Living in Abu Dhabi: Eat like a local!

We’re of the opinion that trying new foods is part of the experience when you move to teach abroad. If a fusion of traditional arabic and international cuisine is what you are after, then Abu Dhabi is going to be right up your alley. It’s a foodie’s paradise. 

While you can find almost all international eats your heart desires in Abu Dhabi, this blog is dedicated to teaching you how to eat like you’re a born-and-bred Emirati. Read on and get your tastebuds ready!

Milk and dates

This popular snack is a go-to energy booster, especially during Ramadan fasting. Milk and dates are often how traditional Emiratis begin a meal, as it is believed this was the preferred snack of the Prophet Muhammad. Dates are grown locally in abundance in the UAE so nosh away!

Al Harees

Image: CNN

Al Harees is a simple, traditional dish of meat, typically lamb, and wheat, meant for special occasions like weddings and during Ramadan. It takes a while to make, but it is well worth the wait. After simmering the ground wheat, meat, and salt in a pot for a few hours (until the meat is fully cooked and dissolved into the wheat), the mixture is placed into a clay pot, buried in to the ground with hot coals and left to cook for another few hours. Once complete, you may top the dish with ghee (clarified butter) and enjoy!


This dish is a foodie favorite. Put simply, it is a meat and vegetable soup. The meat is boiled with onions in a broth of aromatic spices, and then fresh, local vegetables like okra, bell peppers, eggplant and courgettes are added along with crushed tomatoes.  This healthy and nutritious dish is enjoyed by locals as a meal or starter dish. 


When you are living in a coastal city, there is one thing you must take advantage of: fresh seafood. In the fish markets in Abu Dhabi, you can find endless varieties of fish. A local staple is Madrooba, which is a dish made with a salt-cured fish called maleh. Maleh is prepared by thoroughly rinsing then boiling the fish in a traditional Arabic spice blend. Next, flour is added, which thickens the broth into a savory sauce. This dish is finally topped with ghee and served with flatbread. 


Pizza lovers rejoice! The Arabic world has their own version of this delicious staple. Made with a round piece of dough and sprinkled with cheese, ground meat or herbs, it is enjoyed typically for breakfast or lunch in the UAE. Manakeesh can be found in varying forms and everywhere from upscale restaurants to street vendors.


We’re of the opinion that no meal is complete without something sweet to finish it off, and this tasty treat can be found throughout Abu Dhabi. While some liken the luqaimat to a donut, it is much more delicate and light in taste and texture. This is fine dining, and luqaimat can be enjoyed at any time of day, even for breakfast!

We hope we've given you an appetite for Arabic delicacies by now! And don’t forget, you will be able to find more well-known Arabic staples like hummus, falafel and shawarma throughout Abu Dhabi, but we encourage you to be adventurous and feast on the traditional foods as well.

Ready to look at our teaching abroad opportunities? See what positions we have in Abu Dhabi on our jobs board.