What do you eat in the United Arab Emirates: typical dishes, advice and curiosities on Emirati Arab cuisine

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Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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Arabic cuisine, and therefore what can be tasted in the United Arab Emirates, is a cuisine that is strongly influenced by the influence of neighboring countries. However, there are several typical recipes that mainly consist of unique dishes made with meat and vegetables. Of course, there is a unmistakable mix of spices and aromas, which characterize its flavor and which reflect the traditions of the ancient populations.

Ready for a journey to discover flavors? Here what you eat in the United Arab Emirates: typical dishes, advice and curiosities about the Arab cuisine of the Emirates!


  1. 10 Typical dishes of the United Arab Emirates
  2. Typical sweets of the United Arab Emirates
  3. Drinks: what do you drink in the United Arab Emirates
  4. Tips and trivia: where to eat and what to avoid
  5. User questions and comments

10 Typical dishes of the United Arab Emirates

1 - Stuffed camel

The stuffed camel is the dish of the Bedouin tradition that was served in antiquity, and still today, during important occasions, such as weddings or other celebrations. For that reason, it is a very rich dish, which symbolizes the solemnity of the event and in fact, in addition to the main ingredient, which is precisely camel meat, the recipe includes a filling with other meats, such as lamb and sheep. The peculiarity is that ... a whole camel is stuffed!

  • Recommended to: Lunch Dinner
  • Average cost: € 35,00
  • Main ingredients: camel

2 - Harees

The Harees is too a typical dish for important occasions and is served not only in the UAE, but throughout the Middle East.

It is a kind of soup made with a mixture of grains of wheat and meat, usually beef or chicken, which are cooked together very slowly, until they take on the expected consistency. Furthermore, the flavors of cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, as well as onion, garlic and pepper. Due to the complexity of its preparation, the Harees is reserved for important moments, such as Ramadan.

  • Recommended to: Lunch Dinner
  • Average cost: € 7,00
  • Main ingredients: meat, wheat grains, cardamom, cinnamon, onion, garlic

3 - Kabsa

Kabsa is a single dish consisting of a mix of rice, spices, meat and vegetables. There are several types of meat that can be used for its preparation, such as chicken, lamb, kid or kid, but also fish and shrimp. The predominant spices, on the other hand, are cloves, saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, bay leaf and nutmeg.

The oldest technique used for cooking kabsa is that of cook the meat inside a hole dug in the ground; the most modern, however, includes the pressure cooker

  • Recommended to: Lunch Dinner
  • Average cost: € 8,00
  • Main ingredients: meat, cloves, saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf, nutmeg

4 - Shawarma

This dish is widespread all over the world, although known by a different term: kebab. In the United Arab Emirates, however, it is called Shawarma and is meat based, that of lamb, sheep, goat or chicken.

As we all know, the characteristic of this specialty is that of be cut into thin slices and placed on a vertical rotating spit, which is cooked with the fire placed on the side. With this type of cooking, the sheep fat that surrounds the meat melts and gives it that characteristic flavor.

  • Recommended to: Lunch Dinner
  • Average cost: € 3,00
  • Main ingredients: meat

5 - Tabbouleh

Despite being native to Syria and Lebanon, the Tabbouleh is a very popular dish also in the United Arab Emirates and throughout the Middle Eastern cuisine.

It is a single dish based on bulgur, which is a type of whole wheat and sprouted durum wheat, seasoned with tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, spring onions and finely chopped mint and sprinkled with lemon juice and olive oil.

We could define it thesalad of Middle Eastern cuisine which, depending on the country, includes more or less parsley or bulgur.

  • Recommended to: Lunch Dinner
  • Average cost: € 6,00
  • Main ingredients: bulgur, tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, spring onions, mint

6 - Falafel

Even the Falafel are not exactly of origin of the Arab Emirates, since they come from Egypt, but they are widely spread throughout the Arab cuisine. They are small fried and very spiced legume meatballs.

The main ingredients are broad beans, beans and chickpeas, along with onion, garlic, cumin and coriander. Once all the components have been combined, the meatballs are breaded with sesame seeds and then fried in boiling oil. They are usually served with hummus, that is a cream of chickpeas, or with yogurt.

  • Recommended to: Lunch Dinner
  • Average cost: € 6,00
  • Main ingredients: legumes, onion, garlic, cumin, coriander

7 - Balaleet

È a typical dish of the Persian Gulf countries that is chosen especially for breakfast, perhaps also because of its traditions, which prefer it as a first course of the day to be served during Ramadan or other Islamic celebrations.

It is a dish based on sweet vermicelli, flavored with cardamom, saffron and rose water. Usually, they are served accompanied by an omelette and, sometimes, also with onions or potatoes.

  • Recommended to: Breakfast
  • Average cost: € 6,00
  • Main ingredients: vermicelli, sugar, cardamom, saffron, rose water, eggs

8 - Warak Enab

Coming from the Lebanese culture, this dish can be served cold, as an appetizer, perhaps accompanied by a yogurt sauce, but also hot, with its broth and small pieces of garlic. The main ingredient is the vine leaf which, used as an external wrapping, forms a roll stuffed with rice, tomatoes and parsley. This dish, being well known and appreciated also in the Eastern Mediterranean, could also be presented with the name of dolmas.

  • Recommended to: Lunch Dinner
  • Average cost: € 6,00
  • Main ingredients: vine leaves, rice, tomatoes, parsley

9 - Fareed

Also known by the name of Thareeb or Tharyd, the Fareeb seems to have its origin in the United Arab Emirates and consists of a single dish based on stewed meat and vegetables, served for both lunch and dinner.

The meat that is preferred for the preparation of this dish is chicken, but other types can also be used, as long as they release a succulent edge.

The characteristic of Fareeb, in fact, is that of being served with typical bread, called Rgaag, which looks like a very, but very thin pastry, which is cooked on a round plate and which is used, in fact, to accompany the broth.

  • Recommended to: Lunch Dinner
  • Average cost: € 8,00
  • Main ingredients: chicken, vegetables

10 - Dates

They do not represent a real dish but it is unthinkable not to mention dates among the things to eat absolutely in the United Arab Emirates. This particular food, in fact, is a fundamental food in the diet of the Arabs and is the main ingredient of many preparations, especially the sweet ones, perhaps accompanied by honey and nuts.

Of course, dates can also be tasted plain and some famous brands also take care of prepare them in elegant packages which can also be bought as a souvenir.

  • Recommended to: always
  • Average cost: € 30,00 per kg
  • Main ingredients: dates

Typical sweets of the United Arab Emirates

As well as for savory dishes, also the confectionery tradition of the Arab Emirates has different origins, especially from neighboring countries such as Lebanon. The recipes of Arabic sweets often include the presence of flour, honey, dried fruit, such as hazelnuts or almonds, and the inevitable dates. However, if you want a sweetness on the fly, it is possible in numerous bars and shops buy camel milk products: flavored chocolate is the one that lends itself most to numerous variations and, flavored with vanilla, it is irresistible.

1 - Camelccino

Camelccino is a drink that looks a lot like cappuccino, as we are used to understanding it in Western culture. However, the characteristic of this preparation is the use of camel milk, instead of the traditional one of vaccine, which is also lighter and lower in fat, as well as slightly salty.

Although the camel is not a milking animal, its milk is finding more and more use in the preparation of Arabic recipes.

  • Average cost: € 5,00
  • Main ingredients: camel milk, coffee

2 - Om Ali

The origin of this dessert is Egyptian and, in fact, its name can be traced back to the first wife of a king, probably the "mother of Ali", it is possible to find the dessert also with the name Umm Ali. But it is a much loved dessert in the UAE and you will find it easily!

The recipe for this dessert includesuse of puff pastry soaked in hot and flavored milk with coconut, cinnamon, pistachios and raisins. This preparation, of course, should be baked in the oven, but you can enjoy Om Ali both hot and cold.

  • Average cost: € 5,00
  • Main ingredients: puff pastry, milk, coconut, cinnamon, raisins, pistachios

3 - Basbousa

The basbousa is a very popular dessert throughout the Middle East and also in some countries of the Eastern Mediterranean. In particular, in Arab countries it is known by the name Harisa and consists of a semolina-based preparation enriched with a sugar syrup.

Several variations also include the addition of coconut flour but, undoubtedly, its unmistakable sign is an almond placed in the center of each square.

  • Average cost: € 5,00
  • Main ingredients: semolina, sugar, almonds

4 - Baklava

Undoubtedly of Turkish origin, baklava is actually a very popular dessert not only in Arab and Middle Eastern countries, but also in many locations in the Mediterranean and North Africa.

Each, of course, with its own variant but, basically, it is about a very complex dessert made with phyllo dough. Generous portions of dried fruit, such as walnuts or pistachios, are added to it, and everything is sprinkled with abundant flavored sugar syrup or honey.

  • Average cost: € 4,00
  • Main ingredients: phyllo dough, dried fruit, sugar or honey

5 - Muhallabia

Muhallabia also has Lebanese origins, as does most of the UAE culinary tradition. This dessert is very popular and appreciated because it is naturally gluten-free and therefore can also be enjoyed by celiacs.

The main ingredients of this dessert, in fact, that takes on the consistency of a pudding, are rice flour, sugar, milk and the inevitable rose water, so dear to the recipes of this area. To decorate, then, you can use dried fruit, such as pistachios.

  • Average cost: € 9,00
  • Main ingredients: rice flour, sugar, milk, rose water

Drinks: what do you drink in the United Arab Emirates

For religious reasons, drinks in the UAE, as well as in all Arab countries, they are strictly non-alcoholic. However, for non-Muslim residents, it is possible to drink alcohol as long as it is licensed. For all the others, however, it is very easy to appreciate juices with fruit and spices, tea and coffee, which accompany different moments of the day, even during Ramadan.

1 - Qahwa

This name, apparently unpronounceable, actually recalls one of our drinks par excellence, namely coffee. However, despite having some characteristics in common, Arab coffee is very different from ours, while representing both welcome and hospitality.

First of all, the preparation of Arab coffee is quite long and laborious and provides that it is made in a specific coffee maker called dallah, which is put and removed from the heat at least three times. Furthermore, the main feature is adding spices, which can be to your liking, but the most common is cardamom.

  • Average cost: € 3,00
  • Main ingredients: Arabica blend, cardamom

2 - Mint tea

Also tea is a very popular drink in the Middle East and, in fact, it is not difficult to find tea rooms or small and large shops that sell it in beautiful tin boxes, even inexpensive. In addition, many large hotels are proposed as a destination not to be missed, to enjoy an afternoon tea, perhaps overlooking a beautiful terrace.

The taste of tea most common in Arab countries, even if of Moroccan origin and prevalent in northern Africa, is mint tea, prepared by dropping the tea infusion on mint leaves, to which a lot of sugar is added.

  • Average cost: € 5,00
  • Main ingredients: tea, mint, sugar

3 - Jellab

The Jellab is a soft drink very similar to a syrup, made from a mixture of grapes, molasses and rose water, which can be covered with raisins and pine nuts. Sometimes, dates and carobs can also be found in the recipe. In any case, despite the very sweet components, it is a fresh and thirst-quenching drink which is especially appreciated in summer, as well as during the Ramadan period.

  • Average cost: € 5,00
  • Main ingredients: grapes, molasses, rose water

Tips and trivia: where to eat and what to avoid

The cuisine of the United Arab Emirates is a cuisine that expertly blends culinary influences of neighboring villages with dishes that have always made the tradition of the Bedouin populations. Among the typical dishes, in fact, there are numerous ancient recipes, come to the present day thanks to their use on the most important occasions.

Today is You can taste these dishes in the restaurants of the local cuisine: due to the great heat that characterizes this country for many months of the year, these restaurants are located above all inside shopping centers, which reflect, among other things, the modern soul of the cities. However, in some narrow streets of the historic centers, it is possible find small shops serving local food also take away.

Finally, unmissable a walk in the characteristic markets, where in addition to typical dishes you can also buy local products as a souvenir in memory of your trip! Dates and spices are a must, which you can admire directly in the stalls of the shops and which will attract you for their bright colors. This way, you can try to recreate these Middle Eastern flavors even at home!

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