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Khalid Al Ameri: A lot of Emirati restaurants are opening up, and that’s a good thing
March 02, 2015
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When travelling the world a majority of our time, and Instagramming, is spent on experiencing the local delicacies. One of the first things I do when I get to New York is munch away on a slice of NY pizza.

When in the UK some fish and chips wrapped in newspaper always hits the spot. In Rome paying a visit to a classic espresso bar for that perfect sip of coffee is a must.

So I ask this question, when tourists come to the UAE what is their go-to restaurant for authentic Emirati cuisine? Until recently there wasn’t much in terms of restaurants.

Therefore the Emirati dining experience was replaced by an alternative Arab or South East Asian dish that was deemed “close enough”. But here’s the problem, it’s not.

Sure our food may have been influenced by different cultures, but the end product that’s served amongst Emirati families bears little resemblance to Lebanese mixed mashawy, or an Indian vindaloo curry.

There are dishes such as machboos (a rice dish), harees (a wheat-based dish with meat), or sweets such as leqaimat (fried dough with syrup) that are specifically eaten in the UAE, and the immediate Gulf region.

The good news is several Emirati entrepreneurs have identified this important cultural gap in the market and are tackling the issue head on. Recently we have seen a surge of traditional Emirati restaurants open up.

Restaurants such as Al Fanar, Bayt Yadoo (My Grandmother’s House), Osha Gourmet, and White Coffee are all serving up the best and tastiest local meals the UAE has to offer.

Now you may be thinking to yourself why I’m making a big deal about food. Well, as the world becomes more interconnected and globalisation pulls traditional cultures into the future, clothes (in the Gulf region at least) and food are two elements of culture that seem to hang around and continue to play a strong element in even the most modern of societies. Think Japan, sushi, and chopsticks.

That is why the existence of Emirati restaurants is so important, to give people a true taste (pun intended) of the UAE, and more importantly help maintain a critical part of our history and identity.

Emirati food acts as a reminder that before delicious sushi, glorious steaks, and magnificent burgers our meals were humble, and our ancestors did what they could to make them as delicious as possible during the harder days.

The only wonder for many expatriates who have lived in the UAE for several years, and only tried traditional food in an Emirati household, is what took us all so long to start it up.

But right now that’s not important. I’m just glad we started and that the Emirati culinary movement is getting the strong community support it needs to thrive.
 

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The author is a columnist on education and youth development.
 

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