Born and bred in Dubai, Tarek Roumie has seen Dubai’s unparalleled rise and transformation with his own eyes. Describing himself as making things ‘somewhere between Wellness, Food and Marketing, he’s one-third of the ‘Rascals Boys’ (the team behind the now iconic Rascals Deli), and other ventures include the cult classic Omakase restaurant Moonrise and Mattar Nutrition – a meal prep service shaking up the fitness industry. In September 2023, he joined a line-up of 17 regional talents in the latest Adidas Originals campaign – each an original in their respective fields spanning f&b, food, fashion and art. Here, he shares what he loves most about Dubai, the coolest thing right now and the one thing he wishes everyone knew about the city.
Where’s home home for you, and where is home now?
Dubai has, and will, always be home for me. Being that I was born here and grew up during the time Dubai has gone through its big changes, I felt that I also was on a very personal level, affected by this in the most positive, inspirational way. When I was younger, I was always trying to leave, but I find that now more than ever, I feel completely at peace here through family, friends and work. ‘Home is where all your attempts to escape cease’ is something that is really relatable to me about Dubai.
What do you love the most about Dubai? What keeps you in the city?
I love the fact that you can choose whether you want to live a slow or fast life here. Inherently Dubai is very fast-paced but in the instance you choose to slow down, we have some of the cosiest coffee shops and constant access to the beach! Creating balance here is easy in all aspects. On the flip side, if I do choose to be more outgoing and explore, there is constantly something new happening here.
If someone is visiting Dubai for 24 hours, where are five places they should visit?
It’s got to be revolved around the food and culture here, honestly. Early morning grab a coffee from To the Moon and Back Coffee in Al Wasl and go for a beach walk just down the road from there. For lunch, you wanna grab a bite at Amongst Few and pick up some homegrown merch. towards the evening and sunset, you want to visit XVA in Bur Dubai and check out the whole neighbourhood before heading to dinner at Khori Kabab for some of the best kebab you will ever have. After dinner, IF you have the energy, you can visit Soul Kitchen for an incredible chill night out. Two fun options I would also highly recommend are The Guild for an out-of-this-world dinner if you’re feeling fancy and Honeycomb Hi-Fi for some of the most unique cocktails you will ever get.
What’s one thing you wish people knew about Dubai, but often don’t?
That the culture has so much to offer on all levels. As Arabs, there is a consistent push for boundaries and creativity across the city that is overlooked. Being that the city has grown so big so quickly, things do get lost within the city, but once you really dig, you can find some incredible experiences and creativity here.
Tell me how things started with your businesses. What made you want to go into lifestyle/f&b/wellness?
Human connection has always been at the forefront of what I love to do. I really just want people to, on a fundamental level, improve their lives and whether that comes through nutrition or an overall experience through food, the most important part for me is creating that human connection that makes someone happy. If that is achieved, the hope is for them to create a ripple effect and do the same for others. This is where creativity truly is for me.
Tell us about your businesses – Moonrise, Rascals, Matter Nutrition and A Better Thousand. What makes each of them special in their space?
Going back to human connection, I think every single one of our businesses has that ethos at its core. When I was still doing my masters, I found an opportunity to build a sandwich shop eight years (yes eight!) ago, but due to my lack of experience, I just was not able to really grow it properly. Two years later, we had the space, but we needed more, and that is where matter came to life. We utilised our kitchen to build our meal plan service, and that is where the magic happened. I learned that there was a big benefit in the infrastructure and frameworks that we had created, and my instant thought was, ‘How can we repeat this but with other people in other industries.’
This is the foundation of which every project was born. We have created a model that is centred around human connection and experience, and that has been and will always be my goal in what is special in every business we do.
As for each on an experiential level, Moonrise is what I would consider your occasional experience at the highest calibre in Dubai. Matter Nutrition is your everyday experience to better your health and eating habits, and Rascals is your treat that you get to enjoy when you get bored of eating healthy.
When you’re looking to get inspired, where do you go in Dubai? Why do you find it so inspiring?
The beach. Nothing hits like nature, and with Dubai specifically, we have consistent access to the beach. This is the place to detach and think for me. I usually come up with my best ideas and solutions on a walk at the beach.
How has the city’s f&b and wellness scene evolved? What is your view on Dubai’s food scene right now? And how do you think it will grow?
I always say that we are in the third generation of f&b and wellness. Right now, aspiring entrepreneurs are not afraid to take risks, and it shows in the quality of what we are creating as a scene. We have the uniqueness and diversity of large cities but also the service to match. If I were to make a bold statement, I think within a couple of years, we will have the best food scene globally. It will just take some time.
What’s the coolest thing happening in Dubai right now?
At the very moment, I have to say the most ambitious project that gave me literal goosebumps was The Guild. Easily the most beautiful space in Dubai as well as some incredible food (specifically for dinner) to match. What I also love is when December kicks in, there is nothing cooler than Sole DXB. We started our Rascals journey at Sole and we saw the impact that has had on the scene. For me there really is nothing cooler and more impactful than Sole as a whole. Honourable mentions in regards to other things to check out as well: