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Chilling out in sizzling Dubai's all-ice cafe

By Mirna Sleiman

Reuters

11:37 AM EDT, May 13, 2013

DUBAI

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Honeymooners and other tourists from the Gulf are heading to the throbbing heart of Dubai to beat the summer heat by cooling off at the first "ice lounge" in the Middle East.

The interior decor of Dubai's Chillout cafe is made entirely of carved ice, with frozen picture frames, ice curtains and frosty seats covered in fur.

The interior of the cafe, owned by UAE's Sharaf Group, is lit with multi-colored fluorescent lights.

"We got married in Riyadh four days ago and the first place on our to-do list was to visit Chillout cafe in Dubai," said 27-year-old Saudi travel agent Ahmed, holding the hand of his veiled bride Nouf.

"Can you imagine you're in a freezing café while it's 35 degrees (Celsius) outside?"

Visitors are kitted out with thermal jackets, boots and fur hats provided by the cafe in a striking similarity to the ice hotels which dot Scandinavia in winter.

Dubai - which is famous for its luxury shopping, beaches, indoor ski slope, the world's tallest tower and a man-made palm-shaped island - has become a top short-stay tourist destination in the Middle East alongside Cairo and Beirut.

Tourism is crucial to Dubai's economy, which had a gross domestic product of around $90 billion last year, supports the emirate's large retail industry and hospitality sectors.

Dubai aims to triple its annual income from tourism to 300 billion dirhams ($82 billion) by 2020, which would involve doubling the number of its hotel rooms, Helal Almarri, director-general of Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), told Reuters last week.

Visitors to Chillout, pay 60 dirhams for a 40-minute visit and are served one hot drink. The cafe can fit 40 people at a time and gets about 100 visitors a day.

(Reporting by Mirna Sleiman, editing by Paul Casciato)