"Tafathalo" means "Do me the honour". It is an invitation to come to the table.

Sharing a meal with others is an old honoured tradition in the Arabic World and an expression of hospitality.

The Arabic cuisine is mainly a combination of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian food. It has been affected by the mingling of Arab and non-Arabs over the centuries. European cultures such as the Spanish, Italian, French and Greek also had impact on the Arab cooking. Turkish cuisine had impact on the entire Arab world, Persian and Indian cuisine had impact on the eastern side of the Arabic countries.


The Arabic cuisine contains a combination of a rich diversity of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian food.

You will find the following items most of the time;

- Cinnamon, Curry powder, Fish (in coastal areas), Garlic, Lamb (or veal), Mild to hot sauces, Mint, Onion, Rice, Saffron, Sesame, Yogurt, Spices (similar to the Indian cuisine) due to heavy trading between the two regions. Tea, Thyme (or oregano), Turmeric, Variety of fruits (primarily citrus), Variety of vegetables such as cucumbers, eggplants, lettuce, tomato, green pepper, green beans, zucchini and parsley.

Back to top


The essential concept in the Arabic cuisine is hospitality.

Formal dinners and celebrations normally include large quantities of lamb (or veal), chicken, rice, stewed vegetables with tomato sauce and dishes seasoned with a variety of herbs and spices. Several other side dishes and salads are included.

Tea is inescapable and is the favourite hot drink and is constantly consumed. Coffee would be included as well.

The Middle Eastern diet consists of many ingredients not normally used in the American kitchen, such as lentil soups, fava beans, olive and sesame seed oils, olives, feta cheese, and dates.

Some of the Arabic dishes need a lot of preparation time, such as the stuffed grape leaves, stuffed zucchini, green peppers or cabbage.

Muslim Arabs do not consume pork meat or alcohol. Although, the Arabic market in many Arabic countries, such as Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and Syria, sell pork meat and a variety of liquors and alcohol because the Christian Arabs consume these products.

The word "halal" means "allowed", is a way of describing the meat product which has been ritually slaughtered, similarly to the Jewish "kosher" tradition.

Back to top


Bread is highly regarded in the Arab world. If anybody notices a scrap of bread on the street, they would pick it up and put on the side where no one can step on it accidentally.


Bread is an essential ingredient on the table in the Arabic cuisine. It is used on the side, in salads, or in certain dishes such as the "fatteh"

Yogurt made from sheep, cow or goat's milk is used in many ways;
- Diluted with water as a refreshing drink.
- Drained and thickened as a condiment.


Lamb is used in most of the Arabic countries, although some countries use veal more than lamb. The most prized dish an Arabic house can serve to their guests is baby lamb stuffed with spiced rice. The Bedouins use sheep and camel meat too.




Fresh and dried fruits and nuts are widely used. Example of the fruits and nuts used are; pomegranates, lemons, dates, apples, figs, oranges, apricots, mango, almonds and pistachios.





Rice is a staple in all the Arabic countries. It is cooked in countless ways. It served alongside meat, fish, and stewed vegetables.


Wheat is another staple and is used as whole grain, cracked or as flour for bread and a variety of pastries. Bulgur is another favorite grain in some Arabic countries and is used in breakfast in North African countries and cooked similarly to rice in Iraq.

Olive oil is the most common for cooking and dressing. It is produced in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and parts of North Africa.

Sesame oil is also used in some countries where olive oil is scarce.

Salads are always available whether at lunch or dinner. They are made with a variety of fresh vegetables and simple fresh dressing of lemon (or lime) juice, salt (and pepper) and olive oil.


Spices are the essence of the Arabic cuisine. The most common spices used include but not limited to; cinnamon, allspice, anise seeds, nutmeg, sumac, cardamom, cloves, cumin, caraway, black pepper, saffron, and turmeric. The Arabs have been long known in history for their spice trade with other countries.

Vegetables are used raw and cooked. A wide variety of vegetables is used. The favorites are eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, okra, green beans and spinach.

A variety of fresh and dried beans and legumes is also used such as peas and lentils.

Mazza are side dishes or appetizers that are made of assortment of little tidbits in small plates. They accompany the main dish.

They typically include salads, grains, pulses and vegetables.

Back to top


In the Middle East, food has a special place in social interactions, especially in observing of religious traditions.

Major holidays for Muslims and Christians are marked with special food customs and special dishes.

The major Muslim holidays are the Eid that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, the Eid that marks the pilgrimage season to Mecca and the feast of the Hijri New Year.

The major Christian feasts are the Christmas, Easter and the Lenten season that precedes it.

Social functions such as birth of a child, marriage or death bring people together to share their experiences.


The essential ingredient in every Arab meal and every Arab country is the hospitality and generosity (karam).

Customs of the Arab Table:
- Entertain warmly and joyously.
- Hospitality is a must, whether a person is a dear friend or merely an acquaintance, whether invited or just dropped by.
- If invited to an Arab home for dinner, no gift is expected but chocolate or flowers are appreciated, and you are expected to return the invitation and entertain the hosts at your home.
- If you are the host, remember to say "tafathalo", which means "do me the honour", when you want to invite the guests to come to the table.
- Normally the host will invite the guests to try each dish and encourage them to take a couple of things from each plate to enjoy the different flavors.
- If you are the guest, do not feel that you have to fill your plate just because your host is insisting that you try every dish.
- After the meal, the guest says "daymah" or "amer", which means "May the blessings stay with your home".


Apricots, Artichoke, Bananas, Buckwheat, Cherries, Coffee, Dates, Eggplants, Figs, Ginger, Grapefruit, Lemons, Limes, Oranges, Pomegranates, Quinces, Rice, Scallions, Spinach, Strawberries, Sugar, Sugarcane.

Back to top


BANADOURA (Tamatah/Tamatem)
BAQDOUNIS (Ma’adanosse)

KNAAFEH (Kunafah)

MALFOUF (Lahannah)
QOUZI (Quzi)

eggplant puree with sesame butter
layered sweet pastry
fillo pastry normally filled
with ground meat
cracked wheat
wheat porridge
chick peas
type of cookies
stuffed pancakes - dessert
cheese pastry
ground meat and burghul mixture
– main dish
marrow squash
ground meat patties
cultured milk; yoghurt
cream cheese made from laban
green beans
cookies made with semolina
any stuffed vegetables
rose water
hors d’oeuvres
lentil, rice and pasta mixture
gum arabic
stuffed baby lamb
hot pastry filled with meat and nuts
clarified butter shortening
Swiss chard
sesame butter
thyme or oregano



Click on the links below for each country to reveal the recipes.


The Egyptian cuisine is influenced by the Lebanese, Syrian, Greek, Turkish and Italian cuisine. The Egyptian farmers have long grown a variety of vegetables and fruits, accordingly the Egyptian cuisine includes "Mezza" dishes, stuffed vegetables and pasta.

The fertile land around the Nile river, along with the moderate weather allowed the farmers to grow, dates, figs, sugarcane, strawberries, watermelon, mangoes, pomegranates, oranges, grapes, artichokes, okra, radishes, cabbage, fava beans, and turnips.

Popular Dishes (click on each of the hyperlinks for the recipe)

Kushari which is a combination of lentils and pasta served with spicy sauce.

Melokhia (or Mulukhiyya); is made with crushed leaves of the Melokhia (Jew's Mallow) plant cooked with chicken broth, crushed and fried coriander and garlic. Melokhia could also be served with meat or rabbit instead of chicken.

The Melokhia is an herb in the larger family of the mint (called from the corchorus plant). It is a rather bitter herb with a natural thickening agent.

Melokhia has been known as a popular food in Egypt since the time of the Pharaohs, and later spread to countries in the Levant. The Levantine style leaves the leaves whole.

Fattah made with chicken, rice and creamy yogurt sauce.

Fool Medammas made with fava beans, which are commonly eaten as a breakfast food in Egypt.

And of course we must not forget the famous and delicious "Ta'mia" or "Falafel" the spicy patty made from dried beans, a great vegetarian dish. Makes a great sandwich too.


Back to top


Iraq's cuisine is the most varied cuisine of all the Middle Eastern countries and is known for its sophistication.

Iraqi's use a variety of vegetables such as; eggplant, okra, green beans, green peas, zucchini, chard, fava beans, wheat, barley, rice, and bulgur. For flavoring they use vinegar, tamarind, dried lime, dill, dates and pomegranates. They use a lot of lamb meat and fish.

Popular Dishes (click on each of the hyperlinks for the recipe)

Masgoof is made with fire grilled "shabbout" fish unique to the Tigris River, served with lemon slices.

The Masgoof is a traditional Iraqi dish, it is an open cut fish grilled and spiced with salt, pepper and tamarind. While keeping the skin on, it is then brushed with olive oil.

After marinating the fish, it is then placed on wooden sticks and then barbecued on a large flame. After the fish is well cooked and crispy, it is often sprinkled with the juice of a lemon, ready to be served.

Traditional garnishes for Masgoof include chopped onions and tomatoes, as well as the clay-oven flatbreads common to Iraq and much of the Middle East.

Like many other Iraqi dishes it is usually served with rice, along with salad and pickles.

The "Dolmah" is made with stuffed grape leaves, peppers, eggplant, tomato, onion, zucchini, and cabbage leaves. These vegetables are stuffed with a mixture of minced lamb meat, rice, onions, and parsley.


Iraqis are well known for many types of "Kibbeh" or "koubba", particularly the versions that come from Mosul, a northern city in Iraq, which are made with cracked wheat and minced meat. There is Kibbet Hamidh (lemony), Kibbet Seniyyeh, and Kibbeh Fried.

Quzi (stuffed spring lamb), this is a traditional special occasion main dish in Iraq and Jordan, where a whole lamb is often prepared to serve large crowds. It is a beautiful presentation that will impress your guests.

Jajeek; is a simple, refreshing, healthy and delicious appetizer made with cucumber, garlic and yogurt.

Klaichah; is one of Iraq's most famous date cookies, made with delicious Iraqi dates well known for their high quality and unmatchable taste.



Back to top


Lebanon's climate which is different from one small area to the other, have shaped the culinary traditions in this small country. The coastal plains grow dates, bananas, citrus and sugarcane, while the lower mountains grow olives, grapes, figs and almonds. The higher mountains grow apricots, walnuts, peaches and cherries. The valleys grow wheat.

Lebanese are famous in the Middle East with their "Mazzah" small dishes, which are served before the main dish. Lebanese use a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables and olive oil in their cuisine. Due to the harsh winters in the mountainous areas, villagers are used to preserving a lot of their food. They managed to pickle everything from cucumbers, cauliflower to grape leaves. They make fruit leathers of apricot, figs, peaches and apples and preserve cheeses and make syrups.

Popular Dishes (click on each of the hyperlinks for the recipe)

Kibbeh is the national dish and is eaten in a variety of ways, including raw "Kibbeh Nayeh" made with ground lamb and bulgur.

Tabouleh; a salad of chopped parsley, tomatoes and bulgur is a typical side dish well known all around the Middle East and the world.


Hummus Bi Tahina the famous dip made with chick peas and sesame seed paste (tahina). Everyone loves Hummus. It is the dip that can be served anytime you need a great appetizer, be it with pita bread, or as a vegetable dip. Hummus makes every dinner table more enjoyable because of the flavor that is loved by the young and old alike. It is easy and quick to make, and it is for all seasons.

Don’t you all love the Baba Ghannouj? Check out the recipe.






Ghrybe (ghorayebah), and Ma'mool, are tasty Lebanese cookies although well known all over the Middle East.



Back to top


Morocco's cuisine is varied depending on the location.

Southern Morocco
Since sugar cane and dates are abundant, the cuisine is famous for its sweets.
Meat is marinated in mint, olive oil, lemon juice, and orange juice.

Northern Morocco and Mountain Area

The mountains are rich with nuts and fruits such are apples, figs, lemon, apricots and pomegranates. Hence, preserved lemons are used to flavor the dishes. In the North, cooks prefer coriander and garlic.

Popular Dishes (click on each of the hyperlinks for the recipe)

Harira is basically chicken soup thickened with flour and eggs and flavored with saffron and cinnamon, but the recipes varies for Harira from family to family. Shorabat Adas Wa Hummus; is another delicious soup.




Couscous is Morocco's national dish, made with spiced turnips, squash, potatoes and chicken nestled on a bed of couscous (which is made of semolina flour, salt and water).




Tajine (or Tagine); is lamb or chicken stew with sweet and sour flavouring such as honey and vinegar or fruits and nuts. Tajines are spiced with ginger and saffron. A tajine or tagine is the name of a type of North African dish (Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Tunisia) as well as the special pot in which they are cooked. The traditional tajine pot is formed entirely of heavy clay which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts; a base unit which is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that rests inside the base during cooking. The cover is so designed to promote the return of all condensate to the bottom. With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving.

Tajine dishes are slow-cooked at low temperatures, resulting in extremely tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce.

Bistilla (Pastilla); is a delicious pie made with flaky pastry filled with chopped meat, chicken or fish, parsley, ground almonds and seasoned with ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, saffron and cardamom.



Tea; mint tea and green tea with fresh peppermint are consumed in breakfast and after meals.

Back to top


The Palestinian cuisine is heavily influenced by centuries of contacts with millions of pilgrims, visitors, conquerors and settlers who brought with them their own cooking customs. Palestenian cooks are known for creating several different dishes from the same ingredients.

Popular Dishes (click on each of the hyperlinks for the recipe)

Mjaddara a side dish of brown lentils with rice and caramelized onions. A fully nutritious meal, Mjaddara is easy to make and very tasty.

Kunafa is a dessert made with shredded pastry and cheese, prepared specifically for festive occasions.




Msaqa'a, made with eggplants and tomatoes.

, this sweet is prepared only during the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan. You will find stands set up everywhere you go in Palestine with a hot plate where they pour the batter and in seconds you have round qatayef (pan- cakes) which are placed on top of each other and weighed according to the amount you want to buy. As soon as you reach home, you need to separate them and leave them to cool, otherwise they will stick to each other.

Fattoush, a popular Palestinian salad prepared a lot during the fasting month, Ramadan. It is a fresh spring salad that combines many nutritious ingredients.



Maklubit Betinjan (Maqluba) is an upside-down rice and eggplant casserole, hence the name which is literally translated as "upside-down". It is made with richly succulent braised lamb and sometimes tomatoes. When the casserole is inverted, the top is bright red from the tomatoes that cover golden eggplant.

is a common main dish that originated in the Jenin and Tulkarm area in the northern West Bank. It consists of a roasted chicken over taboon bread that has been topped with pieces of fried sweet onions, sumac, allspice and pine nuts.


Mansaf is a traditional meal in the central West Bank and Naqab region in the southern West Bank, having its roots from the Bedouin population of Jordan. It is mostly cooked on occasions such as holidays, weddings, births a large gatherings, or to honour a guest.

Mansaf is cooked as a lamb leg or large pieces of lamb on top of taboon bread that has usually been smothered with saffron rice. A type of thick and dried cheesecloth yogurt from goat's milk, called jameed, is poured on top of the lamb and rice to give it its distinct flavor and taste. The dish is also garnished with cooked pine nuts and almonds.

Back to top


Syrian cuisine is characterized by details and precision. Vegetables used in salads are precisely cut. Flatbread in "Fattah Dajaj" – chicken with rice and yogurt – is cut in small precise pieces and fried. Garnishes are a mark of the Syrian cuisine.

Popular Dishes (click on each of the hyperlinks for the recipe)

Eggplant is widely used, in breakfast, lunch and dinner. Its preparation is an art, and is used in many different ways, as diced and cooked with eggs, marinated and tossed into salads "Fattoush Betinjan" deep fried in Maklubit Betinjan (Maqluba) is an upside-down rice and eggplant casserole, hence the name which is literally translated as "upside-down", made with braised lamb and tomatoes. When the casserole is inverted, the top is bright red from the tomatoes that cover golden eggplant. Upside-down eggplant casserole makes a nice presentation and it is easy to prepare. It also makes a great idea for leftovers.

Arabic cuisine makes great use of eggplant; it is pickled, sautéed, stuffed, and cooked in a variety of sauces and salads and grilled for spreads in "Betinjan Muttabbal".

Kibbeh, although well known in Lebanon and Iraq, is also prepared in many different ways in Syria. It is cooked in pomegranate flavored sauce or fried.

Aleppo in the north, is well known in the Middle East as the haute cuisine of sweets and deserts, such as the "Halawet al Jibin" and "Maamuniya" a specialty of Aleppo, ma’amuniyya is an excellent and simple to prepare tasty dessert. Who hasn’t heard of the Baklawa? If you haven't click on the link on how to make some.


Back to top


The Gulf States have a similar cuisine due to the shared geography and history. Indian spices are widely used, due to the impact of the ancient traders who traveled from India carrying the spices through the Gulf States on their way to the Mediterranean states.

Popular Dishes (click on each of the hyperlinks for the recipe)

Seafood, is used daily in stews or fried. "Kan'ad" – king mackerel, "Hamour", "Zubaydi" – similar to trout but only exist in the Gulf, "Crab", "Lobster" and "Shrimp" are also widely used. Rubyian and rice is one example.



Makboos Samak is a delicious and rich platter made with fish, lentil, and variety of herbs and spices.

Harees, soaked, dried and crushed wheat kernels (jereesh) cooked with chunks of meat, chopped onions and tomatoes.

Custard with cardamom rose water; a traditional custard in The United Arab Emirates, a holiday favourite.

Back to top


Tunisia has the spiciest food among the North African countries. The cuisine here is known as the “food of the sun” or the “sun cuisine”.

Popular Dishes (click on each of the hyperlinks for the recipe)

Classical Tunisian Cuisine Ingredients

; is a condiment made from crushed hot peppers, garlic, olive oil, caraway seeds ,coriander seeds and salt. It is used almost daily. It is the most important condiment used in Algerian, Libyan and Tunisian cooking.

Harisa comes from the Arabic word for "to break into pieces," which is done by pounding hot chilies in a mortar.

Maraqat al-Safarjal (Quince and Lamb soup); this sweet recipe can be made with prunes or dried apricots instead of the quince. Dried rose petals are traditionally used as a flavoring. This particular combination of lamb and fruit appears to be derived from the Persian cuisine via the Ottoman Turks. Although the Greeks know a similar dish called arni me kithouma.

Brik (Breek); a snack, it is somewhat like a turnover, but different. Like a soufflé, it must be served immediately. A Tunisian brik always has an egg in it, but it can have other goodies such as tuna, potatoes, capers and parsley. The casing is a cross between phyllo dough and a spring roll sheet. A brik is deep fried, olive oil is best, then drained on a paper towel.

Apricot, oranges, almonds, prunes and cherries are favoured fruits in Tunisia.

Wheat, fava beans, and chickpeas are also other favourates.

A wide variety of seafood is used year around, including shrimp, tuna, sardines, red mullet and octopus.

Lamb and couscous are always found on the Tunisian table.

Back to top


Yemen has a diverse geography in its lands.

A very common spice used in Yemen is "Hawajat", which a mixture of turmeric, black pepper, cumin, coriander and cardamom. It is added to almost all kinds of dishes. Yemen's cuisine is low in fat.

Popular Dishes (click on each of the hyperlinks for the recipe)

Batata Yakhni, a typical Yemeni meal that includes rice, and broiled chicken, potatoes, tomatoes and cabbage cooked into a stew.

Z'hug is a condiment made with ground green chilies mixed with parsley, cilantro, garlic, cardamom, cumin and olive oil.




Hilbah, consists of but not limited to cooked vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, beans) stirred together with a stew. The stew is added to the mix of vegetables for about five minutes and finally al-Hilbah (fenugreek) is added with black pepper and salt.


Sayadiah, a golden fish and rice dish, with fragrant spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and coriander.

Basboosa, a popular desert made with semolina, eggs and yogurt.

Coffee, Yemen is famous for its Mocha coffee. Mocha is named after the port from which the best Yemeni coffee beans are shipped. Coffee houses are plenty in Yemen. Many restaurants have upper lounges for people to drink coffee or tea and share their stories.

Mohalabia, is a delicate pudding made with ground rice and milk.

Saltah, this dish is served at lunch. It is very delicious and tasty. It stimulates the appetite. Saltah is considered to be one of the main dishes for majority of Sana’a people.

Back to top