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Nationalistic Flavors and Temporary Meals: Issues of Citizenship and Belonging in Dubai's Migrant and Native Foodways


Abstract: For hundreds of years, the winds of the Indian Ocean have carried spices, essences, grains, seeds and people alike, to and from the coast of the Arabian gulf. At the heart of this vibrant and everchanging center of trade, emerged Dubai, stepping onto its building block of booming oil wealth to become one of the most hyper globalized and multicultural geographies in the world. However, beyond its modern facade, lies a complex narrative of splintered immigrant communities and cultures (that make up 89% of its population), each with its own foodways and practices which are analyzed against theories of immigrant culture, intersectionality and place attachment to their respective home countries. The paper draws on ethnographic research of urban food spaces in Dubai such as Little Manila Towns, Egyptian Neighborhood, African markets, and the themed “Global Village” to understand the continuous yet paradoxically temporary presence of the oscillating immigrant food cultures in Dubai. On the other hand, one finds the minority Emirati “nationals” proudly guarding, preserving and practicing their own within a carefully constructed postcolonial heritage narrative that aims to reinforce an identity-shaping and a nationalistic “exceptionalism” that seldom acknowledges the interconnectedness of the cultures that were ever linked to its land. This paper aims to explore the multiple and interlinked ways in which food carries meanings of identity, belonging, and citizenship – or lack thereof- for both immigrant and indigenous societies of Dubai.

Nasser’s Politicization of Food in Hadaya Hawaa’ Culinary Pamphlets 1955-1965


Research Paper

Abstract: In this research paper, I examine a collection of the culinary pamphlets Hadāya Hawāaʾ which were distributed as complimentary gifts with the leading women magazine Hawāa circa 1955-1965.  These booklets were a cultural product of a time of immense changes that came as a result of the regime’s reforms. Based on Nasser’s socialist party’s policies, these reforms included a wide nationalization of almost all industries, health and welfare programs, and strict import bans, with aims to boost the economy and gain as much popularity as possible. These developments touched every household in Egypt; from the aristocratic elites newly dispossessed off their estates, to the aspiring fast-growing middle class, and the low-earning fellaheen (farmers) who suddenly became land-owners to plots they have been plowing for decades. On the other hand, Nasser’s use of state media and press as propaganda tools was something that shaped and mobilized gender narratives immensely using an image of the “trendy” modern women that is based off on a westernized modernity in order to disseminate the party’s socialist ideology. In this paper, I argue that these pamphlets reflect in great ways, the political atmosphere of the time, the socialist ideology of Nasser’s regime and the changes the society was going through as a result of the Nasserist ideology, from 1954 to 1969.

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 European Pastries in Egypt: A History of Colonialism, Modernity and Class


Research Project and Paper

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Food is a mirror to our thinking. It is perhaps one of the most potent representations of what we desire to taste, literally and metaphorically. It has the ability to be a physical manifestation of our mindset, aspirations, and inclinations, and in extension, our identity. From there, it becomes especially fascinating to look at, when those world views, ambitions, and perceptions are further complicated by conflict over meanings of modernity vs traditionality, foreignness vs domesticity, elite vs poor. This was the case for some of the baked items and pastries in Egypt which I examine in this paper in an attempt to explore how processes of Euro-centric modernization and its effects on the political, social and cultural scenes helped shape an insatiable appetite for everything European. Among various dishes and foods, pastries from Britain and France make it very easy to see this fondness for Europeanized fashions of the time.

From petits fours and Marie biscuits, to high tea etiquette and French pastry techniques, I argue that the presence and popularity of such baked items and pastries in Egypt are products of a dynamic and evolving process of Euro-centric modernization. I further discuss how such processes which had started with colonialism, and continued longer after it ended, resulted in a visible and tactile attitudes and practices that are attached to western ideals of civility. These positions were first upheld by the monarchy and aristocrats, then cascaded to the white-collared efendiya class and lastly trickled down to the rest of the society by the 1950s with the Arab socialist efforts to dissolve class distinctions and uphold a socialist version of this modernity.

An Excavation of A Menu


Film, installation and research Project

Exhibited at Sikka Art Fair, Dubai

This project explored the anthropology of food in the Khor area in Dubai around Bur Dubai and Al Ras to observe, study and draw links between the food heritage and food rituals present there and the histories and stories this food carries. It also explored how with time food culture changed in this area and draws light on the intertwined relationships between the land, human movement and the trade in the post-colonial history of the land. Consisting of two parts, the research was presented in the form of a video installation and a vitrine display of items collected in the course of the research of the project.

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