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During this year’s Ramadan, which ends on June 14th, vegan Iftars have been more popular than ever before in Dubai.

For Muslims who observe Ramadan, Iftar is the main meal of the fasting day and occurs at sunset. In Dubai, many restaurants and pop-ups launched vegan menus for the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, with a positive response.

“This was the first year we offer vegan Iftar,” said Alexi Mostert, the head chef at Dubai restaurant Common Grounds, to Salaam Gateway“We went on a whim and thought ‘let’s try something different’ and we’ve had such great feedback. We were a bit skeptical at the start but it was phenomenal.” He continued, “I’ve been in the UAE for seven years and never thought I would see a day when vegan food would be in such high demand.”

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Mostert’s not alone, Athena Matheou, a head chef at the pop-up eatery Super Natural Kitchen, has also noticed a rise in demand. “We tried to come up with recipes that would be kind of familiar to a non-vegan palate,” she explained. “We had saffron lotus roots, truffle cheese inside dates – cashew-based cheese that we make – and scallops made from oyster mushrooms. It was an exciting menu to create and we had positive feedback.” 

Matheou believes the rising popularity of the plant-based diet in Dubai is due to people’s growing awareness of the meat and dairy industries. Documentaries on Netflix, she notes, could be the cause of many citizens trying more vegan foods. Ghalia Lul, founder of 95 percent vegan restaurant Urth by Nabz&G, agrees with Matheou. “There’s a huge business case for vegan food in Dubai,” he stated. “People are watching documentaries and becoming conscious of the benefits of a plant-based diet. We were overbooked throughout Ramadan for the vegan Iftar.”

Like Lul says, Dubai is becoming more vegan food-focused. In April, Mirzam Chocolate Makers based in the city created a new line of vegan chocolates for Ramadan, the company created the products after requests from customers for something a little healthier. Further, Koita Foods, an organic dairy milk company based in Dubai, launched a new range of vegan milks in May. Again, the new line of products was created with consumer demand in mind.

Image Credit: Common Grounds