One of the most exciting aspects of traveling to a new destination is the opportunity to sample local food. Gulf food is, of course, very similar to Lebanese and other Arab cuisine, however, there are some variations.
Mezze (starter or hors d’oeuvre) as it is served in UAE restaurants is a wonderful treat, comprising some or all of the following:
Humus (chick pea dip or spread)
Kibbe (meat patties made from minced lamb, bulghur and onions)
Tabbuleh (salad of couscous or bulghur with diced tomatoes, onions, mint and parsley)
Baba ganush (aubergine or eggplant dip)
Kussa mahshi (stuffed courgettes or zucchini)
Warak enab (stuffed vine leaves)
Felafel (bean patties- often served in pitta bread at corner stalls)
Pitta bread (unleavened bread)
Other local dishes include khuzi (a stuffed whole roast lamb on a bed of spiced rice – the dish that would have been served at a mansaf , a traditional bedouin feast, where a selection of food would have been placed on the floor in the centre of a ring of seated guests. Makbus (casserole of meat, usually lamb, or fish with rice) is a particular favourite in the UAE. So too are hareis (slow-cooked wheat and lamb), biryani (meat or fish cooked with Indian-style spiced rice) and shurba addis (lentil soup). Try a traditional Arabic breakfast of ful medames (a bean dish in a tomato sauce on which is sprinkled chopped onion, egg and other condiments, accompanied by local yoghurt and pitta bread), or snack on fattayer (deep fried pastries stuffed with cheese and spinach). Local seafood such as hamur (grouper), chanad (mackerel), beyah (mullet) are usually charcoal grilled. A sharwarma – slivers of spit-roasted lamb or chicken, served with salad in a warmed pitta bread pouch – or felafel sandwich will cost you between Dh2–3.
Deserts are generally very sweet, frequently pastries filled with honey and nuts. Try Umm Ali, a delicious bread pudding with raisins and nuts. Dates, of course, are a standard staple and excellent local fruit and vegetables are increasingly on display in the restaurants and shops.
Alcohol is generally only served in hotel restaurants and bars (but not in Sharjah). Exceptions are some clubs (e.g. golf clubs) and associations. Restaurants that are not associated with hotels are not permitted to serve alcohol.