'A truly worthy dish': Emiratis, expats on love for Harees as it gets global recognition

The UAE staple is now a part of the Unesco Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage

by

Waad Barakat

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Published: Sun 24 Dec 2023, 12:32 PM

Last updated: Sun 24 Dec 2023, 10:36 PM

In a momentous occasion, 'Harees', a traditional Emirati dish has been added to the UN intangible cultural heritage list.

As the UAE celebrates the achievement, we explored how the porridge-like dish unites Emiratis and expatriates across generations — from Gen Z to the seniors.

Mohammed AlFardan, a 17-year-old Emirati, expressed his admiration for Harees, stating that it embodies the essence of Emirati culture. He devours this dish twice a month and enjoys it daily during the holy month of Ramadan.

Intrigued by the craft of making Harees, Mohammed aspires to become a licensed Harees master and hopes to learn the art behind it. He also recommends trying Harees at 'Beit Jeddati' (My Grandma's House), one of his favourite Emirati restaurants located in Abu Dhabi, which serves this traditional dish with a contemporary twist.

Mohammed AlFardan
Mohammed AlFardan

Muna Almansoori, an executive chef at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr Hotel and a renowned presenter, emphasised the significance of Harees in the Emirati kitchen. She highlighted its presence in various events, such as weddings, funerals, and gatherings. While the traditional recipe involves meat, Muna acknowledged the evolving preferences of people and the emergence of chicken-based variations.

“I am very happy and proud that they chose Harees because it is truly a worthy dish.”

She firmly believes in preserving the authenticity of Emirati cuisine and presenting it to the world without significant alterations.

Muna Almansoori
Muna Almansoori

“We only change the method of presentation, instead of serving it in a bowl and serving it in the form of small bites, so that it is suitable for meetings and parties.” Muna shared her suggestion to Khaleej Times.

Eman Alnoor, a former Sudanese resident of the UAE, cherished her 35-year-long stay in Al Ain, especially the memorable Ramadan experiences. She warmly reminisced receiving plates of Harees and Kabsa from her Emirati friends and neighbours before sunset. Around the table, her children, who are residents of the UAE, engaged in conversations about their love for Harees and their curiosity about its preparation.

“I even tried to make Harees one day for my kids, as it similar to this Sudanese dish Aseeda but without the meat and the chicken. However, I failed because you have to have the Emirati touch to make it,” Eman said to Khaleej Times.

Ahmed Hadi, a 72-year-old Emirati citizen residing in Abu Dhabi, spoke of the significance of Harees in fostering family unity and happiness. He explained that Harees is commonly enjoyed during Ramadan and other special occasions. For Ahmed, Harees holds a unique place in their culinary traditions, as it incorporates saffron, a spice not commonly used in other dishes, adding an elegant touch to its flavour. While Ahmed has not personally prepared Harees, he appreciates that the dish has maintained its classic appearance and taste throughout the years.

As Harees receives international recognition, Emiratis like Ahmed express their confidence in the younger generation's ability to preserve their culture and traditions. They believe that it is now their responsibility to uphold and pass on this rich heritage to future generations.

“We have tried our best to teach our children to preserve their culture and tradition. It is now their turn to fulfill that obligation towards themselves and their children. I’m not worried, I know they will.”

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