I’ve grown up in Dubai – in the part that is now called “Old Dubai” (Karama, Bur Dubai, Deira etc). Not many new expats venture forth past the glitzy lights of “new Dubai” (Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach Residences, south Sheikh Zayed Road etc), but there are many treasures to be found in the areas near, and in the vicinity of, the Creek. Many food treasures, among other things.
Cut to a few years ago. Two food bloggers brought together the rest into a consortium eventually christened Fooderati Arabia. And one of those founders, Arva Ahmed, already a champion of authentic eats in old Dubai had another idea: food tours.
I was one who attended a beta tour last year and stuffed myself silly. I didn’t review it or blog about it then, as I believed it would be unfair to comment on a developing venture. And this year, Frying Fan Food Adventures was officially launched. I didn’t attend until April 2013, where I went for the “Arabian Pilgrimage” tour.
Arva takes no more than eight people on her tour at a time – adding a certain intimacy within the group. We are taken to 5-6 different restaurants, where she explains a little more about the food as well and orders what she thinks we need to try. There’s not just information about the food but on how it’s prepared, the history of the country it’s from and so much more. Tours last anywhere between 3.5-4.5 hours and I didn’t find it rigorous at all. Quite a lot of time is spent eating and watching experts create amazing food. In addition, so many of these places are off the beaten track, so you do end up trying places you wouldn’t otherwise. It also helps that the food she has hand-picked for her guests is delicious.
Questions are encouraged, and if anyone asks anything she isn’t too sure of, post-tour she does send across an email to its participants trying to answer those queries in as much detail as she can. Which is highly appreciated. Through the entire tour, Arva keeps a running commentary, and because it’s a small group, we end up talking to each other and having a lot more fun.
It’s obvious she has put a lot of effort into it, and ensures her guests are comfortable throughout. She also provides everyone with a bottle of water, wet wipes for the tour, a sustainable bag to carry it all in, and afterwards we all get a little box of delicious gifts.
And no, I’m not going to round-up where we ate and what we did because I truly believe you need to experience it for yourself. On this tour, from falafels to kunafa, from manoushe to mandi, from Turkish coffee to baklava, and so much more … you will be in for a culinary adventure, as she promises.
I’ll quote from the tour:
Arva: “Would anyone like anything else?”
A guest: “Yes, a second stomach please.”
Shall I be honest? Perhaps her fans might hate me for this, perhaps she might. In my personal opinion, her tours are – dare I say it – much, much better than her blog. The tours are simpler in comparison, yet all the more richer for it. On the tours, superlatives and adjectives are thrown out the window; the food and her detailed, yet simple, explanations together pack a powerful punch and leave a strong impression.
Someone did ask me when I recommended the tour: “Isn’t it more for tourists?” Nope, it isn’t. Trust me on that – as I said earlier, there will be places on her route you will not have been to before. So whether you read her blog or you don’t, whether you’ve lived in Dubai all your life or you haven’t … I would highly recommend going on one of her food tours.
2017 UPDATE: Frying Pan Food Adventures offers a variety of food tours and cultural experiences priced from AED 360 upwards, depending on what you are doing. I have now tried the following tours: Middle Eastern Food Pilgrimage, Little India on a Plate, Unseen Trails: Desert Conservation Drive, along with a few other bespoke experiences, including one hosted for Marriott International’s Renaissance Hotels’ Global Day of Discovery. For more information, please visit the official website www.fryingpanadventures.com, or shout out on Twitter at @FryingPanTours