Since bars and pubs are off the cards in Dammam, much time is inevitably spent sampling the city’s culinary offerings. Whichever cuisine the heart desires can be found in Dammam - Italian, Indian, Brazillian, Lebanese, Japanese, and even Australian.
Traditional Saudi cuisine is characterised by heavy use of spices and plenty of meat and rice. Some of the most commonly used ingredients include lamb, chicken, onions, tomatoes, dates, yoghurt, coriander, saffron, cumin and turmeric. For truly authentic local cuisine, forget researching online and simply go for a walk through the city centre, keeping an eye out for the smaller, understated eateries that look to be popular with the locals.
For a dining experience a little out of the ordinary, pay a visit to Heritage Village on Corniche Street. The privately-owned, five-story building resembles an Arabian castle and doubles as a museum. Before or after dining, browse the owner’s private collection of art, antiques and manuscripts from throughout Saudi Arabia’s history. The menu is mainly traditional Saudi cuisine, with some influence from other Middle Eastern and Asian cultures.
When the time comes for a break from Middle Eastern food, the acclaimed Da Vinci Italian Restaurant will come to the rescue. Located at the Sheraton Dammam Hotel & Towers, this little slice of Italy is arguably the best restaurant in the city.
In the absence of bars and nightclubs, shopping is the focal point of the entertainment scene in Saudi Arabia. There are several large and modern shopping malls in Dammam that should satisfy most shopping needs. The foremost of these is Marina Mall, a large shopping complex targeted heavily towards women and children, with a number of clothing, beauty and baby shops, as well as a fantastic amusement centre to keep the kids busy.
Also worthy of a mention is Shira Mall. While fairly basic for the most part, Shira Mall has a secret weapon up its sleeve that ensures a steady flow of patrons through its doors - its own ice skating rink. The rink is not only a great source of entertainment for locals and tourists alike, but also a convenient way to escape the scorching summer temperatures.
For fresh local seafood, meat and produce pay a visit to the bustling market area in the city centre. The markets offer a far more authentic experience than the more Westernised malls, providing visitors with a peak into the culture and everyday life of Dammam.