In Table Tales, The Global Nomad Cuisine of Abu Dhabi, author Hanan Sayed Worrell offers up a taste of the cosmopolitan community of the city. Rooted in a Bedouin desert culture, Abu Dhabi has been at the crossroads of East and West for millennia. For most visitors and newcomers to the city, however, life beyond the tourist attractions is an enigma. Hanan takes the reader through the city, for an intimate glimpse into the homes of Emiratis as well as residents from Syria to Spain, India to Italy, Afghanistan to the Americas.

 

Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, is known as one of the wealthiest cities in the world, with oil reserves to last a century. The past half-century has witnessed a rapid influx of people from all over the world, bringing with them an enticing array of aromas, flavours, and foods. Table Tales is the story of a community forming itself through the sharing of food, traditions and culture. In revealing interviews, the pioneers who came to Abu Dhabi in the 1960s, as oil production increased, tell tales of cooking experiments born of necessity as original recipe ingredients were substituted with what was locally available. For those who arrived more recently, the variety on offer at local grocery stores reflected the entire polyglot community of the city. Many of the expatriates—global nomads having lived in other international cities—brought with them a variety of culinary influences. For Emiratis, who welcomed the multicultural communities but also travelled with greater frequency, native food and customs became infused with flavours and spices from around the globe. As the city grew, cooking and entertaining friends at home became an integral ritual in how people bonded with each other. Today, Abu Dhabi has an urban food culture that ranges from wildly popular food trucks to contemporary restaurants. Quietly and deliciously, Abu Dhabi has been creating a culinary culture of reinvention and collaboration at home and on the streets.

 

As a careful and affectionate observer of her adopted city for over a quarter century, the author guides the reader on a journey beyond Abu Dhabi’s seemingly hermetic skin to reveal the joys, quirks, trials, and triumphs of life in this energetic capital city. Through essays, stories, and recipes, we see Abu Dhabi’s many facets, from the traditional to the cosmopolitan, from the 1960s to the bustling contemporary city of today, where art and business thrive. Featuring vibrant photographs taken around the city, in homes and restaurants, Table Tales offers a panorama of the colours and contrasts of this rapidly evolving city.

With photos by Martin Nicholas Kunz and Heike Fademrecht