..well not a specific gluten free trip to Abu Dhabi (that would be both insane and expensive) but as a family holiday it certainly played a vital part of our time there.
It’s been awhile since my last post and if you have been following me on social media you’ll have seen we are having some work done in the house, which is very nearly at its end. A new kitchen is only just around the corner. But I couldn’t miss an opportunity to post about our recent holiday.
You would have thought that the normal person would have done some reasearch before going to see what the options were. The normal person. I’m not sure we would ever describe ourselves as normal, but thanks to our friends in the UAE, they had already done some looking on our behalf.
So I will do my best to recount some of the experiences we had, how easy was it, what difficulties we had and anything else that springs to mind.
One thing to bear in mind though was that our holiday actually began just as Ramadan began. The very day fasting began. Now I (we) would freely admit our lack of knowledge of Ramadan, but our friends bought us up to speed very quickly. In no uncertain terms, eating and drinking (amongst other things) in public is a no-no and between certain hours of the day – but generally from dawn to dusk – ending in Iftar – the breaking of the fast with a feast.
To begin with this was rather a challenge, but we were there as guests and we felt we must obey the local laws and customs. We quickly became accustomed to this and it wasn’t that difficult to manage at all. Especially as we were informed by our hosts that there are areas/places to eat that have been granted ‘licenses’ to provide and sell food and drink, so long as they were hidden from view – either behind closed doors, curtains or food courts surrounded by hoarding. This would mean that anyone following Ramadan (a month of piety and generosity to those in need) would not be offended and any tourist or non-Muslim (there is a very large population of non-Arab workers/contractors) would be able to eat during the day (lunchtime). Naturally of course these places were not publicised and it was only through local knowledge that we were able to find them.
In the main, food courts in the Malls were closed (apart from those granted licenses) until the late evening, but supermarkets were actually open. A side point to make is that during the month of Ramadan opening hours do vary – somewhat- and nothing was publicised on any websites, so you had to turn up and find out.
Spinneys (stocks some Waitrose products) and Carrefour were the supermarkets of choice, but we did find a Waitrose as well! And the choice of gluten free foods (and for that matter free from) was astounding. I’d go so far as to say way better than in the U.K. Carrefour even go so far as to have own branded foods. The Fig roll like bites made with dates though of course) were amazing. The range of Schar products was fantastic, again a difference market and better range of goods. Just a shame we couldn’t bring it all home!
Home. Being with friends also had its benefits in regards food. We were able to perfectly manage the gluten free foods available. Buying from, then cooking from the supermarkets certainly cut out any risks and meal times were a breeze – simple self-catering if you like.
The rather trickier piece was eating out. It would be slightly remiss to travel all that way and not eat out, so with some (and I stress some) forward planning we ventured into the City. Now outlets are up to speed on dietary requirements and indeed Coeliac Disease and gluten free foods, I’d say slightly better than the UK. But there were occasions were the translation was slightly lost. In one instance we were about to walk out of Pizza Express because the delivery hadn’t turned up with gluten free bases, when in fact that had turned up and the waiter hadn’t been informed! Noah loved his pizza (and no adverse effects either 😀).
The conclusion there is, ask. Most if not all those working in the food outlets speak English. It’s the most commonly spoken language in the UAE with the large amount of foreign workers from around the globe, it kind of makes sense. The staff come across knowledgable and eager to please and will find out if they don’t know.
A great trip, made easier with the help of friends. Other highlights included swimming with Dolphins, cycling round the F1 Yas Marina race track, 35c heat and an average 70% humidity and of course, time with friends and family. What we won’t mention is the crisis that blew up with Qatar, a most stressful 48hours.
We’ll be back as soon as we’ve saved enough. 😀😀😀
Ramadan Kareem and have a great Eid