Traditional Cuisine from the UAE

Though perhaps not as familiar to the Western palette as Asian, Italian, or Latin-inspired foods, food from the Middle East is some of the finest in the world. Rich in savory flavors and spices, Middle Eastern cuisine is about more than just hummus (although that’s delicious, too).  As international medical salesman and food aficionado Hussain al Nowais points out, among Middle Eastern cuisine, the burgeoning nation of the United Arab Emirates offers some of its most delicious. In fact, dishes from the UAE often reflect a unique, yet tasty collaboration of Middle Eastern and Asian inspirations. What does Hussain al Nowais love to sample while on business in the UAE?

Stuffed Camel

Though it may sound unusual to the foreign ear, stuffed camel is actually a delicacy in the UAE, and for good reason. This elaborate dish is prepared by placing a combination of whole chickens, boiled eggs, fish, and a sheep inside of a whole camel, which is then slow roasted over a charcoal fire. Though complex in execution, to be sure, the stuffed camel has been a staple on menus for weddings, family celebrations, and other special occasions in the UAE for years.


Shawarma is perhaps one of the UAE’s most popular dishes, and is commonly eaten for both lunch and dinner. Shawarma is prepared as a pita wrap made of shredded lamb or chicken, and is typically dressed with tomatoes, garlic sauce, and pickles, among other spices. For those interested in experiencing the savoriness of Shawarma for themselves without boarding a plane, know that Shawarma can be prepared with relatively basic ingredients and can be ready to eat within just 35 minutes.

Matchbous (Kabsa)

Matchbous is another exceptional menu option when dining in the UAE, although this dish isn’t exactly exclusive to the country. A highly similar version of the dish is prepared throughout the Middle East in countries like Saudi Arabia and Yemen, where it’s known as Kabsa. Matchbous is a rice-based dish topped with lamb that’s been stewed in tomatoes and seasoned with dried limes (loomi).


Have a sweet tooth? While in the UAE enjoy Khabees, a sweet yet simple breakfast dish prepared using just flour, oil, sugar, saffron, water, almonds, and cardamom, a spice incorporated throughout a variety of UAE recipes. While iconic of the UAE, Khabees is actually a variation of a Greek dish known as halva, although Khabees uniquely requires that flour be toasted before it’s combined with the dish’s other ingredients.

As Hussain al Nowais emphasizes, these dishes represent just some of the many food items popular in the United Arab Emirates, a country that, even though known as a hub for international influences, maintains a proud tradition of local cuisine. Guests from around the world can experience the best the UAE has to offer by attending its annual international food festival, held in Dubai.