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Flavours of Ramadan: Emirati meals showcase tradition, togetherness

Flavours of Ramadan: Emirati meals showcase tradition, togetherness
12 Mar 2024 09:36


The holy month of Ramadan comes accompanied by distinct flavours in Muslim communities. In addition to acts of devotion and prayer, the food culture of the holy month helps brings the family together. As time passes and traditional lifestyles change, many families continue to uphold Ramadan customs, aiming to revive and pass them down through generations through familiar culinary favourites. 


A popular traditional dish in the Emirati kitchen, Harees is typically served at celebrations and on special occasions, including Ramadan, weddings, and Eids. 

The dish is a porridge-like food, consisting of wheat, beef or chicken, and ghee.

Wheat is cooked in mildly salted water for several hours, after which meat, usually lamb or chicken, is added and simmered for an additional four hours. The dish is served with spoons of locally made ghee on top. Traditionally, the dish is made in a “mash pan” and stirred with a “Masad Masr”, a type of wooden spoon.

Harees can also be served with chopped fried onions sprinkled on the top. 


Thareed, a very familiar dish, especially during the Ramadan season, is a slow-cooked beef stew with generous chunks of potatoes and vegetables. The stew can be tailored per individual preferences, with some opting to take a more vegetable-centric or meat-forward approach.


Machboos is a classic Emirati dish that exemplifies the country’s culinary tradition steeped in aromatic spices.

Machboos is often comprised of beef, chicken, or shrimp simmered in a fragrant stock and flavoured with a unique blend of spices and dried limes, known locally as “loomi”.

The slow-cooking process allows the meat to absorb the flavours, resulting in a hearty dish. The stew is ultimately served with rice and vegetables, with common chocies including chopped onions, potatoes, and tomatoes.


In addition to savoury main dishes consumed as an Iftar meal, sweets constitute an integral staple in the UAE’s Ramadan cuisine. Khabees is one of the oldest foods in the UAE’s culinary tradition and offers a classic favourite during the holy month. The sweet is made by toasting flour until golden brown. Water and sugar (or honey) is combined and brought to a boil in a separate saucepan, which is then mixed with the flour until all liquid is completely absorbed. While still on the heat, ghee, cardamom, saffron, and rose water, as well as some of the conserved water mixture, is added. More conserved water is added to the mixture, which produces a thick, porridge-like consistency. The dish is finally served by tossing in some toppings, such as grated coconut, raisins, pistachios, and almonds. 


Lugaymat is another Emirati treat that has been preserved through generations. This sweet is a deep-fried dough ball that is crispy on the exterior, while soft and fluffy on the inside. The dough ball is typically drizzled with a generous amount of sweet syrup. 

Community Favourites

Aletihad spoke to several Emirati women, who discussed their favorite Emirati dishes to snack on during the Ramadan season. 

For Mona Alnaqbi, a retired teacher, her top Emirati dishes to eat during Ramadan include Khameer (made from yeast, flour, and powdered milk, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and served with honey), Madrouba (made of flour and salted fish), Jashid (prepared from baby sharks), and Ersiya (made of mashed rice with chicken).

Alnaqbi told Aletihad that her favourite sweets, typically consumed after iftar, include Chabab (an Emirati pancake), Balaleet (sweetened, fragrant vermicelli noodles topped with eggs), and Khanfroosh (a fried rice cake).

Emirati national Maryam Aldhanhani described her Ramadan mealtime traditions. “On weekends, the entire family gathers for iftar, and the remaining prepared food is distributed to the neighbourhood and mosques,” she told Aletihad. 

Meaad Alzaabi, an Emirati who lives in Fujairah, spoke about the importance of Ramadan decorations, such as the crescent moon, which are present throughout the house. 

“Everyone gathers in their grandparents’ house on the first day of Ramadan,” Alzaabi said, noting that this enhances the atmosphere of family and togetherness, emblematic of the holy month.

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