Emirati Tastes Are Worth Discovering
By Neha Singh
While Arabic dishes are quite popular all over the world, the menu options available for Emirati food or Arabic delights will be quite restricted or incomplete when it comes to a restaurant outside of the UAE.
So, being a regular wayfarer in Dubai, the first thing I head to do here is to explore the country’s local food scene.
Alternatively, it is also one of the surefire mediums to get to know the real locals and experience the modest Emirati culture, heritage and iconic Arabian hospitality.
First of all, let’s get it straight!
Where do we get the best Emirati food in Dubai?
Which is the top authentic Emirati restaurant in the UAE?
Which is the best place to try certain local specialties (like shawarma, stuffed camel, etc) in Dubai or the UAE?
These are some of the top questions that I get frequently asked about Dubai’s bonafide culinary scene. But, the sheer truth is that this largely depends on one’s personal awareness or distinct viewpoints. For example, what that appeases to my taste bud may not necessarily entice yours.
Through this read, my intention is to introduce our readers to some of the top Emirati eateries which I believe are authentic and must-visits for foodies with a special penchant for local Arabic foods.
Where to Start? Al Seef
Dining options in Al Seef are far more than you can imagine. We realized this when we took a break from the region’s usual culinary scene and embarked on a 90 minutes dinner dhow cruise. It is a slow paced cruise where you get to sail aboard a rustic Arabian wooden vessel that is nothing short of an intimate floating restaurant.
On our first dhow cruise Dubai experience, we were treated to a food menu that was a fusion of classic Emirati and refined international flavors. It was a pleasant winter evening and a piping hot cup of Arabic Cava gave a perfect start to the cruise. This was followed by different varieties of salads, soups, main course dishes and Arabian desserts including Mahalabiya.
Al Fanar Seafood Restaurant, by the way, is the top choice for visitors coming here for pure Emirati treats. The ambience is cozy with an age-old allure, and its menu mainly focuses on fresh seafood delicacies enhanced with delectable Emirati flavors.
There are also other cool spots to try Arabic dishes in Al Seef; Al Hamidieh and Haleeb O Heil Restaurant & Café are some of my personal favorites. They both serve Arabic cuisines at its flavorsome best. Just a few blocks away from here are Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant and Arabian Tea House Restaurant & Café at Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood.
They stand out from the rest for their marvelous antiquated settings and of course, Emirati menu, in particular the lavish Emirati breakfast trays.
Dining options in Al Seef are far more than you can imagine. Take a break from the region’s usual culinary scene and add a twist to your traditional dining in the region with a dhow cruise Dubai session. This approximately two hours’ cruise down Dubai Creek aboard a rustic wooden Arabian vessel is full of charm.
Sights that surround you on the cruise is simply striking, and more than that, the food served onboard is a fusion of both Emirati and international flavors, allowing you to taste the best of both worlds.
Street Food Exploration in Dubai
Given the glamorous reputation of Dubai, this may sound somewhat contradictory. The reality is that Dubai has some wonderful street food spots, particularly across Bur Dubai and Deira regions, for those looking for a more low-key and super budget-friendly local dining experience.
But, don’t expect these venues to be shabby, open-air stalls; they are mostly enclosed, reasonably clean spaces where food is served in an intimate, casual setting.
Most of them can hardly accommodate five to ten guests indoors, however with some generous space for alfresco or outdoor dining. These spots are its best during the winter season from November to March.
Arabic street food beloveds such as shawarma, kebabs, falafels, Luqaimat, kunafa etc, are meant to be the stopgap alternatives for a heavy breakfast or lunch while in Dubai.
Take a bite of shawarma – its succulent chicken or lamb meat stuffed with the scrumptious spices and drenched in some special sauce is not only heavenly but also just enough to keep your tummy fill for a long time.
Wash it down with a cup of strong Karak tea or Arabic coffee and you are all set for a packed day of activities or sightseeing in the emirate.
Emirati Cuisines with a Refined Twist
Dubai’s high-end, pricey dining venues may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they are definitely worth a try if you can stretch your pocket a bit. Logma, placed in the classy area of Boxpark, is one elegant spot that we frequent for Emirati dishes in Dubai.
Aseelah is another place that we visit when we crave for bonafide traditional Arabic food (served in a magnificent setting.) It is found inside Radisson Blue Hotel at Dubai Deira Creek. For a hint of the Emirati maritime heritage, Al Jalboot at Al Souq Mall in Umm Suqeim area is highly recommended.
The city’s hotspots such as City Walk and Downtown Dubai too have its share of Arabic and Emirati restaurants; Sikka Café and Siraj Restaurant are a few to mention.
Traditional Dining with Adventurous and Cultural Experiences
For most travelers to Dubai (including me), a holiday or tour in the city is incomplete without going on a desert safari.
The Arabian Desert landscape that encompasses the region is a national treasure and this guided safari will give you a sizeable slice of the culture, heritage, and traditions that make this country unique from other parts of the world.
The catch is to find the right service provider for your desert expedition. Our debut desert trip in Dubai went miserably wrong due to poor quality service and substandard food.
Our subsequent trips, however, turned out to be pleasant, where every aspect of our safari including 4X4 dune bash activity, camel ride, and mostly food and entertainment was well taken care of by our service provider.
Food menu in a desert safari is mostly filled with local Arabic BBQ specialties complemented by a long list of fruits, desserts and refreshments.
Its taste and quality is largely determined by the expertise of the desert safari company you choose.
When you search for a desert safari provider, don’t be deceived by the low rates; instead make a thorough research to know about its inclusions and inquire whether they offer all types of Emirati cuisines including vegetarian and non-vegetarian food.
Visitors to Dubai or UAE not only get to see the most astonishing and record-breaking sights, but also taste the culinary delights from all over the world. The UAE, especially its popular emirates including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, is one of the world’s best dining spots in the world, featuring hundreds of thousands of dining venues.
Along with shopping and sightseeing, eating out too is practically an experience in its own right and tasting Emirati dishes is one of the unmissable segments of it.
Neha Singh loves traveling and is an avid trekker and explorer. She did her post-graduation degree in Mass Communication, loves meeting new people and strongly believe in the Gandhian principle – ‘Simple living, high thinking’. She lives in Dubai.
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Meat, fish, and rice are the staple foods of the Emirati cuisine. Lamb and mutton are the more favored meats rather than goat, beef, and camel meat. Dates are usually consumed with meals. Popular beverages are coffee and tea, which can be supplemented with cardamom, saffron, or mint to give it a distinct flavor.What is the most popular food in Emirates? ›
Something that is loved by all; Shawarma is the most consumed food across UAE. Be it malls, street outlets, and restaurants; you will be able to find a shawarma at any time of the day. In recent times, it has also become a famous and a much loved food in many Asian countries.What is the most popular food in Dubai? ›
- OLD SCHOOL SHAWARMA. It's no coincidence that shawarma is at the top of this list of food in Dubai you've got to try. ...
- MIND BLOWING HUMMUS. ...
- DATE SYRUP AKA DIBS. ...
- ANDA PAROTTA ROLL. ...
- KARAK CHAI. ...
- INDIAN FOOD. ...
- KEBABS. ...
- ZA'ATAR AND CHEESE ANYTHING.
Being a seafaring community, seafood was and is the most common item in Emirati lunch and dinner. And a typical lunch or dinner is white rice and grilled or fried fish or fish salona (curry made with tomato paste and Arabic spices).Is Emirati food healthy? ›
Traditional ingredients in Emirati cuisine are part of UAE culture, but they can be bad for health because of their high sugar content, Daniel Bardsley writes.Why do Emiratis wear white? ›
The most striking features of the Emirati attire are its colour and length. Mainly white coloured robes are worn by men as Bedouins, preferred this colour as it would reflect the sun's rays. However, grey and brown shades are also used but mainly in colder months alone.What do Emiratis eat for breakfast? ›
- Beidh Wa Tomat or Shakshuka.
- Chabab Bread – Emirati Pancake.
- Khameer Bread.
- Khubz Regag – Raqaq Bread.
- Dango – Boiled chickpeas (دانقو)
- Samak Mashwi.
The United Arab Emirates is known for the tallest human-made structure, the Burj Khalifa, and the Burj Al Arab, one of the tallest hotel building in the world. The UAE is famous for several artificial islands like the Palm Jumeirah island, the World, and The Universe archipelagos.What is the most famous food or drink in the UAE? ›
Khuzi. Also spelt as Ghuzi, this dish is considered as the national food of UAE along with Al Machboos. It is a wholesome and filling dish, prepared of roasted lamb, or mutton served on top of the rice along with some vegetables and nuts.What is the most popular in UAE? ›
- Burj Khalifa. 76,361. Architectural Buildings • Observation Decks & Towers. ...
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center. 35,042. Religious Sites. ...
- The Dubai Fountain. 75,268. Fountains. ...
- Al Montazah Parks. 3,544. ...
- Jebel Jais. 1,037. ...
- Jebel Hafit. 1,693. ...
- The Dubai Mall. 31,040. ...
- Sheikh Zayed Mosque - Fujairah. 107.
What is Dubai's National Food? While meat, fish, and rice are the Dubai national foods, Al Machboos and Khuzi are the traditional cuisines of the country.What is the famous sweet of UAE? ›
Basbousa. A traditional Levantine cake, basbousa is commonly eaten after family meals. It's quite a simple recipe, mostly made from semolina and sometimes powdered coconut, soaked in syrup and garnished with blanched almonds.What is the famous fruit of UAE? ›
In addition to dates, the major fruit crops are citrus and mangoes.What is Emiratis salary? ›
The average salary in Dubai is 21,500 AED per month, which works out to around £5,163. It has the highest average salary of all the United Emirates, but it also has one of the highest costs of living, along with Abu Dhabi. The UAE does not have a national minimum wage, and as such wages can vary significantly.Can Emiratis drink alcohol? ›
Alcohol. UAE Residents can drink alcohol at home and in licensed venues. Liquor licences are still required for Residents in Dubai but are no longer required for Residents in Abu Dhabi and other Emirates (save for Emirate of Sharjah) to purchase alcohol for personal consumption.Do Emiratis get paid more? ›
Meanwhile, 32 per cent of Emiratis received a salary increase in 2021. The average increase in pay was between 5 per cent and 10 per cent, according to the Hays salary guide. Among Emiratis who expect a pay rise this year, the majority expect an increase of 5 per cent to 10 per cent.Why do Emiratis touch noses? ›
A rubbing nose is a gesture of welcoming people in the Arab world. Rubbing noses is a sign of respect and pride in the culture.Can a foreigner marry an Emirati? ›
The Sharia court recognizes marriage between people of different faiths. UAE nationals are also allowed in marrying foreign nationals or expatriates awarded with UAE residency.How many wives do Emiratis have? ›
Polygamy is allowed as per the UAE's law. A Muslim male may have four wives, provided he offers equal sustenance and equal treatment to all. Here are the key legal requirements for Muslim marriages: Marriage contract needs to be registered in a Sharia court in the UAE.What is UAE traditional sweets? ›
Made of flour, sugar, starch, cardamom powder and dry yeast, rolled in date syrup and sprinkled with date molasses; Luqaimat is one of the must-have traditional Arabic sweets. Luqaimat which can be translated as 'bite-size' in Arabic, is a sweet which comes from Qatar and is traditionally eaten in UAE.
Emirati men wear Gutra as the headdress. It is an integral part of their traditional Emirati clothing. The Gutra, which is a square piece of scarf, protects their head and face from the scorching heat of the desert. They would also cover their faces with it when the dust is too high.What made Dubai so rich? ›
Free trade, a low tax rate, and zero income tax have made Dubai a popular business hub and a wealthy state. Dubai is also the gateway to the East and boasts of the world's highest international passenger flow. It is a world-renowned destination for all travelers, including the rich and famous.What are 3 interesting facts about Dubai? ›
- Fact #1: It has the world's tallest building.
- Fact #2: It is home to the largest mall in the world.
- Fact #3: It has the largest suspended aquarium.
- Fact #4: You can witness the world's biggest picture frame here.
- Fact #5: Owns the largest man-made islands.
Yes, women can wear shorts in Dubai as long as they are not too short. You can wear them at beaches or malls but you should avoid them at local markets and souks. Can men wear shorts in Dubai water parks? It is mandatory in the water parks to wear any kind of swimwear.What is the most valuable thing in Dubai? ›
- Most Expensive Things Found In Dubai.
- Diamond Encrusted Mercedes Cost- AED 17630.
- 24K Gold Plated Coffee, Burj Al Arab Cost-AED 85.
- Luxury Ambulance Cost- AED 550950.
- Undersea Hotel Room Cost- AED 23121.
- Black Diamond Icecream Cost-Dhs3,000. Updated.
- Burj Khalifa. Get a spectacular birds-eye view of all the attractions in Dubai on the 125th-floor observation deck at The Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the city and the world. ...
- The Dubai Mall. ...
- The Dubai Fountain. ...
- Dubai Museum. ...
- Dubai Creek. ...
- Ski Dubai. ...
- Mall of the Emirates. ...
- Dubai Gold Souk.
Composed of seven emirates, the United Arab Emirates is home to two of the Middle East's most promising cities in terms of career progress: Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Besides being the country's federal capital, Abu Dhabi is also the biggest and wealthiest emirate in the UAE.What is famous product in Dubai? ›
Camel milk products, a delicacy of Dubai and one of the best things to buy in Dubai, are well-known for their appealing taste. Camel milk chocolates are so rare that only one firm makes them: Al Nassma. Whole milk, dates, 70% cocoa, macadamia, and spicy chocolate bars are among the five flavours available.Which is the traditional dessert of UAE? ›
Luqaimat. These are sweet fried dumplings made of milk, sugar, butter, and flour and covered in date syrup. Luqaimat is undoubtedly the most famous traditional dessert.What is a typical Arab meal? ›
A typical meal in the Middle East consists of meat, fish or stew, a variety of vegetable dishes or salads. Meals are served with bread and/or heaps of rice, and often start off with a salad, appetizer, dip-like spreads, pickles and/or bowls of olives, dates and nuts. Tea is often offered before a meal.
Dishes include olive oil, za'atar, and garlic, and common dishes include a wide array of mezze or bread dips, stuffings, and side dishes such as hummus, falafel, ful, tabouleh, labaneh, and baba ghanoush.What is the national fruit of UAE? ›
What is the national fruit of UAE? The national fruit of the UAE is the dates. It grows in abundance in the region and is known to be used in various Emirati dishes.What is the most popular drink in UAE? ›
Dubai's national drink is a sweet chai tea served with milk and spices including saffron, cinnamon, and ginger. It's best served with a sweet treat on the side.What is the most famous Arab food? ›
Falafel. If you ask someone to name the most famous Middle Eastern food and their answer is not hummus, then it's almost certainly going to be falafel. This widely recognized staple is a fried ball made of chickpeas, onions, and spices.What do Arabs eat for lunch? ›
Lunch is traditionally the main meal of the day, and it almost always includes a rice dish, like kabsa, considered the national dish of Saudi Arabia.What meat do Arabs eat? ›
While Middle Eastern food encompasses a variety of cuisines, it's generally characterized by fragrant and copious spices, nuts, olive oil, and creamy elements. Mutton, lamb, and goat are traditional meats. Chicken, camel, beef, fish, and pork are also used, but less frequently.What is UAE national vegetable? ›
Ishy Biladi is the national anthem of the UAE. It was composed by Mohammed Abdel Wahab and the lyrics were written by Arif Al Sheikh Abdullah Al Hassan. The national plant of the UAE is the Arecaceae, most commonly known as the Palm Tree.What is the famous flower of UAE? ›
Tribulus Omanense flower is a flower of the desert which is why it is a national flower of UAE; however, it is also found in colder environments at times. Tribulus consists of five petals.What fruit is famous Dubai? ›
Apple, Avocado, Banana, Dates, Grapes, Mango and Orange are very common fruits available in Abu Dhabi which have many health benefits.