For a home-like setting
In their constant mission to share Emirati culture with the expat community, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding hosts a traditional iftar every day but Friday during the month of Ramadan. No other iftar in town feels quite like dining as a guest in someone’s home. The food is even made by an Emirati mama (literally: her son is the centre’s director). Guests sit around a carpet full of food and eat seated on cushions in the traditional set up. Naturally, it’s a popular event, so early booking is highly recommended.
The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, Bur Dubai (04 353 6666). Dhs125. Children under 12 eat free. Available Sat-Mon, Wed-Thu, continues until 90 minutes after sunset.
For the best view in the city
During the Holy Month, take in the spectacular view of the city at Al Dawaar – Dubai’s only revolving restaurant. This is the first Ramadan where you can view the Burj Khalifa in its completion (oh, what a view). Plus, the food at Al Dawaar can’t be beat. In Emirati tradition, they’re serving up an authentic lamb ouzi for guests that call ahead (you need to order 24 hours in advance).
Hyatt Regency, Deira (04 317 2222). Dhs1,200 whole lamb, Dhs600 half.
To create your own iftar
No one’s as well-equipped to cater an iftar than Harald Oberender and Khalel Mustafa Oqdeh. The chefs operate out of the Dubai World Trade Centre, which has been catering for Emirati weddings for years. During Ramadan, they provide a takeaway service, selling real Emirati specialties to anyone interested in setting up an authentic ifar of their own. Granted, most of their clients are locals, which is all the more reason to use them.
World Trade Tower, DIFC (04 308 6999). À la carte menu.
Local food 101
We asked caterer Harald Oberender to walk us through a traditional Emirati iftar.
To kick start the digestion, dates and water are consumed, followed by soup. Popular choices are lentil, cream or tomato soup.
A wheat dish similar to porridge made with chunks of lamb or veal.
According to Oberender, a ‘very famous local dish’. It’s a stew made with loomi (dried limes).
There are two varities of ouzi (whole roasted lamb): one cooked with rice, and the other cooked with the local bread, rokak.
A stew made with lamb and vegetables, including a white pumpkin – a local gourd that grows in Al Ain.
This is another very traditional dish. A chicken is roasted then cooked in a tomato sauce with loomi (dried limes) and rokak (traditional bread).
A sweet pumpkin pudding made from red pumpkins (which are grown locally in Al Ain and Oman). This item is a must-have at an Emirati iftar.
A sweet, crumble-like dessert made with roasted brown flour, cashew nuts and saffron.