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When I first visited Dubai, I was pregnant with my third child. The cable car was in the final stages of implementation as Dubai Mall recently opened its first store; Leading UK supermarket chain Waitrose. And here I am, a girl from a small town in South Africa, who finds herself in the heart of the world’s largest shopping mall, near the tallest buildings in the world. I remember walking around the mall and checking shop windows as I tried to imagine what the whole city might look like in the future.
We later moved to live permanently in Dubai in August 2013, leaving our close Jewish community there. My children were 14, 5 and 4 years old.
Our family is religious, or as it is called, “kosher family”. What started as an effort to create a traditional home to fit our family, turned after a decade into the foundation of the first business that officially serves the Jewish community in the UAE.
Over time, my kitchen became a destination and destination for many people in the Emirates, and began to expand and host businessmen and tourists. It was a modest project, but it managed to offer dishes that satisfy our tastes and retain familiar flavors that were considered family favorite recipes. This also made the Jewish guests of the UAE feel welcome.
I decided to name my small home business after my daughter, Elise’s Kosher Kitchen.
With the beginning of 2019, the position of Restaurant Elli was strengthened by the great values adopted by the UAE in the year of tolerance, the reception of the Pope and the acceptance of Israel’s participation in Expo 2020. I saw myself participating in the show of Hospitality and the generous spirit of the Emirates. Thanks to our reputation with regular visitors, and through WhatsApp groups, the number of visitors to the restaurant has increased.
The restaurant is gaining international fame
In November 2019, I was invited to attend the Kosher Festival, the largest trade fair for kosher products and services in the world, in New Jersey, USA. It was then that I created the name ‘Kosherati’, which reflects my synthesis of kosher food with the traditional flavors of the Emirates. At the Kosher Festival, mixtures of Emirati spices, dates and coffee were displayed, and the UAE Consul General in New York visited us. Later, in light of the interest in initiating diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE, His Excellency Yousef Al-Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to Washington and Minister of State, referred to our restaurant in a historic televised speech. .
The relations that followed between the Emirates and Israel contributed to the dramatic change of the kosher community and opened new horizons for Elise Kosher Kitchen.
The positive impact on my project has been great
She opened a commercial restaurant and became the owner of the first certified kosher company in the UAE serving food at many important events; Among them are the Abrahamic Agreements, GITEX 2020 and IDEX 2021. She set up a mobile restaurant in Al Habtoor City and was later present at the Aloft Marriott Hotel in Abu Dhabi. The staff has expanded to include a highly talented group of foreign chefs from the region with expertise in Jewish and Arabic cuisine.
Normalization helped integrate the kosher market into the food and beverage industry in the UAE
Today, the UAE is witnessing a thriving kosher community and with it many kosher restaurants and institutes have appeared, kosher products have been poured from all over the world and we can see them on supermarket shelves, and there are shops offering ready- made hive food.
All this happened within 8 months from the signing of the Abrahamic agreements. It was one of the surprising and unexpected success stories to be seen in the history books of the region.
Elise’s Kosher Kitchen started out as a modest kitchen in my home and today it has become the most important kosher company in the UAE.
In my relentless effort to introduce my family to a microcosm of our homeland in our new home, my kitchen today has become a global symbol of cultural developments in the Middle East.
In Burj Khalifa, the magnificent monument that has become a symbol of promising future growth and the embodiment of unprecedented achievements and more ambitious dreams, has a kosher restaurant. I will not forget that on my first visit to Dubai I did not find any such restaurant and I would never have imagined that they would be here one day.
* Eli Creel A woman from South Africa and mother of three children. She has a PhD in Sociology and has lectured for many years at universities in South Africa and Dubai. She is also a proud entrepreneur for what she has achieved in a new field of food production and hospitality sector in the UAE and Gulf countries.
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