Put on by Food Blogger Connect, the students feasted on Middle-Eastern food and high-end Asian each night of the two-day workshop. The second day featured photography and recipe writing tips by Ellen Silverman and Martha Holmberg.
Commercial Dubai is like an over-the-top Las Vegas for Arabs and vacationers from neighboring countries, without the gambling. It’s so hot that we ended up in air-conditioned malls, which sounds boring but I’m telling you, you’ve never seen malls like these. They are mini-cities with every American brand you can imagine. There’s a full-size hockey rink and aquarium in one and a ski resort with live penguins in another.
Emerati people watching there is a pleasure: men in immaculate headdress and flowing white dishdash, and women in stylish black abayas and headscarves. One Emerati man we met wore camel-shaped silver cufflinks on his formal dishdash.
To get an idea of the food scene, my husband and I toured old Dubai with food blogger Arva Ahmed of Frying Pan Adventures. Our group sampled dishes and sweets from Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, Yemen and yes, the Emirates, where we ate in a Bedouin restaurant, on the floor, with our hands. I had met Arva on email two years ago, when she alerted me to a popular post on comparing, so it was a delight to meet her in person.
From there it was off to Jordan to see Petra, and then to Israel to visit friends and family. In Tel Aviv, I met up with food bloggers Liz Steinberg, Ben Brewer, Sarah Melamed and Ishay Govender-Ypma (visiting from South Africa) who were touring the Levinsky food market, sampling bourekas with boiled eggs, olives, and Iraqi pastries. I would move to Israel for the markets alone.
We started our days with Arabic coffee, brewed with cardamom and saffron in Dubai, and just cardamom in Jordan and Israel. It’s quite bitter so it needs a little sugar. In Israel we ate salad and fresh cheeses for breakfast. Sadly most of those cheese are not sold in the US. Most days included hummus (so creamy and mild that I don’t think I can go back to the stuff sold in tubs in the US), and falafel or shawarma, typical street food sandwiches in the Middle East.
One of the most pleasurable parts of the trip was staying with a dear friend in Jerusalem who did all the cooking and serving, including three dinner parties. We did nothing except wash a few dishes and make a salad. Now that’s a vacation!