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United Arab Emirates Food and Drink

Whether you’re searching for sashimi, Italian, fish and chips or a nine-course degustation journey at a fancy French restaurant, you will find it in the UAE. Visitors to the country really are spoiled for choice, with a wide range of cuisines available. In addition, many celebrity chefs have launched their namesake branches in the UAE, including Nobu Matsuhisa, Gary Rhodes and Giorgio Locatelli. Supermarkets and grocery stores stock home comforts and nearly everything that is available in Australia, USA and the UK, while hotels serve both Arab and European food. There is also a fantastic range of Arabic, Persian, Indian, Pakistani restaurants – especially in areas like Satwa, Deira and Bur Dubai.

Specialities

Modern Emirati cuisine fuses a number of regional flavours, yet the nation’s staples have remained the same for centuries. You’ll likely find lamb, beef, goat, fish and rice in any of Middle Eastern themed eateries as well as the selection below:

• Hummus (chickpea and sesame paste).
• Tabbouleh(bulghur wheat with mint and parsley).
Ghuzi (roast lamb with rice and nuts).
Warak enab (stuffed vine leaves).
• Dates (there are more than 30 million date palms in the UAE).
• Shawarma (spit cooked meat in pitta bread with thick garlic sauce).
Khameer and chebab (local bread often eaten for breakfast with eggs).
• Falafel (fried or grilled balls of herby chickpeas).
Hamour (local grouper fished in Gulf waters).
Luqaimat (Crispy deep fried batter dumpling balls served with syrup).

Things to know

All the Emirates, with the exception of Sharjah, permit the consumption of alcohol by non-Muslims in designated areas. Designated areas are usually restaurants or bars located inside hotels. It is illegal to drink alcohol in the street or to buy it for a UAE citizen. Muslims don’t consume pork, so it is not on the menu at many restaurants. If it’s served at a buffet or sold at a supermarket it will be separate from other food and clearly labelled. During the month of Ramadan, it is illegal to eat, drink or smoke in any public spaces during daylight. Regulations have tightened recently regarding food and drink consumption in public during Ramadan, and punishments are harsh; expect to be slapped with a fine of AED2000 or face up to one month in jail.

Note: It is possible to buy alcohol, provided you have a permit. Look out for bottle shops identifiable by their blacked out windows.

Tipping

Most hotels and restaurants add service charges to the bill. Tipping is welcomed at local restaurants where service charges are not applied.

Drinking age

Over 21 for non-UAE nationals or non-Muslims.

Regional drinks

Ayran (a refreshing yoghurt drink).
• Strong black coffee.