A guide to eating in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates feature many contrast, and this is something that permeates the food culture of the area, making it a fantastically interesting place to eat. Unsurprisingly, the financial districts dotted around this oil-rich region have become hotspots for fantastic and in many cases – extravagant dining experiences. If you are venturing over on business or pleasure and want to take in the best cuisine the Emirates has to offer, you may want to plan where you want to eat first in order to secure reservations and compare menu prices with the current currency exchange rate which you can do at Travelex to see just how far your money will go.

The elegant and always fashionable Zuma restaurant in Dubai. (c)

The elegant and always fashionable Zuma restaurant in Dubai. (c)

This year two restaurants from Dubai made it into the list of the world’s top 100 restuarants – Zuma – a contemporary Japanese eatery that charted at an impressive position 58 and La Petite Maison, which came in at 96. The latter was also awarded the honour of being Timeout Dubai’s best restaurant of 2012. However, there are plenty of fine dining experiences all over the Emirates and Chinese concept restaurant Hakkasan and the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse in Abu Dhabi are also very deserving of a mention.

Emirati food is now a completely cosmopolitan affair, with strong influences from Asia and elsewhere in the Middle East. However, it’s perfectly possible to find traditional Emirati food in restaurants and the Mezlai at Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi serves it up in beautiful surroundings. Street cafes and smaller restaurants will of course offer Emirati foods for a much smaller price and if you’re keen to try out something authentic you should be aware that hummus, falafel and Shwarma are all imports from neighbouring countries.

Traditional Emirati foods combine meats, grain and dairies and are dominated by stews and one pots like Margooga and Harees. Breakfast is made up of breads, eggs and cheeses alongside date syrup. Dates are actually the second largest export in the region and are commonly found in desserts or presented as a welcome gift to guests along with coffee or red tea infused with mint.

If you have a sweet tooth you should try Khabeesa – a popular dessert made with semolina, cardamom, rosewater and saffron or lugeymat, which are small doughy pancake balls.  Those in the market to sample a true local delicacy should look out for desert truffles that grow under the sand and are collected by Bedouin. Should you wish to buy them and take them home as gifts they can keep longer if you wash, dry and freeze them when you return home.

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