Al Bastakiya & an Emirati Breakfast

Suffice it to say that each time we have visitors moving forward, we will be visiting the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding and enjoying some Emirati cuisine! For Anna’s first day in Dubai, we headed down to the historic district of Dubai (a tough feat here in the land of a million skyscrapers) for an Emirati breakfast as well as Q&A with an Emirati citizen at the center. Verdict? Delish, informative and fun!

The spread

The spread

The Majlis or "place for sitting" at the center

The Majlis or “place for sitting” at the center

We arrived a bit early and had the opportunity to explore the center, which is divided into different rooms, including the majilis, a room with typical, local dress, a prayer room, and a roof top deck overlooking the creek area.

Anna in the local dress room

Anna in the local dress room

Breakfast started with some Arabic coffee; coffee is a drink of hospitality in the UAE and is a light blend of beans, cardamon and saffron – served very HOT. The cups are very small in order to keep the blend at just the right temperature, and is constantly refreshed as needed.  Dates were also passed around ahead of the main meal.

The dalla coffee pot and the small coffee cups

The dalla coffee pot and the small coffee cups

The breakfast meal consisted of nikhee (boiled chickpeas with chili flakes), balaleet (sweetened noodles mixed with eggs and spices), chabab (an Emirati pankcake – blended with a bit of saffron, giving it a lovely yellow color and served with date sauce/syrup), khamir (similar to a pita, but sprinkled with sesame seeds and usually served with a cream cheese spread), and finally liagmat (an Emirati donut hole)! Now I wish that I could say that I sampled each of these items and they were all amazing; I can’t due to the heavy use of wheat in all but the chickpeas. That being said, Anna did as did our seat mates, and there were lots of “mmmmm’s” and folks going back for seconds and thirds. I had thirds of the chickpeas and coffee – I was full and hopped up on caffeine by the time breakfast was over 🙂

Emirati breakfast time!

Emirati breakfast time!

The meal portion of the presentation ended with tea, followed by a great question and answer portion.

Our host, taking us through the culinary adventure

Our host, taking us through the culinary adventure

Tea time

Tea time

The hostess made everyone feel so at ease ahead of the Q&A by jokingly saying, “I know that someone wants to know how many wives my dad has” – bottom line: there are no stupid questions and no topic is off limits. (For the record: her dad only has one wife, and she lived in a house with her parents, brothers/sisters, two uncles and their families, and grandparents).

When the breakfast was over, she lit some incense-equse thing (I wish I could remember the Arabic word for what it was!), which is what is used to politely guests out of the home – time to leave, I suppose!

Get outta here! ;)

Get outta here! 😉

Following the breakfast, Anna and I explored Al Bastakiya, the neighborhood near the creek. Anna wanted to pop into an Arabic calligraphy shop and made friends with this gentleman, who taught her how to write her name in Arabic:

His English > our Arabic

His English > our Arabic

We then hopped an abra across the creek to the Gold Souk – we looked, but didnt purchase – so much self restraint! And then headed home. Al Bastakiya is such a fun spot, and as I’ve attested before, the Center for Cultural Understanding should be a must do on any tourist or expat’s “to do” list while in Dubai. It was such a fun way to kick off Anna’s week in Dubai. More on the rest of her trip tomorrow. Until next time…

 

 

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