Business Lunch: Dubai’s Mealtime Etiquette and Popular Dishes


ImageIf your business has expanded into the Middle East, chances are good you’ll be visiting Dubai at some point. Over the last few decades Dubai has developed into a cosmopolitan metropolis, and staked its claim as the business hub of the Persian Gulf region. If you plan on having a business lunch in Dubai in the near future, you may want to brush up on your etiquette with these helpful tips:

Dress conservatively. This is important for women especially; make sure your top isn’t low cut and your skirt (if you’re wearing one) isn’t short. Also, remember to keep your arms covered.

Shake with only the right hand. The left hand is considered unclean, so remember to only use the right to shake hands and pass objects to other people. Handshakes between men can be on the longer side to the point of walking hand in hand for a bit. Don’t be alarmed if this is new to you, it’s a sign of brotherly bonding. If you are male and are presented to a woman, do not stare or prolong eye contact, and do not initiate a handshake. You can only shake if she extends her hand first.

Image 3Be aware of your body. Remember what I said about your left hand being unclean? Keep that in mind while eating, and try to use only your right hand if no utensils are required. Another thing to bear in mind is the placement of your feet. It is considered rude to show someone the sole of your shoe or foot, so try to be conscious of this fact by keeping both feet planted firmly on the ground.

If you aren’t sure what to order, just ask your host. Dubai may not be the first place you’d think of as a culinary capital, but it’s acquiring quite a reputation for its eclectic mix of cuisines, both modern and traditional. If nothing on the menu catches your eye, ask your host for a suggestion; after all, a clever foodie defers to the local opinion.

If you’re in the mood to sample one of the more traditional menu offerings, but want to have a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into, look no further. Here is a quick crash course on some of the must try items of the area.

Image 1Shawarma is the most eaten food across the United Arab Emirates. Technically, It’s a meat preparation, where lamb, chicken, turkey, beef, veal, or mixed meats are placed on a spit and grilled, but the name “shawarma” also refers to a sandwich or wrap made with shawarma meat.

Machbūs (pronounced: machboos) is a rice dish made with a mixture of spices, meat, and vegetables. Since the spices used in the preparation are largely responsible for the taste, there are many variations to be had.

Stuffed camel has been recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as “largest item on any menu in the world”. Generally reserved for special occasions, this dish is comprised of a whole camel stuffed with a sheep or lamb that has been stuffed with other ingredients.

No matter where you go in Dubai there will be plenty of tasty dishes that are sure to satisfy you, so thank your host by respecting their culture and etiquette rules. Better yet, show them you’re willing to go the extra mile by learning a bit of Arabic.
When traveling for business, do you eat adventurously, or play it safe?