popular stop is the Mosaic Rooms near Earl’s Court, which is regularly hosts fascinating exhibitions, film screenings, talks and panel events relating to the region. It also organises the occasional edgy Arabic music night. Beware though, you can lose hours in its tiny bookshop, which is jam-packed full of the best Middle Eastern arts, politics and culture titles.
The gallery at the Mosaic Rooms, Earl’s Court
- Finish off the day with a juice and a shisha
A summer evening on a shisha patio in London can feel like a spring night in Beirut or Istanbul. Best enjoyed with fresh fruit juice (we recommend lemon and mint), there’s nothing quite like the sound of the bubbles and the scent of apple and grape to transport you thousands of miles East.
We suggest Dar Marrakesh on the Edgware Road, as the sparkling lanterns hanging from the ceiling create a unique ambience (and the food is excellent should you get peckish). Momo’s in Mayfair is also popular, with its Berber pouffes and mosaic flooring – though your pockets might end the evening a little lighter.
The basement shisha lounge at Momo’s Cafe
We hope we’ve given you plenty of Bank Holiday inspiration! If you liked this, you might also enjoy: