The UAE restaurant scene serves up dishes from around the world, but Emirati cuisine has remained available at only a few specific places. A new initiative from Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) hopes to change that, making local dishes more widely available through the Emirati Cuisine Programme (ECP).
The inauguration of the programme coincides with the country’s 49th National Day celebrations, though the initiative will extend throughout 2021. DCT Abu Dhabi says that the ECP hopes to “raise the profile of local cuisine and promote Emirati culture and traditions”.
The programme will enlist a number of hotels to offer authentic Emirati cuisine on their menus, targeting four- and five-star hotels in Abu Dhabi for in its first year. In a press statement, DCT Abu Dhabi has stated that more hotel categories will be “incorporated in subsequent years”.
As part of the programme, DCT Abu Dhabi has collaborated with Emirati chef Khulood Atiq, who started her career as a chef's assistant in a cooking show before launching a book Sarareed in 2011. She has since worked as a consultant for hotels, advocating for Emirati cuisine and the special ingredients used in it.
For ECP, Atiq will train hotel chefs in Emirati cooking through virtual meetings and videos. “I will be hosting the training sessions from my own kitchen and will be in direct contact with all the chefs to guide them and answer their inquiries,” she said in a statement. Participating Abu Dhabi hotels will also have continued access to the videos through the tourism board’s media library.
“The inspiration to create the Emirati Cuisine Programme came from DCT Abu Dhabi’s desire to give visitors the chance to experience the beauty and hospitality of Emirati culture through food,” said Ali Hassan Al Shaiba, executive director of tourism and marketing at DCT Abu Dhabi.
“Hotels are a crucial consumer touchpoint for any destination, and by making more Emirati food available at hotels, we are aiming to make our cuisine more accessible to visitors, no matter how long or short their stay is,” he added.
Al Shaiba stated that “up to 50 chefs from hotels across the emirates” have showed interest in participating in the programme.
The list of participating hotels has not yet been released. On its website, DCT Abu Dhabi has mentioned that it will outline exclusive offers and promotions linked to the programme in the coming days.