Shawarma, shewarma – these mean the same dish but spelled differently depending on which part of the world you are from. It’s also one of the most popular street foods in Dubai. Dubai is a city found in the United Arab Emirates close to the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf. The UAE is made up of 7 emirates and Dubai has the biggest population and often labeled as a country instead of a city.
Dubai made its money on oil but decided to focus on tourism and the service industries as its main drivers for its economy. In 2010, Dubai was the 7th most visited city in the world because it promotes shopping at its best. The inflation of the food, hotel and restaurant businesses grew by more than 16% in 2012 and street food has become more appealing because it is more affordable and easier to buy.
Arabic food is everywhere but the options have been increasing and now there are Chinese, Indian, and western food. Pork, which is a meat banned from being eaten by Muslims is not easily available. In fact, the sale of pork, raw or cooked, is highly regulated and found in pre-designated areas.
Bur Dubai is the historic district in the city and the place to go for authentic shawarma. However there are dozens of other choices in street food. For example, there are kebabs and curried dishes as well as Chinese dimsum. You can also find Taiwanese, Levant, Pakistani, and Korean foods. All you have to do is walk around the district. You will find many vendors in every corner. A great choice would be to sample the Lebanese street food like manakish which is their version of pizza. It’s a delicious all-in-one meal you can carry and eat while doing your errands or while taking a break. It consists of dough, meats, cheese, and herbs.
Here’s one word of caution though about the street food in Dubai. Recently the municipality of Dubai began cracking down on street food peddlers mainly to clean up the streets. The issue is not the food per se but about unsanitary food preparation and the way the street carts and tables damage the image of Dubai’s streets. According to officials, preparing food in open areas is illegal unless they are inside labor camps, work sites, or inside private property. Food cannot be sold in plastic bags or from the back of cars. Selling of alcoholic beverages on the street is also illegal. This doesn’t mean that Dubai street food will soon be a thing of the past. It will only mean safer foods that have been inspected by the proper authorities. You can ask for the health card of a vendor before buying and that would be one way to ensure that the food you are buying is safe.