Sharjah is the third largest emirate in the UAE, lined with Persian Gulf beach resorts and populated with more than 44 million date palm trees. For centuries, these trees have been used as building materials, fuel, and nutrition and have come to symbolize the region itself. The fruit of the date palm is found in many dishes, but one of the most popular is maamoul, a melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookie stuffed with date paste. Pitted dates are dipped into rosewater, ground into a paste, and stuffed into cookie dough that has been pressed into a special wooden mold. Pair a few with a cup of Arabian coffee and instantly discover why maamoul is one of the most popular confections in the UAE.
Dates are not only subject to the whim of bakers. They’re also used at cafés throughout the region to flavor drinks like laban. This buttermilk beverage is sweetened with dates, rosewater, orange blossom water, or spices like saffron and cardamom and is considered a healthy way to boost one’s daily intake of protein. Should you crave to make it a daily part of your diet, you can find a dozen or so varieties in the refrigerated section at Sharjah food stores.
You don’t need to be a history buff to be blown away by the Mleiha Archaeological Centre. Just 40-minutes outside the city, this important historical site contains ancient tombs constructed around 2300 BCE, caves containing some of the oldest human remains found in the region, and tools used by Neolithic people. Many of these archeological sites can be toured in addition to exhibitions at the Centre, giving you a firsthand look at the Middle East’s ancient cultures.