Sunglasses on. Windows rolled down. Music turned up. Friends by your side and a long, open road ahead of you. Road trips are cathartic and, in my experience, the best way to enjoy UAE’s many beautiful sights. But there’s one essential thing that transforms the journey from humdrum to epic: snacks. Lots of them.
My memories of trips to Jebel Hafeet conjure up the image of egg paratha and karak chai from one of the many cafeterias along the way. Then there were other, longer trips that involved picking up a hot manakeesh or a Hassan Mattar sandwich before heading out of Dubai. With every road trip, I've realised an absolute truth: Satisfying snacks are the best interludes for the monotony of long drives.
With every road trip, I've realised an absolute truth: Satisfying snacks are the best interludes for the monotony of long drives."
With a few more months of winter left, there’s no better time to enjoy road trips with your favourite food and people. To let you in on a secret, you can do so even in summer, as it is cooler in the mountains of the UAE. The activity is perfect in a COVID-19 era, allowing you to practise social distancing and follow safety guidelines, while spending time with loved ones and reconnecting with Nature.
And unless your driving style is more Mad Max than Jack Kerouac, my number one road trip rule is to make plenty of pit stops to refuel yourself along the way. It’s all about the journey, after all. The longer the trip, the more opportunities to snack!
After years of experience and research, here is my list of nine go-to snacks for road trips in the UAE:
The only way to look forward to a 6am start is to plan breakfast on the road. Hot zaatar or cheese manakeesh, folded in a paper pocket, can be eaten with one hand and transforms your mood instantly. No one wants cranky, sleepy travellers on a road trip!
2. Rolls and sandwiches
It’s a quick snack and almost every petrol station along UAE highways will have it. Look for sausage rolls on the browner side and pick chicken mayo or egg salad sandwiches with the longest expiry date to ensure they’re fresh. A tip: If the petrol station has a microwave – many do – heat up your rolls to take them to the next level!
3. Local chips
Oman, Emirates Pofaki and Safari chips are must-haves. They go well as an accompaniment to shawarmas and sandwiches, or just on their own!
4. Lemon roasted pistachios
A package of nuts is standard road trip grub. A classic that can be found at any petrol station mart, these pistachios have a lemony kick that make it the perfect travel snack.
5. Karak chai
Even if you prefer not to eat during your entire trip, don’t miss karak chai from any one of the hundreds of cafeterias lining UAE’s roads and highways. It’s the ideal refreshment when you’re waiting to regroup with some of the more laggard friends or family members in your squad (we all have them).
It probably counts as a meal and not a snack, but shawarmas are another solid option for travel. If you want something cheesier, get the incomparable Hassan Mattar sandwich. It may get messy though, so ensure you’re parked when devouring this snack.
7. Corn on the cob
Trips to Fujairah are incomplete without corn on the cob from its Friday market. These tasty treats are available at some roadside cafeterias elsewhere, too. Seasoned with lemon, a pinch of salt, pepper, and red chilli powder, this is a snack for which, I’d happily go out of my way.
8. Wafer cookies
It’s not something I would normally eat, but somehow, it’s always on my road trip shopping list. If you’ve grown up eating Loacker wafer cookies, you know this bite-sized snack hits the spot. It’s not too sweet, and not too much – just right, when you’re craving something sweet on the road.
9. Egg paratha
Let’s not limit its potential by labelling it as just a breakfast or lunch item – the egg paratha is an all-time favourite and easily available. Pair with a karak chai and your stomach will be thanking you as you explore the country.