Abu Dhabi: Cultural Diversity through Bread

Whether we eat it with a layer of melted butter on top or use it to scoop the leftover butter masala from our plates, bread is the cornerstone of many ...

Nov 23, 2013

Whether we eat it with a layer of melted butter on top or use it to scoop the leftover butter masala from our plates, bread is the cornerstone of many cuisines around the world. From a religious symbol to the cause of revolutions, it has persisted as a historically evolving emblem of community and everyday life.
It might come as a surprise, but a short walk around the Madinat Zayed area is enough to introduce you to a variety of bread types, each offering a unique sample of Abu Dhabi's multicultural identity. Here are a few selected types of bread for all the carb-lovers willing to explore the city through this ancient baked good.
By Alejandra Pinto/The Gazelle
Photo by Alejandra Pinto/The Gazelle
Afghani Flat Bread
Where you can find it: Abu Waqas Bakery, written in Arabic.
Across from the Ganem Bin Hamooda Mosque near Sama, two streets behind Diamond Travels
Price: 1 AED
This Afghani take on naan is a huge, fluffy flatbread that goes with any kind of spread. It is made with cushioned trays and dexterous hands that flatten the dough in the air before submitting it to the heat of the white-tiled tandoor oven. Common across Central and South Asia, the clay ovens (tandoor) are usually built about 1.5 meters (five feet) into the earth with a big opening at the top, though there are many variations. If you visit this bakery at night, you can witness how quickly dough comes in and out of the oven and then on to dinner tables. It is open in the mornings and evenings until around 11 p.m.
Note: This naan stays soft for over a day, so you can eat it as a late night snack and as breakfast, double score.
By Clara Bilcaho/The Gazelle
Photo by Clara Bicalho/The Gazelle
Lebanese bread
Where you can find it: Lebanon Flower Bakery
Price: 50 fils
The Lebanese bread, khubz in Arabic, is a disc-shaped bread most commonly referred to as pita, although pita is in fact a Greek word. This epitome of Arab cuisine is crusty and dry on the outside and is best consumed with a plate of hummus or foul, which can be found right next door in Lebanese Flower Restaurant for 14 AED. The khubz dries relatively quickly, so don’t spend too much time devouring it.
Note: Once in this bakery, you can also try the saaj bread, four dirhams, or manakeesh, three dirhams, for a more flavored version of the pita. You can also turn your bread into a falafel sandwich, for four dirhams.
Photo by Clara Bicalho/The Gazelle
Photo by Clara Bicalho/The Gazelle
Indian roti
Where: Royal Rajastan
Sheika Shamsa Bint Al Nahayan Building, Near Liwa Centre, Sheikh Hamdam Street
Price: Ranges from one to eight AED
Tandoori Roti, their most traditional iteration of Indian bread, is very chewy and bland. This spot is great if you are looking for a cozy, cheap place to enjoy any of the numerous roti types over a meal.
Note: You can also ask for some yogurt and takeaway, but don't take too long to eat them — they are not half as luscious when cold.
By Clara Bilcaho/The Gazelle
Photo by Clara Bicalho/The Gazelle
[Insert your name here]'s Bread
Price: around five AED
If after exploring the varieties of bread in Abu Dhabi you are still unconvinced, there is always the option of baking your own unique version.
NYU Abu Dhabi sophomore Louis Plottel has been baking his own bread since the beginning of the semester using a portion of sourdough starter that he got from a friend over the summer. One of the many bread makers in Sama Tower, Plottel is part of a growing phenomenon this fall semester.
“[Making bread] is also a really nice way of escaping for a moment from all the pressures and stresses of university life,” said Plottel. “[But] you need to be so patient to make it — it takes 24 hours. So by the time it's finished, there is a sense of appreciation … that makes it so much more worthwhile."
The best thing about this variation of bread is that you can tailor it to your taste, and you can find recipes online that only take flour and water on top of sourdough starter.
"I mostly just experiment with stuff that they have available in the cafeteria like nuts and fruit," said Plottel.
For all those interested in bread making, Plottel invites beginners to come and borrow some sourdough or even bake together.
Clara Bicalho  is a contributing writer. Email her at
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