I never really appreciated Middle Eastern cuisine. Perhaps it was my Midwestern meat and potatoes upbringing. All I can say now is what a mistake it was not to be enjoying the wonderful flavors and spices of this magnificent region.
One of the life experiences that changed my attitude toward Middle Eastern cuisine and traveling was a visit to Dubai several years ago. I had arrived for a quick business meeting and would only be in Dubai for two days. I was delighted when a colleague living in Dubai with his family suggested we have dinner together with his family. This is when I learned about the common hospitality of the region.
Yajnesh, his wife Divya and their beautiful baby boy picked me up at my hotel later that evening. They took me to Dubai’s Souk Kahn Murjan in Wafi Mall. If you know anything about Dubai it’s that they do everything big, shiny and extravagant. Think Las Vegas, times three in the desert.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise that the open-air courtyard was spectacular. I was concerned about eating “outside” in the 100 degree plus weather but quickly learned that the courtyard was air conditioned and quite comfortable.The cuisine was a wonderful selection of delicious dishes from Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Iran and the Emirates. There was also a huge fresh juice bar preparing delicious fruit drinks. I thoroughly enjoyed everything I tried. My hosts talked about living in Dubai and asked me about living in Chicago. It was this experience that made me truly appreciate my good fortune to be able to travel, meet and eat with people with such different life experiences.
The food was truly what brought us together and gave us a chance to tell our own personal stories. I now eat Middle Eastern food at every chance I get but more importantly I made lifetime friends with Yajnesh and Divya. I now try new foods wherever I travel and meet the folks who prepare it to learn just a bit about their culture and reality.
THE QUICK BITE: Sharing stories and food with new friends makes Middle Eastern cuisine special to this Food Travelist.