Eating in the heat
mimic any Pan-Asian menus curated by Norwegian chefs at zillion-star hotels. “If you don’t like Arabic mezze, cheesy blankets of fragrant Lebanese pizza, Iranian kebabs, crisp falafel and buttery Yemeni meats, you may as well turn around now,” she said. Luckily, all work for me!
Arva explained we’d be eating four courses at four restaurants. Was this to pack in as much variety into our four-hour tour as possible? No. “I ate like this all the time in New York. For me it’s totally normal to dart from place to place for each course,” she said. Sounds like highmaintenance dining to me, but perfect if you get fidgety eating a whole meal in one place. And it left us open to lots of variety.
Being new to Dubai from London, I decided to go on the tour as a way to see an area of the city off the beaten track. And as we sped down the highway the change of landscape was immediately apparent. The skyscrapers seemed to shrink and evaporate with every kilometre and the land visibly opened up – even exposing a tree or two.
The minibus dropped us outside a neon-lit takeaway joint on Muraqqabat Street, called Sultan Dubai Falafel (sister restaurant Qwaider Al Nabulsi is just next door). It’s apparently the go-to place for Egyptian falafel (it’s thought falafel originated in Egypt, but this topic has stirred up debate for centuries).
Egyptian falafel is made with fava beans, not chickpeas, and the ones we tried were stuffed with fresh chilli – the real Egyptian deal.
We braved the heat to sit outside and devour freshly made, piping hot falafel mahshi, hummus with a green tangy sauce and to finish, kunafa na’ama, which is a sweet Palestinian cheese pie. Arva talked us through the recipes for each dish, coaxing us to try more and listening to any questions we mumbled through hot, tasty mouthfuls.
Moments earlier she’d warned us this was a marathon not a sprint – that it was essential we paced ourselves. “You shouldn’t be I must say at this point, these are designed to be walking tours – so you can really soak up the neighbourhoods between restaurants and give your stomach a welcome rest, albeit for five minutes.
But during the intense heat of summer (I attended in August, I know we shouldn’t have been outside at all!) when it’s too hot to walk anywhere, we were ferried around in the cool minibus to save us from melting on to the pavement. Arva said it gave her the opportunity to take us to places further afield than she’d normally go on foot – like Al Ammor in Abu Hail, but more on that later.
Our next stop was Iraqi restaurant Bait Al Baghdadi on Al Muteena Street, Deira. It’s one of the only places in Dubai that specialises in Masgouf – a traditional Iraqi method of barbecuing fish (always carp), which had been cooking for us while