Gastronomic Tourism

Written by Nazmi Kamal

I can trace back my “dare-to-eat” adventures as early as I was 7 or 8 years old when my father used to offer me a U.A.E. dirham (which is equivalent to 25 US cents) for every 10 olives I ate. These olive-tasting sessions turned into financially-driven competitions with my siblings, specifically, my younger brother. I always turned out a winner, whether I used clever and mischievous cheating techniques or not.

Now that I am a grown up living in a country I was not born in, I can justify and even relate to my father’s love for olives. It was called “Nostalgia”. He was born in Nables, a town in historic Palestine, from which he and his family were displaced after the creation of the state of Israel. In this 2000-year old Roman-built stronghold, olive trees grew on side walks and in people’s backyards.

Having lived the first 25 years of my life in the United Arab Emirates in which my family took refuge in the late 1970’s, I can comfortably say that my palate has discovered many senses, aromas and tastes that could have been otherwise undetected, if I remained or rather was born and raised in my parent’s home town.

In Dubai, life was different. The air was always filled with excitement for new opportunities, as the airports flooded with expatriates who came from all corners of the globe to realize the big oil dream of making riches in one of the hottest countries on earth. This great influx of new residents brought about a very important lifestyle change with it; a stretched palate for new gastronomic tastes and nostalgia to ethnic cooking and global cuisines. The new gastronomic scene has now emerged.

In my own judgement, I consider tourism a significant by-product of globalization in terms of its social impacts. The growth and development in transport infrastructure and food production technologies gave us access to a wealth of products and food ingredients that are now shipped from one corner of the globe to the other in a matter of hours. However, the exclusivity of getting Scandinavian Salmon or Spanish ham in Dubai has worn off; as these and many other ingredients became threshold items stacked on supermarket shelves and served in local restaurants.

Uniqueness is increasingly becoming a valuable commodity in a globalized age where TV shows, food recipes and cultural festivals are exported around the world. The gastronomic tourist has emerged to combat the dull tastes of imported foods by going straight to the source. Olives have never tasted as good as the ones my father used to make me try and today I am very much at will to travel the globe in search of the perfect olive, and even a little bit more.

Disclaimer:  The opinions herewith are those of the author and may not represent those of Eton College Canada.