Discover all about traditional Emirati hospitality and family life, and learn how this has changed over the years

Pompously contemporary and cosmopolitan, in Abu Dhabi nothing stands still – except perhaps the herons in its mangroves. Following its oil boom, Abu Dhabi's humble roots are difficult to unearth. The sparkling city has become a playground for the Gulf’s rich and famous. But somewhere beyond the domino-like deluxe hotels, it retains seductive charms and a treasure trove of souqs, mosques, date palm gardens and few old thirsty camels. This time, when you plan to visit Abu Dhabi, give malls, tall buildings or Yas Island a miss and head for the local Emirati House Experience. Have you ever wondered, what is the importance of coffee in Emirati culture? What exactly is the Majlis? Why all of the Emirati houses have two entrances? Or how exactly is the Emirati lifestyle? After visiting Maitha Essa, we are sure you’ll come back with much more understanding of the history and essence of Abu Dhabi.

Photo credits: Maitha Essa

A 26-year-old Maitha Essa is the only local Emirati who hosts this unique experience. This experience will let you explore the life of an Emirati household while enjoying intimate conversations about their family life and habits. As a part of this, you will also be able to relish home-made food, the traditional Gahwa, and sweets.

Photo credits: Maitha Essa

In a separate guest room called Majlis, Maitha beautifully takes on the journey of Abu Dhabi. The interiors of the Majlis is tastefully done with elegant furnishing and local artefacts. What makes it more interesting is the small details that Maitha communicates during the course. For instance, refusing Gahwa (Arabic coffee) is considered offensive in Emirati houses and once you are done, you signal it by shaking the cup side to side. Why shaking? Because earlier the Bedouin Kings used to hire a deaf person for serving Gahwa so that confidential discussions were not disseminated. Interesting, isn't it?

Photo credits: Maitha Essa

A range of local dishes and desserts will be offered some like Chicken Salona, Saffron Rice and Threed Chicken with bread. Maitha masters in the art of giving a detailed insight upon the spices they use and the importance of each spice in their dishes. Food is the best mediator they say, and you will be amazed to know how much do we relate to each other. From sitting down and eating with hands, our cultures do not part away much.

Photo credits: Maitha Essa

The end of the experience will be an introduction to Dkhoon, which is an Arabian ritual of scents used to sanitise the house. Different Dkhoon comes with a different purpose, Maitha will introduce it all to you. 

Photo credits: Maitha Essa

The hospitality of Emiratis is something we all miss out while travelling to the gulf. Behind the cosmopolitan country, lies a deep-rooted history which should be kept sideways. The effort of Maitha to keep it alive is commendable. Also, don’t forget to put your shoes off before entering an Emirati space, that’s a must!

Cost per person: INR 9,500.

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