This week I reached out for a McArabia grilled chicken sandwich at
McDonald's in the food court at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai,
where you can go snow skiing — indoors — even when it's 120 degrees
My body went from 120 degrees outside to 72 degrees inside the
mall to 26 degrees on the ski slopes. I got brain freeze down to my
toes. I didn't do so well thawing out, either. When you can slalom in
the desert wearing earmuffs, that's one big shopping mall, my friend.
McDonald's is huge in the Middle East, and especially in Dubai,
which culturally is pretty West for the Middle East. And McDonald's
makes itself welcome by creating special items that appeal to local
tastes and conform to religious laws — a must in this Islamic country.
Topping the popularity chart is the McArabia. Here's the
blueprint: two patties of grilled white-meat chicken, lettuce,
tomatoes, onions and garlic mayonnaise stuffed in an Arabic-style pita
Total calories: 566. Fat grams: 30. Carbs: 50 grams. Dietary fiber: 2 grams. Manufacturer's suggested retail price: about $4.
There are 39 McDonald's in Dubai, the most populous city on the
shore of the Persian Gulf in the United Arab Emirates. It's a tourist
town, so you'll find the Golden Arches in most shopping malls and beach
spots. There you'll find long lines to buy McArabias, Beefburgers,
McFries and the new Ramadan Kareem Brownie Sundae. The brownie was
warm, and it was served with vanilla soft ice cream. I had one the
second day, too.
The McArabia is the No. 1 sandwich. The McArabia comes in two
styles: grilled chicken and grilled kofta, which is spicy ground beef.
During my visit to Dubai, which included several trips to McDonald's,
it looked like the chicken was more popular.
The McArabia's got the aroma and taste of Dubai, with lots of
spice and vegetables, and that creamy, garlic-spiked mayo. The
Arabic-style pita bread is a little thicker than American fast-food
flatbread. The pita carries its weight of the McArabia without getting
soppy or falling apart. McDonald's isn't known for its adventurous
menu, so this is exotic stuff for the world's caterer.
If you take a big enough bite of the McArabia, you'll learn
something about the halal dietary laws of Islam and the way things run
in Dubai. Every McDonald's in the United Arab Emirates is locally owned
and operated by the Emirates Fast Food Company. Everything on the menu
is 100 percent halal, inspected and approved by Islamic authorities.
They are strict about their food culture, and for a tourist, it's fun
to learn how they do it.
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