Coffee and UAE Culture


Drinking coffee was not only founded in the Middle East but the actual concept of coffee as something that we drink when we gather socially with friends and family was also founded here. Fun fact, the word “qahwa” is the original derivative of “coffee” and “cafe”.

The Coffee Museum 

The UAE  is not new to coffee, it has been part of their culture for many centuries. A good place to visit to start understanding more about the big role coffee has played in the history of the region is by visiting The Coffee Museum here in Dubai.

Khalid Al Mulla, Emirati businessman and coffee lover, founded the museum to connect the past and the present of coffee all in one place, showcasing the reality that the way we consume coffee today in the Arab world is not very different from how it was consumed in the past. If you get a chance to visit this museum you will be able to find beautiful coffee-related antiques from around the world.

Find out more here.

Emirati Culture & Coffee 

Another interesting example of how coffee plays a big role in UAE culture is the “dallah” or Arabic for coffee pot which can be seen on the back of the one-dirham coin. The dallah is not only seen on currency but it can normally be found as decoration in malls and roundabouts across the UAE. 

Emirate coffee culture and traditions can be found in every single household, family or village. In an Emirati house, coffee is served in a small cup with no handles, this coffee would be Arabic coffee. 

When hosting people in their homes the host would pour the coffee to indicate hospitality and that the guest is warmly welcomed to stay, however, those who receive a full glass are not as welcome as this is a sign that it will be a quick meeting. Be sure to shake your cup from left to right once you are done drinking coffee otherwise you will keep drinking coffee for the rest of the night.

A Brief History of Coffee in The Region

The appreciation for coffee in the Arab world began back in the 13th century. Drinking coffee as we know it today is believed to have originated in Yemen by the Sufis as it helped them to worship and pray during the night and on long trips to Mecca. 

Coffee then moved on from just being used by the Sufis and the drink quickly spread across the region and it became the drink to have at “majlis” of bedouin tribes.

The Raise of Specialty Coffee Shops

Nowadays, the UAE is one of the most developed coffee shop markets in the Middle East, with Dubai being the hot spot for the region’s coffee innovation. 

If you have ever been to the UAE or currently live here you would have noticed the endless amount of coffee shops and particularly Specialty coffee shops. This is due to the effect of the “third wave” meaning more people now want to consume high quality coffee. 

Coffee experts explain that the third wave of coffee is the appreciation of high-quality beans, and the purchasing of coffee based on its origins and artisanal methods of production.

Back in 2019 The Department of Economic Development (DED) found that the most popular business outlets of the country were coffee shops. As we keep seeing the rise of specialty coffee in the Middle East due to Western influence we cannot forget that the concept of a coffee shop began right here.

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