Tennis champion Petra Kvitova with Nasif Kayed, Managing Director of Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Cultural Understanding. Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf news

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova may not know much about the UAE’s culture and traditions, but she was game to learn about it on Saturday afternoon as she visited the Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) in the Al Fahidi district in Bur Dubai.

Within an hour, The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Tournament second seed got a crash course on the richness of UAE traditions and even sampled authentic Arabic dishes. As she sat cross-legged on the red cushions and took in the ancient architecture of the traditional Wind Tower House, she was first acquainted with the famous Arabian hospitality and served Arabic coffee (Qawah) and some dates.

“I like the dates, they’re very sweet. But the Arabic coffee is different and it might take time for it to grow on me. But I’m glad I tried it,” said Kvitova. Her every move was documented by a crew wielding giant cameras and smart-phones.

“In Czech Republic too, we have many historical buildings but this is so different. I am so happy to be here,” Kvitova told tabloid! as she waited for her shot to be set up. But what got her taste-buds tingling were the typical Emirati dishes in the form of Chicken and Fish Machboos, which is a combination of spicy rice and seafood or meat.

“They are spicy. But I don’t mean it’s fiery, but just that it’s so flavourful. I love the fish,” Kvitova told Nasif Kayed, the managing director of SMCCU, who was tasked with de-mystifying UAE food and culture.

But the best was saved for last. The saffron-flavoured fritters Lgeimat served with a generous helping of date syrup, was a hit.

“Imagine a doughnut and think of its middle portion. That’s lgeimat for you,” said Kayed. Kvitova didn’t need any prodding to taste them.

“These are very good ... I am so glad to be here. I was here for a vacation before and I find the weather beautiful. I also remember wearing a blue traditional robe for one of the Players’ parties and it was a lot of fun. I am happy to have an opportunity like this today. But I hope I remember all what I learnt today,” said Kvitova with a laugh.