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Middle East food pilgrimage

In a city renowned for its world-class restaurants, it’s ironic that Middle Eastern cuisine can be the hardest to find when you’re visiting Dubai. This guided walking tour, which might include a small number of other visitors, offers an insider’s view of the local cuisine and gives you a chance to sample the nuances of different countries’ foods.

Guided by a local expert, you’ll also get an introduction to Middle Eastern culinary traditions, including a primer on the etiquette around drinking coffee and how to choose among different gradients of saffron, the most expensive spice in the world.

From creamy, garlicky hummus to baklava dripping with golden honey and studded with sweet nuts, spend an evening sampling the best dishes at a handful of the city’s most-overlooked restaurants. Your guide will have hand-picked the nibbles as well as the eateries, which are all clustered around Al Rigga, an important street in the Deira district. Along the way, you’ll also hear personal anecdotes from your guide as you learn more about the city’s culture.

You’ll make your own way to the meeting point to join this small-group walking tour, which is limited to just six participants. The tour takes place in the evening and includes enough food to be considered a full meal by most people. You’ll cover about 2.8 km (1.7 miles), with plenty of stops along the way to rest and cool off.

The route will differ to make sure you visit the best eateries available at that moment, but will include at least five different stops. You’ll get the chance to sample a wide range of different foods, most likely including dishes influenced by Palestinian, Jordanian, Lebanese, Iraqi and Iranian cuisine. Tours often begin with stuffed herb falafels served with hummus, fried eggplant and cauliflower.

From there, you might try a Palestinian and Jordanian pastry stuffed with creamy sweet cheese, which contrasts with the crunchy noodles and pistachios sprinkled on top. Your tour will certainly include a coffee shop where you can sip cardamom-scented coffee, known locally as gahwa, accompanied by a pressed-date cookie and baklava. Your guide will share the subtle nuances of traditional coffee-drinking rituals in the region, and how they differ around the Middle East.

The main course of the evening is often a Lebanese smoked fish served with lentil soup, followed by a samovar tea. You might end the evening with a tour of an Iranian shop that offers gourmet ingredients and confections. Here, you’ll be introduced to the different grades of saffron while sampling ice cream that’s been infused with the subtle scent of the wildly expensive spice. Along the way, you’ll be able to buy items like rosewater, pistachios, baklava and saffron.

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Audley Travel specialist Hannah

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