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Local cuisine

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While in Abu Dhabi don’t miss the opportunity to sample Emirati and Gulf food, which is a reflection of the UAE’s trading heritage being infused with spices and ingredients from throughout Asia and Arabia.

Cinnamon, saffron and turmeric, along with nuts, limes and dried fruit heighten the flavour of Emirati dishes, some of the most popular of which are Al Harees, a dish of meat and wheat slow-cooked in a clay oven or pot and served with ghee, and Al Majboos, made by boiling meat in water to which a distinctive blend of spices and dried limes are added. Cooked rice with saffron is layered throughout the mix.  Fish is a mainstay of many local dishes with Al Madrooba, a mix of salted fish, spices and thick sauce being one of the most popular while rice is ever present and is most often served with saffron, nuts and spices.

You’ll find Emirati & Gulf cuisine at:

Al Arish
One of the UAE’s first restaurants to serve authentic Emirati cuisine, this is tucked away in the Al Dhafra Tourist Village near Mina Zayed Fish Market. It serves an array of salads, starters and traditional regional favourites.
Where: Al Mina Area, Near Fish Market
Telephone: +971 2 673 2266
Website: www.aldhafra.net

Al Dhafra Dinner Cruise
A restaurant on a traditional dhow where the cruise offers great Corniche views. Upper deck seating is majlis-style with the lower deck seating around 50 people in air-conditioned comfort. Al Dhafra is renowned for serving a great range of local sweets.
Where: Al Mina area, Nr Fish Market
Telephone: +971 2 673  2266
Website: www.aldhafra.net

Al Maqam
Dine in true Emirati style at this barasti-themed dining hall or on the palm-thatch covered terrace that runs along the restaurant at Arabian Nights Village – a heritage destination in the desert near Al Ain which gives visitors a chance to experience the mythical and timeless beauty of the desert and traditional Emirati life. Choose from dining tables, low sofas, or traditional cushion floor seating.
Where: Arabian Nights Village
Telephone: +971 2 677 9988
Website: www.arabiannights.ae

Bu Tafish
This restaurant was one of the first to find its feet in Abu Dhabi. The menu proudly boasts its history – fresh fish served with Levantine side dishes, also available for takeaway – but it’s the overall experience that makes Bu Tafish worth the trip.
Where: Hamdan Street; Telephone: +971 2 677 7780
Where: Khalifa City A; Telephone: +971 2 556 5477
Where: Al Bawadi Mall, Al Ain; Telephone: +971 3 784 0471

Café Arabia
Get a real feel for Arabia at this unique café opposite Mushrif Park. The menu lets you taste authentic Arabian dishes, much as you would find in any Arab home. Try the full Arabian breakfast to get you off to a great start. Enjoy the small touches which make a difference – including the menus, fashioned from fans made by Emirati women using dried date palm leaves. There’s also a range of regional souvenirs which make great gifts for back home. Also check out its forthcoming cultural events and join in to learn more about the region. 
Where: 15th Street between 2nd/Airport Road and 24th/Karamah
Telephone: +971 56 623 8337 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CafeArabia
Email: cafearabia@yahoo.com

Mezlai
This Emirates Palace favourite is Abu Dhabi’s first fine dining Emirati restaurant. The restaurant serves authentic Emirati food with the kitchen being run by an Emirati chef. Mezlai, has two floors, a private majlis and an interior design reflecting UAE traditions. 
Where: Emirates Palace
Telephone: +971 2 690 7999
Website: www.emiratespalace.com

Saudi Cuisine VIP
Popular, authentic  and unspeakably delicious, Saudi Cuisine VIP features mud-built walls, a wooden ceiling, and hand-made decorations, with the restaurant floor being divided into small enclaves where guests can choose to eat on traditional rugs.
Where: Al Khalidiya, behind Ali & Sons building
Telephone: +971 2 665 5355

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