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A Guide to Traditional Arabic Drinks
Sip your way through our favourite beverages

In a city where coffee is a mark of traditional hospitality, sampling some refreshing jellab or a camel milk cappuccino is a quintessential part of tasting local flavours in Dubai. Tempt your taste-buds and learn about the UAE’s rich heritage with this array of Arabian drinks that are both unique and delicious.

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Arabic coffee

The scent of rich, strong Arabic coffee (or gahwa) follows you as you walk the historic streets of Dubai. A symbol of Arabian hospitality, gahwa is typically spiced with cardamom, cumin, cloves and saffron. Presented with ceremonial flourish, it is poured from a classic Arabian coffee pot – an elegant and ornate silver or gold vessel called a dallah – and served in small cups without handles, called the finjaan.

Usually served alongside a platter of fresh dates, drinking Arabic coffee with friends is part of the majlis socialising rituals.

Try it at: Cupagahwa
   Cupagahwa, La Mer, Jumeirah 1
  +971 4 357 5517

Karak chai

While coffee is the reigning king of drinks in Arabia, tea has gained immense popularity in the form of karak chai. Karak is derived from the word ‘kadak’ which means strong in Hindi. A legacy of the UAE’s long-standing trade and cultural relationship with India, this fragrant, spiced drink can be enjoyed in nearly any cafe in the city.

If karak tea isn’t to your taste, milkshakes sweetened by dates and tea, and other tea-inspired beverages have found their place on the contemporary menus of Dubai. Try these localised favourites at one of the many quaint cafes and tea-houses found in the city.

Try it at: Arabian Tea House
   Arabian Tea House, Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
  +971 4 353 5071

Jellab and Qamardeen

Among the many things Dubai is famous for is sunshine, and that means most beverages are enjoyed cold. A classic Arabic drink is the jellab, a blend of grape molasses and rose water, with optional toppings of pine nuts and raisins. It’s a popular drink on a hot summer’s night, especially during Ramadan.

Qamardeen, another popular drink during Ramadan, is a thick apricot beverage that’s made using dried apricot paste. It’s a staple at most Arab homes and a wonderful drink to share with family and friends.

Try it at: Zahr El-Laymoun
   Zahr El-Laymoun, Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai
  +971 800 8886

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Laban and Ayran

Healthy enough to feature in diet plans thanks to its high protein status, laban is a cooling buttermilk drink, ubiquitous in the region and easy to find in any supermarket. Enjoyed as is, or flavoured with blended dates, rosewater, orange blossom water or spices like saffron and cardamom, it’s a rich and creamy beverage. Contemporary cafes in Dubai are also using it as a flavour base in creative ways, such as Freez parlour’s funky laban and crisps blend.

Meanwhile, ayran is another simple yoghurt-based drink of the region. Iced and salted, ayran has a tangier, slightly sour taste.

Try it at: Freez
   Freez, behind Al Quoz Park
  +971 56 435 5540

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Fresh juices

While not strictly an Arabic drink, lemonade infused with cooling mint is a best-seller and aids digestion and relieves heartburn. After a day of basking in the sun there’s no better way to cool down, with ‘lemon-mint’ as it’s known a popular everyday drink to wash down your meal. Other local juices include a drink made by combining soaked, crushed tamarind with water, sugar and lemon juice. Known as tamar hindi, it is perfectly sweet with a tangy kick, and was traditionally served across the Levant by travelling peddlers.

Fresh juices including watermelon, rock-melon, pineapple and papaya also feature heavily on juice bar menus and can be blended with camel milk or laban to create a local version of a thick and creamy milkshake.

Try it at: Salt
   Salt, Kite Beach, Umm Suqeim
  +971 55 996 5802

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