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Arabic Gastronomic Delights

The food is a basic, life-sustaining need for any organism. It is required for normal functioning, growth and development of every living being, and for humans it is a daily requirement. During the millennia of human existence, securing and preparing food took a central place in their lives. The living conditions and life style of different peoples influenced many different ways of food preparation. People used all available naturl resources to prepare and enhance the taste of their food, so every place around the world has its own specific way of preparing food.

About Arabic Cuisine

Arabic cuisine is rich and with a variety of flavors, scents and complex mixtures of various nutritional components; they are blended in unique ways that give gratification to all your senses, yet fascinate with their simplicity. Just like everywhere else, the Arabic people have used the resources that were available in their region. On the other side, the majority of Arab peoples inhabited regions located in the midst of the most important trade routes between East and West, and there is a variety of components used in food preparation that originate from faraway countries! In the Arabic cuisine, you will find many spices, condiments and mixtures that come from India and China.

Arabic mezze

Various Arabic mezze dishes

The skillful hands of Arabic cooks have beautifully blended them into a large variety of appetizers (mezze) with plenty of different vegetables, beans and grains, welcoming all benevolent visitors. Here we have: hummus, moutabel, baba ganoush, muhammara, kibbeh, falafel and many others - there are more than 40 kinds of appetizers and starters! Once you are greeted with this abundance of gastronomic pleasures, you are motivated to stay in the company of your hosts as long as possible!

Following the deeply fulfilling and flavorful appetizers, come the main dishes. They are traditionally prepared recipes rich in various grains and meats - main representatives are lamb and beef, but fish and chicken are equallly appreciated - accompanied with, or even cooked in, many different sauces. The sauces and gravies contain plenty of mediterranean and far-eastern spices, making the Arabic cuisine complex, specific, unique, and at the same time straightforward. Here we include a variety of chicken, lamb and beef dishes combined with vegetables and gravies which in every Arabic country have a different name. Most known among them are the different sizes and shapes of kebabs, shawarma (that the Tukish call “doner” and Greek call “gyros”), machboos, maqluba (“upside-down”) and other speciality that beckon you to give in to this gastronomic delight. The feast usualy ends with one or more of seemingly simple, but actually quite complex to prepare, desserts such as baklava, kunafa, Umm Ali, mollokhia and many others.

Specifics of the UAE cuisine

The United Arab Emirates statehood in the recent history goes back to 1971, but the local population has been here for a very long time - in fact, the first habitats in these areas are dated back to 2500 BC. Throughout history, the locals - also known as Bedouins - were living as nomads in these desert regions, moving from one place to another in constant search of livelihood, food and water.

In these circumstances, food preparation came down to using naturally available resource for meals which were quick, easy, simple to transport and keep, and do not spoil easily, especially considering the hot climate. Thus, the food of local Bedouins and today’s Emiratis is mainly based on fish, meat (game or domesticated), rice and dates. With the development of the pearl industry as a significant financial source in the period between 19th and 20th century, the trade improves significantly and the population begins to use ingredients from different part of the world and mainly from the Far East. The ancient Eastern civilizations have also influenced these regions, especiallly Persian and Indian; together with the traditional Bedouin origin as well as the religious regulations on hunting and food preparation, those influences have contributed towards a unique and specific Emirati cuisine.

Some significant Emirati recipes


Balaleet in ceramic pot

Balaleet is a combination of sweet and savory elements. The dish is composed of tiny noodles or vermicelli, eggs, sugar and spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, rose water, sometimes saffron or similar. This is a popular breakfast dish, although it can also be used as a dessert. The creation of this traditional dish shows the connection to India and China.



Hareet is a very old, very traditional recipe made of oats, boiled in salted water and served with chopped onions, and served hot. This dish is especially popular during the month of Ramadan because it is light and easily digested. This is especially important during the Ramadan fasting, as the human body has restricted intake during the day and the first meal (Iftar or breakfast) needs to be easily digestable.



Machboos is a typical dish from the Gulf countries, and has heavy influence from the Persian and Indian cuisine. It is a rice-based dish, where the Basmati rice is boiled with onions in the stock (usually chicken, but meat and seafood are also common). The rice is spiced with limes, pepper, cardamom, cloves and sometimes turmeric. The chicken or meat is crisped and served on top of the rice. To emphasize the flavors, toasted pine nuts and sesame seeds are added to the dish.



Batheeta (also called Batheeth) is a traditional Emirati sweet dish, prepared without baking. It is based on crushed dates (or date paste) which is mixed with toasted flour, spiced with ginger, cardamom and cinnamon. The mixture is rolled into balls and coated (and sometimes filled) with nuts. Traditionally, it is served with Arabic coffee or tea.

This is just a small sampler of the less known dishes from the culture-rich Emirati and wider Gulf cuisine. There are many specialities that deserve mentioning, but - instead of reading about them - we invite you to visit the UAE and witness first-hand the hospitality and the amazing gastronomy the contry has to offer.