The World of Emirati Cuisine And Culture
Tasting traditional Emirati food cooked by the local ladies and sharing a traditional meal together with them while sitting down in a traditional ladies’ majlis/seating, was an amazing experience.
The UAE’s expatriate population had till now, a very limited opportunity to know about the Emirati Cuisine, until and unless someone has had the chance to be invited by an Emirati into his/her home. Our previous experiences of tasting Middle Eastern food had been limited to mostly Lebanese food, Jordanian food, Egyptian food and Iranian food. Although, we have been living in Dubai for quite a while, every time a guest would visit us and wished to taste local food, we would take them to probably a Lebanese restaurant. The best Emirati food experience that we have had till date was at the Sheikh Mohammad Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) – a traditional Emirati cultural meal, followed by a walking tour of the Bastakiya region. The occasional Emirati food experiences were the Leqaimats, the golden crisp fried dough balls coated with date syrup and sesame seeds, made by the local womenfolk either at Heritage Village or in the Global Village. It’s only recently that a few restaurants have come up – for example, the authentic Emirati food in Al Fanar or the Emirati breakfast in the Biker’s Café.
Recently, the Dubai World Hospitality Championship (DWHC) took an initiative to bring out Emirati cuisine from traditional kitchens and exhibit it to the world. A great learning for the Z-Sisters, who have ‘adopted’ Dubai as their home since their birth. To be able to click pictures of traditional Emirati women (usually, the local womenfolk prefer not to be photographed), tasting traditional Emirati food cooked by the local ladies and sharing a traditional meal together with them while sitting down in a traditional ladies’ majlis/seating, was an amazing experience. These Bastakiya-like wind-towered houses formed quite an interesting contrast against the modern day architecture of World Trade Centre apartments. While you enjoy the pictures, please remember that although the local womenfolk have been specially educated to brave in front the camera just like they were educated to wear gloves while doing their cooking! I have taken permission from each individual that I have clicked. Come, explore the world of Emirati cuisine and culture through my eyes and my lenses, as Dubai keeps its fingers crossed – 7 more days and we’ll get to know whether it gets to host the World Expo 2020 (grapevine has it that it already has won the bid)!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
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Disclaimer: The Dubai World Hospitality Championship (DWHC) is created under the directive of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.
The courtyard of a traditional Emirati home
The inside of a traditional Emirati house recreated | Emirates Towers at the backdrop
Local womenfolk cooking in the balcony that surrounds the courtyard
The thin crispy Rgag that can be eaten plain, drenched in ‘Salona’ stew, sprinkled with fish sauce
Leqaimat, crispy fried golden dough balls coated with date syrup and sesame seeds. This is one deadly-divine-dessert!
Henna designs on the hands complement the sesame-sprinkled divine Leqaimats
The Kadak Chai – every Emirati family has an unique way of making this and nobody shares their secret ‘ingredients’
Perhaps consulting the recipe App on the smartphone?
Harissa is a dish of boiled, cracked or coarsely-ground wheat and meat or chicken
Puffed up fluffy Khameer sprinkled with Sesame seeds, to be had with Kraft Cheese (yes, you heard it right again!)
A glimpse into a traditional Emirati kitchen
A glimpse into Emirati culture
Embroidery of the Burga worn on the face. I am told this isn’t part of the Islam religion but part of tradition
Traditional handicrafts from coloured Palm leaves
The cylindrical cushion like ‘thing’ on the stand is called the Talli. And the stand is called Kajoojeh and it’s used to make embroidered neck pieces for the Jalabiya, or the traditional dress that an Emirati woman wears
Attar or traditional scents, the bottles that hold them are pieces of art too!
Traditional embroidery adorning the pillows and the cushions inside the Majlis
Pearl diving has been one of the oldest professions in the UAE
Al Ayyala dance is a traditional Emirati group dance | Memorabilia and nostalgia adorning the wall
The contrasting backdrop of the WTC apartments against the recreated traditional wind-towered Emirati houses
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There’s a new place in Jumairah called Local Bites. Haven’t been there but lots of people have praised it.
There’s another place in the building close to Almamzar Center (in Deira) called AlKhattar.
The Mhalla is usually made with sugar and eaten like that. Kraft cheese would probably be a new thing.
The other bread you took a photo of which looks like mhalla but paler and more crisp is Rgag. That is eaten plain, drenched in “Salona” stew, sprinkled with fish sauce etc. Endless options.
The thing the women was doing (which you mentioned is for her jalabiya) isn’t. It’s a Burga which she’s wearing on her face. This isn’t part of the religion it’s traditional.
The next photo where there’s a purple sphere “thing” on a stand… That’s called a Kajoojeh and it’s used to make the thing for the jalabiyeh. This thing on the dress is called Talli.
I guess I covered most of what I wanted to say lol
Thanks for sharing Ishita!
Wait till i move to my new house and you’ll be invited for REAL Emirati food! 😁
Thank you so very much Arva, this is exactly what I needed. I have updated my post with all the changes and I do hope that it reflects the tradition more accurately. I really cannot wait for you to move into your new house and settle down. Shall I come and help you? lol!
Enjoyed reading the post and I completely agree how we have never managed to get up, close with the Emirati cuisine even after having lived here for more than decade. A recent visit to Al Fanar on your recommendation was extremely enjoyable, The ambience and food was a totally different experience.
Thank you Neel. This was a fabulous experience. I am so glad that you enjoyed Al Fanar. I believe more restaurants are coming up gradually. Let’s wait for a while then:)
I Live in a Frying Pan
Love these photos! Wish I’d made it to that event but thankfully your photos have helped to port me there 🙂
Thank you! I think that the DWHC is going to organise a similar event this time as well – so you might have a chance!
May i know who is in the first picture she actually look like me i get surprise when i saw her i am from philippines and i am here in dubai now