Dear Ali: I have found that Emirati food has a decent variety of bread, rice, fish, chicken, meat and some vegetable dishes. But, can you tell me what is considered to be a delicacy on your cultural menu? KF, Abu Dhabi
Dear KF: Today, we can say there is almost no lack in the food variety in the UAE, though in the recent past people have indeed had very limited options in their daily menus.
Although this is a desert environment, in some areas in the Northern Emirates or Al Ain, people were able to grow some vegetables and fruits such as mangos, bananas, pomegranates, but mostly it was only dates that were available. Fruits like apples were not seen here by our grandfathers until they started being brought from outside.
We consider camel meat (called khawar in our dialect) a local delicacy, and it is cooked only for special occasions such as weddings. The meat of gazelles is more rare than camel meat. It is not easy to find – it is a very special meat that is very expensive.
A delicacy that was a big deal back in the day was the “sea cow” or dugong. We used to eat it with rice, and hunters competed for it since it was considered some of the best meat. But this all stopped due to environmental rules and decisions implemented a long time ago when Sheikh Zayed protected the creatures after he found out how in danger they were of becoming extinct.
Abalone is a popular seafood delicacy that people love and usually bring in from Oman.
Dear Ali: I am working in an advertising business and wonder why some public events are well attended by Emiratis and others not much. Is this because of mistakes in advertising? KA, Dubai
Dear KA: It is not easy to say for sure without having an exact example, but thank you for your question. I believe what you have noticed is not about marketing tricks of advertising. In fact this will be much easier to understand once you look into the roots of our culture.
First of all, holding an event that reflects our cultural preferences and interests will always be attractive to us as locals. At the same time, people from other countries and cultures might not find these sorts of events entertaining enough unless they love traditional events.
Sometimes the reason local people don’t attend community events could be that an advertisement was produced mainly in English. As you know, Arabic is the first language in our community. English is used basically for communication with other people. So such an event might be simply ignored by the majority, but you still can expect a few people to come over.
Another reason could be that event can be challenging to our cultural values, and even if all advertisements are made in Arabic, people may not attend it due to their principles.
Check with your Emirati colleagues. Take their opinion on each upcoming event and ask them what would be attractive to them and what should be avoided. Good luck.
Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.
Source: art & life