Posted by: Waheeda Harris | October 1, 2013

Arabic hospitality

Although the glam and glitz of Dubai is what first catches your eye, its really about a simpler thing: hospitality. And for Arabs, it always starts with dates:

UAE - dates

Its part of the traditional welcome to guests to offer fresh dates. And forget those dried, tough dates that come squished in packages that have been sealed for an endless amount of time. Fresh dates are light, sweet and soft, and definitely can be categorized as fruit in this part of the world.

And with the continued obsession of dates, there are several ways to have them – dipped in chocolate, stuffed with almonds or stuffed with pistachios. And speaking of pistachios, these green nuts seem to dominate the sweet treats, making a filling with honey and layered with phyllo pastry like this:

Abu Dhabi - sweet treats

And of course, there’s Arabic coffee, a strong small cup laced with cardamom and tea, typically black tea with milk. I once again confirmed my theory that a culture that thrives in heat, always thrives on having a palate routinely satiated with something sweet.

UAE - Dubai lunch

And I wasn’t surprised when I sat down for my first lunch – with the mix of Arabic, Indian and Asian foods on offer, and that they encourage everyone to eat – not just a little, but as much as you like.  The generosity of locals wasn’t occasional – it happened at every meal. As I savoured the swirl of spices from the tasty dishes, I also discovered a new sweet treat that is particularly Emirati:  these wee donuts:

UAE - donuts

Soaked in honey and rose syrup and lightly dusted with sesame seeds, these treats are a perfect way to end a meal and leave a lasting sweet taste of Arabic hospitality.


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