One of the best ways to understand more about a culture and its origins, is through taking a look at its traditional cuisine. Dubai’s history is rooted in the Arabian desert which stretches across most of the Arabia Peninsula, with an area of 2,330,000 square kilometers. In the past, Bedouin traversed this entire area and therefore their food gained different influences depending on what was available to them. At first glance, Emirati cuisine looks a lot like other Arabic cuisines with heavy influences form Indian cuisine due to its close ties in terms of some of the influences and proximity; there are however also some distinct differences. Let’s take a look at some of the traditional dishes and common diets of the Emirati ancestors, the Bedouin.
Bedouin were very resourceful and as pastoral nomads, they relied on domesticated animals for survival. Hunting was another survival tactic and the trading of non-perishable food items was also helpful supplement to their diets. Traditional dishes were influenced by the areas that the Bedouin lived: the mountains, the sea and the desert. People living by the sea had a lot of fish and seafood in their diet while people living in the desert and the mountains included meat and chicken. As you can imagine, at times it was quite challenging for Bedouin to survive in the harsh desert. This landscape can be quite scarce with limited resources and sometimes Bedouin had to survive on little more than dates and camel milk for several months.
Dates were harvested from palm trees and dried out to be stored as a food supply for the family and sometimes even for the camels, goats and sheep. Livestock were the major protein source of Bedouins’ diets however these resources were usually only reserved for special occasions and celebrations. Bedouin skillfully trained falcons and Saluki dogs to help them hunt wild game like gazelles and hares. As mentioned before, they also relied on trading to get other food sources like bags of wheat, rice, barley, salt, coffee and tea.
Some popular dinner dishes include Tanoor which is spiced lamb served with rice and ghee and Thareed which is chicken prepared with stewed vegetables, mixed Arabic spices and regag bread (made with only salt, water and flour so it didn’t spoil easily). Bedouin traditionally ate these meals in big groups with their hands sitting on the ground of traditional majlis.
Nowadays there are of course a lot more foods integrated into Emirati cuisine but you can still get the opportunity to try some of these traditional Bedouin dishes when you visit Dubai.
with only salt water and flour so it didn’t spoil easily.
If you would like more information about traditional Emirati cuisine, download our free Bedouin Cuisine Cookbook. You can also enjoy some of this traditional Emirati cuisine on the Al Marmoom Bedouin Experience.