Food and culture go hand in hand, and there is no better way to dive into the cultural scenario of any country, Food and culture go hand in hand, and there is no better way to dive into the cultural scenario of any country, rather than by exploring its very own dishes, which are an amalgamation of the different flavours of its history. Like most Middle-Eastern countries, the UAE has a vibrant and thriving cultural scene despite its modern wealth.
Undeniably there is always something more special about sharing good food in the company of loved ones, even so much more than sightseeing. The UAE, comprising seven Emirates, is no different and each city has its own unique flavour and cuisine. Here we have compiled the best part of each Emirate, which makes the UAE the ultimate foodie destination in the region.
Starting off with the capital city of Abu Dhabi, true to its Emirati sentiments and deep cultural connection, dining has been an integral part of the city’s vibrant history. Trademark dishes of the city include Al Harees, which is slow-cooked meat and wheat in a traditional clay or mud pot, served with ghee, Al Majboos, which is meat boiled in water mixed with spices and dried limes and a wide range of seafood specialities, as Abu Dhabi itself is a coastal city.
The Emirates specialises in reflecting the generosity and hospitality of Arabic culture in its Abu Dhabi hotels, as well as various restaurants and cafes, with popular ones such as Al Arish, one of the country’s first restaurants and the Al Dhafra Dinner Cruise, where you can enjoy great food on a traditional dhow with stunning views of the Corniche.
The luxury and extravagance of Dubai not only extends to the lifestyle, architecture and Dubai hotels, but the richness of local food items in Dubai also should not be overlooked. Be it the juicy, tender meat-filled bread Shawarma or its alternative vegetarian falafel, desserts such as Kunafa and Luqaimat are all well-loved specialties of Dubai.
The pomp and glitz of Dubai sure are alluring but eating like a local and getting to experience authentic Arabian cuisines in local restaurants serving traditional recipes is unbeatable. A few of our top picks include the fine dining centre Aseelah, Logma, which specialises in authentic Arab Khaleeji cuisines and the Al Fanar Restaurant and Cafe.
The UAE was initially inhabited by tribal clans, and Sharjah’s food culture is reminiscent of its past. Some classic dishes from the city include the Harees, a meat porridge which is usually served during Eid, meat, cheese or veg-filled pie called the Fatayer and the stomach-filling mezze platter, served with hummus, tahini, salads, and more.
You can find the best of Sharjah in the seafood havens of Casa Samak, fusion food in King’s grill and stop by the aesthetic hotspot Shakespeare and Co Cafe to enjoy drinks and desserts.
Ras Al Khaimah
The fascinating Bedouin heritage of Ras Al Khaimah, which is steeped in pure Arabian culture, specialises itself in several staple items of the country cuisines, be it shawarma rolls, Fatayer, the Shish Taouk Sandwich, Manakish and more.
After settling into your hotel and checking out the locality, try visiting the Al Fanar Restaurant & Café and order Machboos, which is a special combination of fish or chicken with rice, served with spices. Stews such as Thereed and Fareed are other specialties of the restaurant. For fine dining, check out Claw BBQ at the Hampton by Hilton Marjan Island or Lexington Grill at the luxury resort Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah.
Umm Al Quwain
Despite being the least populous and the second smallest Emirate in the country, the tranquillity of the area that is unhindered by drastic modern advances, unlike its neighbours, makes Umm Al Quwain more special as its commitment to protecting its unique identity while accommodating other cultures as well.
Umm Al Quwain is an ideal town for foodies from any part of the globe as the cuisine here is not only restricted to the Arab scenario but extends to intercontinental dishes too. Check out the German bistro Das Brauhaus if you are in town or the American-styled restaurant Thunder Road Pizza & Grill Barracuda.
Again, like the rest of the country, Ajman also has its fair share of delectable Arabic dishes to take you on a gastronomic tour and leave you satisfied and wanting more. Like Abu Dhabi, Ajman is also a coastal city and eateries such as Marasea Restaurant are known for serving some of the best seafood dishes, from freshly caught fish, lobsters, shrimp and more. Sultan Sarray located by Ajman Beach, specialises in not only Arabian but Turkish dishes as well, embodying the diversity and inclusivity of the city to multiple global cuisines.
By now, you should know that despite being a reasonably orthodox country that is cautious about foreign influences, the UAE has grown to accommodate people from different nationalities under its roof. Ajman, in addition to holding its own authentic cuisine, is highly appreciative of other cooking practices as well.
The juicy kebabs of Othmani Turkish Restaurant, authentic Indonesian, Thai, and Malaysian delicacies by Oriental Restaurant or the burst of flavourful Indian cuisine at Anjali Restaurant, all located in Fujairah, clearly prove the wide range of options available to visitors in the city.