Hotels in the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi have been urged to provide kosher food to their guests to accommodate the expected surge in Israeli and Jewish visitors following normalization of ties with Israel.
The Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism instructed hotels to seek kosher certifications for the handling of kosher meals, designate an area in all kitchens for the preparation of kosher food and to label kosher menu items with a visible reference and recognizable symbol denoting the item is kosher, it said.
It was not clear whether the department’s message to hotels was a mandatory regulation or a recommendation. The UAE is ranked as a “not free” authoritarian country by the Freedom House democracy watchdog.
Elli Kriel, founder of Ellie’s Kosher Kitchen catering in Dubai, has been serving business people, travelers and locals her “Kosherati” cuisine for two years. From her kitchens in UAE’s largest city, she delivers to all seven emirates and has partnerships with local tour operators to offer kosher tours. Her cuisine combines Emirati spices with traditional Ashkenazi and Sephardic tastes.
The Orthodox Union (OU) Kosher announced this week that it will be the leading kosher certification agency within the Emirates and will do so in partnership with the local Jewish community.
“OU Kosher will oversee all kosher food in hotels throughout the Emirates as well as events such as Expo 2020 which has been postponed to October 2021–March 2022,” the release stated.
The tourism department is taking “extraordinary steps to welcome Jews and Israelis,” Sarah Besnainou, a member of Abu Dhabi’s Jewish community, said following the recent agreement to normalize relations between Israel and the UAE.
Having kosher food in hotels was entirely at the initiative of the Abu Dhabi authorities, who had not consulted with the local Jewish community on the issue, she said.
“The Emiratis have a lot of respect for religion and want Jews to feel comfortable in the country and to be able to find the food they need,” Besnainou said.
There are three kosher caterers in the UAE, supervised separately by the Orthodox Union, Chabad Lubavitch and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, Chief Rabbi of the UAE.