Sunday, November 16, 2008
Eating Like a King or Queen; Traditional United Arab Emirates Style
I recently went to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and visited the specific Emirates of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. It was my first time in the Middle East and a very interesting experience. Not to mention I dined extremely well in the many restaurants available to us foreigners.
However, what I really enjoyed was visiting some of the historical places in and around the UAE. I learned a bit about how the Arabs used to live, what their homes were like, and how they used to eat.
I took some photos at the Al Ain Palace Museum, the formal home of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Men and women had separate areas in the palace to live, hang out, and eat. Traditionally, people would sit on the floors of rooms on pillows. However, as you can see below, the Sheikh had seats. I'm sitting on his "throne" in this photo.
In the middle of the room, there would be mats with large woven cones sitting on top. Food would be served on these mats in large dishes. Eating was communal, and it was (and still is) very important to eat with your right hand. The cones protected the food underneath from insects.
The coffee pot is one of the national symbols of the UAE. If you are a guest entering a home, you will always be offered coffee. If you take a look at the coinage of the UAE, the dirham, you'll notice a coffee pot on it.
Lastly, I just wanted to show you a date palm. I had never really thought about it, and didn't realize that dates grew on huge palms. They ripen and dry naturally on the trees, and are ready to eat as soon as they have been picked. Yum!