Bringing people together through Emirati culinary arts

Media Contact:
Megan Devlin | (202) 939-5550 |

February 26, 2019
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates


Topics discussed include the diversity of Emirati cuisine, specifically in Abu Dhabi, and the importance of culinary arts as a means of bringing people together.

Bill Bragin speaks with the panel about UAE culture and cuisine. Photo by the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates.

February 26, 2019 (Washington, D.C.) - Meridian International Center and the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington, D.C., opened a window to the diverse cultures of the UAE through a salon lunch discussion on culinary diplomacy.

Cultural influencers and food aficionados from across D.C. came together to learn about the rich history of cuisine of Abu Dhabi, which for decades has influenced chefs, writers, educators and diplomats in the region.

“Food and hospitality are powerful tools of diplomacy,” explained Natalie Jones, Senior Vice President for External Affairs at Meridian International Center. “The simple act of sharing a meal connects people at the most fundamental level and provides a deeper understanding of a culture’s values and traditions.”

The event’s panelists included Hanan Sayed Worrell, author of “Table Tales: The Global Nomad Cuisine of Abu Dhabi,” Marjon Ajami, Executive Chef and Founder of Nolu's Group in Abu Dhabi, Bill Bragin, Executive Artistic Director of The Arts Center at New York University Abu Dhabi, and Ambassador Barbara Leaf, former U.S. Ambassador to the UAE. Dana Al Marashi, Head of Cultural Diplomacy at the UAE Embassy in D.C., introduced the speakers, and Natalie Jones, Senior Vice President of External Affairs at Meridian International, moderated the panel.

“The UAE is and always has been a melting pot of cultures,” said Al Marashi. “Connecting over food allows us to break down barriers and build bridges between people from many different backgrounds.”

After the panel discussion, guests enjoyed dishes prepared from the cookbook “Table Tales: The Global Nomad Cuisine of Abu Dhabi,” such as Asian glazed salmon filets, traditional Moroccan tomato lentil soup and chicken braised in preserved lemon, parsley and mint, among other dishes.

“People from all over the world cross paths in Abu Dhabi,” said Worrell. “In this diverse environment, ‘global nomads’ – as I call them – make powerful connections through sharing recipes and cooking and eating together.”

The UAE is home to people from more than 200 nationalities and the government is committed to encouraging inclusion and coexistence. The Ministry of Tolerance, led by His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, implements programs that foster respect, peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding among people in the UAE. The UAE is celebrating the “Year of Tolerance” in 2019.

“The US is a blended culture of many different nationalities,” explained Ambassador Leaf. “And then you come to the UAE where they have 200 nationalities – that to me was a great meeting place.”


Meridian International Center is a diplomatic and global leadership institution that strengthens U.S. engagement with the world and accelerates collaboration through the exchange of leaders, ideas and culture.

This program was designed by our cultural experts in the Meridian Center for Culture Diplomacy, which is the leading center in the United States that employs the arts and culture as a tool of diplomacy and cross-cultural understanding.

The Embassy of the UAE in Washington, D.C., is the diplomatic mission of the United Arab Emirates to the United States.

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