Kosher Food In Dubai and Abu Dhabi
Summary Up Front
Ever since the Abraham Accords were signed in September 2020, cementing peace and diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, things have been moving fast and furious on the kosher food front. Here, we overview the developments revolving around kosher food in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the two largest emirates in the UAE.
As of now, there are three kosher food options in the UAE, though they are centered for the time being in Dubai, as that is where the core Jewish community is located.
- Elli’s Kosher Kitchen restaurant and online ordering located at Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City
- Armani/Kaf, a high-end kosher restaurant at the Armani Hotel in Dubai
- Treat Kosher, a kosher online ordering and catering offerings affiliated with Rabbi Levi Duchman of Chabad
- Chabad of the UAE is hosting Shabbat meals at The Address Dubai Marina Hotel for a fee, and RSVP is required.
An Overview Of The Two Largest Emirates
For one unfamiliar with the geography of the UAE, things can get a bit confusing. There are seven emirates in total, with the two largest cities within the emirates also having the namesake of the emirate in which they are located. The most obvious comparison would be between New York State and New York City. Abu Dhabi is the UAE’s capital, the largest emirate by land area, and contains the second-largest city by population. Dubai is the largest city by population and is also one of the seven emirates. It takes about an hour and a half to travel between Abu Dhabi and Dubai (87 miles).
Jewish Communities In The UAE
There are numerous Jewish congregations, including a Chabad, which for now center in Dubai, where the bulk of the UAE’s Jewish community resides. The other and older congregation of the UAE, also headquartered in Dubai, is under the auspices of the Jewish Council of the Emirates (JCE), which just announced they would get their first full-time rabbi, Rabbi Elie Abadie.
Today for the First Time Ever, and afternoon many months of hard work, I’m proud to present an Exclusive look into the Dubai JCC @JewishUae community in this week’s @Ami_Magazine!!!! In stores tonight. pic.twitter.com/dzcxekc2FA— Shloime Zionce | שלומי זייאנץ (@Chusidel) June 9, 2020
A World-Class Destination For Both Business & Leisure
After all, the UAE, especially its world-class cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, are commercial capitals from both a business and trade perspective and increasingly as a tourist destination. There is a legendary and frankly unparalleled luxury among a whole host of novel and mesmerizing attractions that make the UAE a welcome addition to the Jewish segment who can visit.
Some of the top attractions include:
- The Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum
- Warner Bros. World Theme Park
- The Dubai Mall (Over 1,300 Stores)
Kosher Food On Etihad & Emirates, The UAE’s Flagship Carriers
At about a 3 hour flight time, the proximity of the Emirates to Israel makes the place a destination of special relevance. The countless Jews that go to Israel every year who might stopover in Europe might now be more inclined to spend a few days in the UAE. Making the UAE even more attractive is their lineup of unrivaled national airlines. Emirates Airlines has based out of Dubai, while Etihad Airlines is based out of Abu Dhabi.
The UAE’s two flagship carriers are so luxurious, and they offer flights with your own apartment, among other incredible offerings. DansDeals, the miles, points, and travel whiz, has documented how incredible it is to fly on these airlines. Dan has also reported that there will be the potential for over 100 weekly flights between Israel and the UAE as per agreements signed, signaling for quite a robust kosher travel sector between the two countries.
While getting kosher meals on Etihad and Emirates was possible through flight services previously, since the peace accord was signed, there have also been developments on the kosher front for airline travel. Ross Kriel, one of the stalwarts of the Jewish community in Abu Dhabi, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Emirates Airlines to and his CCL Holdings to form Kosher Arabia. Kosher Arabia will further expand the kosher food offerings available for air travel to and from the UAE. The food is set to be certified by the OU, which has spearheaded much of the kosher certification activities taking place at a rapid clip since the Abraham Accords signing.
In addition to the UAE’s two world-class national carriers, EL-AL, which was just sold after being practically bankrupt due to years of mismanagement and the COVID death knell, will also fly to the UAE. Regional and budget airlines such as Arkia, owned by Jordache, ISRAIR, and flydubai, are also set to get in on the action.
Kosher Restaurants & Takeaway In The UAE
There is currently one fine-dining restaurant in the UAE, and it is located in Dubai within the world’s largest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa. Called Armani/Kaf, the restaurant is on the ground floor of the luxurious Armani Hotel Dubai (a Giorgio Armani branded property). Armani/Kaf is certified kosher by Rabbi Levi Duchman, the recently official emissary of Chabad in the UAE. To that end, Rabbi Duchman is spearheading a kosher certification agency in a bid to capitalize on the impending surge of kosher projects to grace the UAE in the future.
Elli’s Kosher Kitchen
Headed by Elli Kriel, wife of Ross Kriel who is a stalwart of the community, Elli’s is a takeout focused operation as of now certified by the OU. She describes the food on offer as “Kosherati,” which is kosher cooking with an Emirati flair.
UPDATE DECEMBER 2020
Elli’s has just announced that they are branching out beyond just delivery and takeout with the opening of a restaurant in the Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City. As of now, the restaurant is buffet style and opened for breakfast and dinner. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made via the website.
Treat Gourmet is a delivery and catering operation that is connected with Rabbi Levi Duchman of the Chabad. It seems to be getting a second life as it was previously a non-kosher operation as per the old menu on their website.
Shabbat Meals With Chabad
Chabad is currently hosting Shabbat meals on Friday night and Shabbat lunch at The Address Dubai Marina Hotel. The fee showing on the website is $75 for dinner and $45 for lunch. RSVP is required and can be completed here.
Kosher Hotels In The UAE
There is a growing list of hotels in Dubai offering kosher food and related amenities. Al Habtoor Hospitality owns numerous hotels in the UAE and was the first to offer a 24/7 kosher certified room service offering in a number of its properties. This came right on the heels of a note by the Abu Dhabi Ministry of Culture requesting that they provide kosher food options. To that end, the ministry has started offering hotels free, kosher certification for a year.
We have an overview of the best kosher hotels in Dubai, UAE.
Jewish Holiday Programs & Vacations In The UAE
While things are stunted due to the still-raging COVID pandemic, Jewish holiday programs are already hitting the market. Starguest, a British kosher holiday outfit headed by Arieh Wagner, announced a program from December 23, 2020, to January 7, 2021, at the Habtoor Palace Dubai. Lasko Getaways, based out of the USA, has also announced they will be running programs at a Hyatt in Dubai.
We expect that once travel resumes with some regular cadence, there will a flood of Jewish tourists, especially from the United States, that will visit the UAE. Rabbi Marc Schneier, of The Hampton Synagogue, who made trips to the Gulf region before the accords, stated:
“The grand prize for Jewish tourism is not Israel but the American Jewish community.”Rabbi Marc Schneier In The Times Of Israel
To that end, Rabbi Schneier is spearheading an initiative to increase North American-Jewish tourism to the region.
Passover In Dubai
Though 2021 is an unusual year with travel severely stunted for Passover, there are options for those seeking hotels and kosher for Pesach food options. From Chabad to Elli’s, those in the UAE have a number of options to choose from. Elli’s will be hosting their meals (OU Kosher Certified) including the Sedarim at the V Hotel Dubai Curio Collection, a Hilton brand. The all-inclusive price clocks in at 8,895 AED which is approximately $2,400 USD.
Nearby Countries With Kosher Food
Bahrain, a neighboring tiny country, announced days after the UAE that they would also be signing the accord with Israel. The Ritz-Carlton in the capital city, Manama, has announced that they will have kosher food certified by the OU.
There is also a Jewish community in Bahrain, though minuscule even when compared to the UAE. The Nonoo’s are an illustrious family and have a rich history in the country, including Houda Nonoo, who served as the Bahraini ambassador to the United States.
Welcoming Arms For Now – Is Cautious Optimism Too Pessimistic?
Things have certainly moved fast and practically overnight; countries thought of as enemies are quickly forming cultural, business, and even religious ties. Right now, welcoming arms are wide open on both the Israeli and UAE sides. Great accommodations are being made, and all this was quite unimaginable only a few years ago. With that said, there are variables for anyone that follows this region will explain; things can change in the Middle East for the good or bad faster than you can say salaam or shalom. There is a new administration coming into the White House, and it is uncertain whether they will take the Trump approach in this area. Also, the Saudi’s, who are the main power broker in the region, are taking a wait and see approach as to whether they too will enter the fold of peace with Israel. There is also the possibility of unintended diplomatic flare-ups of the more benign kind, such as the reported arrest of two Israelis earlier this month for taking unlawful photos of a government building in the country.
Hend Al Otaiba, Director of Strategic Communications in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the UAE, wrote quite an open and inspiring piece in Tablet Magazine. It signals a new and optimistic beginning but acknowledges there are challenges. Right now, we are taking the road of cautious optimism but is that too pessimistic?
Last but certainly not least, we believe there is a place for the Jewish and Arab diasporas in this process. These are dynamic populations with world-class skills who care about the future of the region, and have influence in their own countries. We extend a very warm welcome in particular to the American Jewish community and hope more will come to visit us in the United Arab Emirates, which is home to a growing and dynamic Jewish community.— @Hend Al Otiaba In Tablet Magazine