250,000kg fish, 300,000kg food items pass through this Dubai market daily; here is how things are kept fresh

Food weighing more than the Burj Khalifa has been sold at the marketplace that's open 24/7


Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Sun 11 Sep 2022, 10:47 AM

Last updated: Mon 12 Sep 2022, 7:50 PM

More than 250 tonnes of fish and 300 tonnes of food pass through Dubai’s Waterfront Market (WFM) every day. Working 365 days, 24 hours a day and spread over 120,000 square feet, this is a one of its kind marketplaces in the region. Last month it completed 5 years in operation and released this infographic to commemorate the occasion.

Selling everything from fish, vegetables, meat, fruits, dates, spices and more, the WFM is a converging spot for all Dubai residents - from families looking to buy their weekly requirements, to bulk buyers sourcing the best ingredients. With coffee shops, play areas, restaurants, a money exchange and a marketplace that sells clothes, toys and more, the market has something for everyone.


WFM is a haven for seafood lovers. Over 350 different varieties of fishes are available at the market. From the extremely rare eels to the most popular varieties of fishes like Kingfish, Hammour and Sheri are sold here.

The entire 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 in live auctions that see retailers calling the shots. More than 5000 customers attend the live auction every day. The others are sold at the 440 fish stalls to more than 30,000 customers.

The dry and frozen fish come from 80 countries all over the world including Alaska and Norway. In addition to Dubai municipality inspectors, the WFM has employed its own inspectors to ensure freshness of fish. “One of the specialities of this market is that no matter what weather condition you have, sunny or windy or dusty, we will have fish for you,” said Adil Alharmoodi, Manager of Operations at 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 cleaners cater to hundreds of customers every day in an organised manner. There are special counters for women and families. Live videos inside the area give an insight into how the counters are cleaned and sanitised in between every batch of fish.

Fruits, vegetables and more

Fresh and colourful fruits and vegetables are lined up and stacked all across the fresh produce section. More than 120 shops sell local organic produce in addition to imported fruits and vegetables. An entire corridor is dedicated just to green leafy vegetables. More than 200 different kinds of produce are sold in the section.

The WFM is one of the few markets in the world that has a resident chef on its premises. Hailing 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, he demonstrates a wide variety of dishes that visitors can easily recreate at home.

Asked to pick his favourite items from the fruits and vegetables section, he said that he loved the tomatoes and dill. “Tomatoes remind me of my home country,” he said. “We use a lot of tomatoes in Greek cuisine, so I have a partiality towards it. Also, dill is one of my favourites for the flavouring that it adds to salads, sauces and bisques.”

This section also boasts of over 30 varieties of dates mostly from local farms. Dry fruits of various kinds are also available here. In addition to this, more than 80 local farmers and producers sell their produce in this section. A lot of unique items are available here including honey along with honeycomb, pickles, eggs and more. You can also find this ostrich’s egg.

Spice, meat and beyond

Apart from fish, fruits and vegetables, there are several other sections at the WFM. Customers can pick the best cuts for their patties, curries and more at the meat section. A wholesale purchasing area gives customers the opportunity to buy household items like ghee, oil and rice.

Restaurants at the market allow customers to buy fresh fish and take it to them for cooking. Dishes can't get any fresher than this!

Whatever spice you may need, you can find it in the Waterfront Market. From dried lemon used in Arabic cuisine to the pungent turmeric powder used in Indian cuisine, the spices here cater to over 180 nationalities.

Six hidden gems at the Waterfront Market, according to Chef Lymperis

1. Hammour: The Waterfront Market hosts some of the finest fishes in the region. However, when asked to pick his favorite, Chef Lymperis named the Hammour. “You must try the local Hammour fish,” he said. “The quality and taste is just superb. Whether you choose to fry it or make it into a curry, it is delicious.”

2. Olives: Tucked into a corner of the WFM near the spices market, there is a shop that sells some of the finest olives from around the world.

3. Local produce section: At the local produce section, customers can find some unique pickles, farm-fresh eggs and honey.

4. Original cinnamon from Ceylon: While cinnamon is a commonly used ingredient in many cuisines, the best of form of this spice is the original cinnamon stick from Ceylon. Visitors can buy this at the WFM in the spices section.

5. Freshly ground spices: Also in the spices section, customers have the option to get whole spices freshly ground.

6. Customised meat patties: In the meat section, buyers can choose customised patties according to their needs. “Sometimes restaurant owners come to buy patties and they will specify the amount of fat they want in it,” said Chef Lymperis. “The varying amount of fat will give different flavours to the dishes.”


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