For most people visiting the Middle East, there are usually sets of staple sites – and world wonders – on their bucket lists. There’s the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, the Ancient City of Petra in Jordan, and Lebanon’s Jeita Grotto Caves, for example. But while those sites are stunning and should be seen in their own right, visiting them on organised tours doesn’t speak of the way the natives actually live now, or what their cultures are like. And just as ‘food is the window to the soul,’ it also serves as a window into culture, and Arabs in particular treat food as an essential aspect in theirs – it is at once a ritual of hospitality, a sign of connections and bonds between people, and a communal event.

For people who want to explore a new culture, food might arguably be one of the best ways to do so – to visit local people’s homes in different districts of a city, and discover the myriad ways people use their spices and ingredients to create the same dish – be it mansaf, molokheya, or knafeh – is to truly understand the diversity of Arab countries. We’ve gathered 7 of the best food tours in countries across the Middle East, from Lebanon to Palestine, that shed light on the hidden gems of Arab cuisine – and, by extension, Arab cultures.

Beirut Food Walks | Lebanon 

Photo courtesy of CNN.

Beirut Food Walks allows tourists to get lost in cheese pulls of kenafah and spices of minced meat in the Safiha Baalbaki, while roaming the old cobble streets in the Lebanese capital. The tour includes five restaurants and 15 dishes, and can be reserved through Mabsoot App.

For more information, check out their Facebook.

Hantourism | Palestine

Aside from visiting Palestine’s ancient stones and holy sites, travelers can have a different experience from within the hearts of locals’ houses. Hantourism, a local Palestinian tourism initiative, offers several culinary tours – in Bethlehem, Nablus, and Jericho – that do not merely involve eating, but actually learning how to make staple Palestinian dishes from locals’ homes. Another tour allows them to learn about authentic food production in the country, from how ingredients are harvested at farms in Jericho, to how they become re-imagined in the kitchen into distinctive flavours and creative recipes. 

For more information, check out their website.

Amman Street Food Tour | Jordan

The six hours offered by Booking Jordan's Amman Street Food Tour provide travelers with the perfect amount of Jordanian food history and gastronomy – all from the heart of Amman. The Jordanian-Palestinian mansaf is a must-try on this tour.

For more information, check out their website.

Bellies En-Route | Egypt

Cairo’s first and only food tour company, Bellies En Route, garnered global acclaim – from The Guardian, The Independent, and BBC Travel Show – for their rituals of hospitality and eco-friendliness, and expert knowledge of the nooks and crannies of the city. Touring Downtown and Heliopolis to find the best koshary, taameyamolokheya, and much more, their team also delves into the history of Egyptian cuisine as it travelled across the city for centuries.

For more information, check out their website.

Marrakech Food Tours | Morocco 

Moroccan cuisine may be known for its couscous and tagines, but there’s much more to it than that. Marrakech Food Tours offers travelers the chance to navigate the bustling souks of the city and stop at food stalls to try an array of Moroccan street foods, which range from sweet treats like the doughnut-like sfenj, to the famous harira soup, which includes chickpea, tomato and lentils.

For more information, check out their website.

Omani Cuisine Tour | Oman

Offering a full eight-hour adventure around Muscat, this culinary tour takes travelers to some of the most unique restaurants in the city, one of which is designed after Oman’s mud houses. The tour also makes sure to stop in Muttrah's fish market, where the freshest seafood – known to be one of the staples of Omani cuisine – is available.

For more information check out their website.

Frying Pan Adventures | UAE  

As the first food tour company in the Arabian Gulf, Frying Pan Adventures, takes tourists away from the dazzling skyscrapers of Dubai and into the underbelly of the city, where hidden, flavourful food gems of Emirati cuisine can be found.

Coffee expert Ghaya Al Dhaheri, known for her evocative and absorbing stories on the discovery of gahwa, pouring cups of Royal Gahwa in Al Ein in one stop of the Frying Pan Adventures food tour. Photo courtesy of Frying Pan Adventures.

For more information check out their website.

*This article was originally published on our sister site Scene Eats.