The traditional dallah of coffee in Dubai. PC: @henryfaun/Instagram
If you thought the qahwa was a Kashmiri tea drink, prepare to have your mind blown.
The qahwa (also known as gahwa) is also an Arabic coffee drink prepared by brewing ground beans with cardamom pods (also other spices sometimes). It is bitter in taste, as opposed to the sweet tea variant, and is therefore always served with dates.
Coffee first emerged in the Arab world around the 15th century. The story goes that a few hundred years earlier, a goatherd in Ethiopia noticed that his goats would get especially frisky after chewing on a specific kind of red berry. The monks in Yemen were also able to stay awake through the night prayers after sipping a brew of the same fruit. Soon, this miraculous discovery found its way to the ports of the country, and the rest, as they say, is history (guess the OG G.O.A.T. were goats indeed!).
Today, coffee is a big part of the culture in the UAE. If you visit Dubai (which is scheduled to allow entry of flights from India in two weeks), you’ll likely be greeted with this drink, poured from a traditional brass coffee pot into ornate ceramic cups with no handles. The servings are small but constantly topped up until you indicate otherwise, by shaking your cup.
Dubai also has a museum to celebrate UAE’s rich history of coffee – something to do (other than shopping) the next time you’re there!