Harees: celebrating a staple of the Emirati iftar table

Recipes for the traditional meat porridge vary across the Arabian Gulf

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There are some dishes you expect to see on the dinner table during Ramadan across the Gulf, such as lentil soup, samboosas, aseeda, thareed and harees.

Harees may not look as appetising as it tastes, but there's a reason it's a staple of the Emirati iftar table – it's nourishing, easy to digest, filling and will keep you going through a long day of fasting.

It's eaten across the Gulf – with recipes varying slightly from country to country, household to household – and is cooked in a pot called a "mash pan", stirred with a wooden spoon called a masad masr.

It's predominantly made with wheat, chicken or lamb, spices, including cinnamon, water, and butter or ghee.

Wheat is cooked in slightly salted water for hours, then the meat is added and cooked again for at least four hours. Some people prefer to cook the meat and wheat together, with water and salt, and others serve it with a topping of chopped fried onions.

The dish is the focus of a weekly event at Al Ain Palace Museum that's taking place every Friday throughout the holy month.

Museum officials are inviting visitors to learn more about the dish – how it's made and the ingredients used – while also giving them the opportunity to take large plates and packages of the meal home to eat and distribute to neighbours, relatives and the less fortunate.

Every week, between 4pm and 5pm, people queue up at the museum, which was once the home of UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who lived there with his family until the late 1960s, when he moved to Abu Dhabi.

Visitors come with their own plates to fill with harees or they take home neatly created packages with a container of the dish, plus a small tub of ghee.

Each package comes with information about the dish in a range of languages. The literature explains the significance of the dish, but also of wheat, the star ingredient, which in the past was cultivated by Al Ain residents in Al Ain Oasis and Al Marayegh in October, to be harvested in April.

"As harvest time came, the caller would call 'tomorrow is the summer harvest' at a certain field to all the neighbours and willing participants to come to help with the harvest," the leaflet says. "The workers would gather the wheat crops and place them on an open and level surface for threshing (separating the grains from their straw) either by being trampled by a train of oxen or beaten with flails, and as they carried on with the threshing, they would chant: 'summer is here fellows'."

After the harvest was completed, workers would be given some, while children were given 12 kilograms of grains to be placed in their kanduras.

Watch the video below to learn more about the event at Al Ain Palace Museum:

Emirati dish harees takes centre stage at museum during Ramadan

Emirati dish harees takes centre stage at museum during Ramadan
Updated: April 15, 2022, 6:01 PM