Exploring Emirati Cuisine: A Culinary Journey Through Dubai's Heritage

Exploring Emirati Cuisine: A Culinary Journey Through Dubai’s Heritage

Dubai Culture & Heritage

Dubai, a cosmopolitan city renowned for its diverse cultural tapestry, offers a unique culinary landscape where global cuisines often take center stage. Amidst this vibrant mix, the rich and authentic flavors of Emirati cuisine may sometimes be overshadowed. However, preserving and promoting the nation’s traditional recipes is essential for maintaining cultural heritage and narrating its historical journey. Here’s a deeper dive into what defines true Emirati cuisine.

Exploring Emirati Cuisine: A Culinary Journey Through Dubai's Heritage

The Essence of Emirati Cuisine

Complex Carbohydrates

Traditional Emirati cuisine prominently features meat, cereals, and dairy, with vegetables playing a lesser role due to the arid desert environment. The ancestors of the Emiratis were desert travelers, requiring sustenance that provided prolonged energy for traversing the vast sand dunes. Consequently, complex carbohydrates are a staple, forming the backbone of many traditional dishes, ensuring nourishment and endurance.

Single Pot Dishes

Emirati dishes often resemble stews, typically cooked in a single pot. This method not only simplifies meal preparation but also minimizes the need for washing multiple dishes, a practical consideration in a desert climate. Common meats include chicken, small fowl, goat, and lamb, with camel meat reserved for special occasions due to its value for milk and transportation.

Signature Spices

Emirati cuisine is characterized by its aromatic and flavorful spices. Core spices such as saffron, cardamom, turmeric, and thyme play a crucial role. In historical cooking practices, leaves from indigenous trees like the Ghaff were used to stuff small birds, imparting unique flavors. Additional ingredients like garlic, dried lime (Loumi), salt, and coriander enhance the spice blends, creating a rich and distinctive taste profile.

Traditional Emirati Dishes

Exploring Emirati Cuisine: A Culinary Journey Through Dubai's Heritage


Harees is a beloved Emirati dish, especially popular during significant events such as weddings and religious holidays. It involves slow-cooking meat with wheat and salt until the ingredients meld into a thick, hearty mixture over hot coals. This dish exemplifies the comforting and nourishing qualities of Emirati cuisine.


Chabab, the yellow Emirati pancake, is made with a blend of flour, eggs, and sugar, infused with spices like cardamom and saffron for added flavor. These pancakes are a delightful breakfast treat, offering a sweet and spiced start to the day.


Machboos, similar to a stew served with rice, can be prepared with meat, chicken, or fish. Whole spices such as cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, dried lemon, yellow raisins, and lentils are incorporated, creating a complex and aromatic dish that is both hearty and satisfying.

Sweet Indulgences

Emirati desserts often highlight the natural sweetness of dates, a staple in Emirati culture. Serving dates before or after meals is a tradition rooted in religious homage to the Prophet Muhammad and a nod to culinary wisdom. Popular desserts include:


Luqeymat are deep-fried pastry balls drizzled with date syrup, offering a delightful combination of crispiness and sweetness.

Jazar Halwa

Jazar Halwa, made with condensed milk and pistachio nuts, is a rich and creamy dessert that perfectly balances sweetness and texture.

Experiencing Emirati Cuisine

The best way to experience authentic Emirati cuisine is through home-cooked meals, an invitation to a local’s home, or a genuine Dubai food experience in the desert. Dubai Desert Safari Thrill offers the only desert safari in Dubai serving authentic Emirati cuisine. Guests can savor camel meat stew, Chicken Harees, Lamb Oozi, and the delectable Luqeymat dessert on evening Heritage desert safaris. For a traditional breakfast featuring Chabab, join the Bedouin Culture Safari.

Embark on this culinary journey and discover the rich flavors and cultural significance of Emirati cuisine. Not only will you indulge in delicious dishes, but you’ll also gain a deeper appreciation for the heritage and traditions of the UAE.