Dubai’s kind of got a thing for stupidly ornate and over-the-top buildings, so much so that architects are always trying to outdo each other. That’s part of the mentality behind Al Mahara, an underwater themed restaurant. Nobody is really sure why they didn’t want to just go the extra mile and build it underwater; after all, they aren’t shying away from building a giant ice berg in the desert.
As I said, Al Mahara isn’t actually underwater, but every feature of the restaurant is supposed to replicate that feeling. With arcing, tunnel-like passageways, the building does follow the general architectural aesthetic that you’d expect. The main draw of the Al Mahara, though, is the enormous circular aquarium in the center of the restaurant.
Compared to other underwater themed restaurants, I would actually say that Al Mahara is the most impressive. At first glance, you’d think that Ithaa or Red Sea Star would be better because they are, actually, underwater. In reality, though, creating an underwater restaurant necessarily limits the building’s potential. You’re restricted by size and depth, and maintenance is extremely difficult and expensive.
By placing Al Mahara on land, the designers were more able to design a spectacular building and then add an aquarium in the middle of it. Completely submerged restaurants might be a bit more committed to the theme and just plain cool, but they aren’t quite as architecturally impressive. You’ve got to strike a balance, I suppose. The more extreme the location, the more limited you are by that location.
Al Mahara, which translates into “The Pearl,” is an absolutely beautiful and high class restaurant that transcends the only minor disadvantage of not being completely underwater. If given the opportunity to go to either Ithaa, the Red Sea Star, or Al Mahara, I think I’d go with Al Mahara.