QE2 gets new lease of life as Dubai kosher center 

QE2 gets new lease of life as Dubai kosher center 

The QE2, the world’s most famous cruise ship, is about to embark on another stage in its storied history. 

Currently a floating hotel parked in Dubai’s Mina Rashid Port, QE2 is to get a Kosher center that will serve Israeli and Jewish food and host Israeli cultural events in the wake of the recently signed Abraham Accords normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The center will serve both the influx of Israeli tourists and business people expected when direct flights between the countries commence later this month, the local Jewish community, and Emirati locals who are said to be extremely curious about trying out Israeli and Jewish cuisine. 

State-owned FlyDubai will commence 14 weekly flights between Dubai and Tel Aviv, starting November 26, while Israeli airlines, Israir and Arkia, are planning flights beginning December 9.

Menachem Cohen, one of the partners in the venture, along with Dubai-based NY Koen Group, tells trvltrend.com that the center will host several kosher restaurants and a deli, a kosher banqueting hall and a kosher catering company with an 11,000 square foot kitchen that will prepare kosher meals for hotels throughout the city. It will also be able to supply kosher food to neighboring  Abu Dhabi, which recently instructed all hotels in the Emirate to offer kosher dining options. 

Cohen, a co-owner of the Kosher Luxury Travel group,  says “local hotels lack the knowledge to operate a kosher kitchen,” and that as well as providing catering services, the center will also teach local chefs about kosher food. 

“But it isn’t just about serving kosher food for tourists,” says Cohen. “The local Emirati population is also very curious about Jewish and Israeli food.”

QE2’s Jewish history
The QE2 has a long Jewish history – Credit: QE2
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QE2’s Jewish history

This isn’t the first Jewish chapter in QE2’s history. As Cohen notes, the luxury liner was the only cruise ship to operate an on-board synagogue, and had a kosher kitchen.

It also has a previous “Israeli connection.” In 1973  the QE2 sailed from Southampton, England to Haifa, Israel under heavy security in a chartered cruise to mark the 25th anniversary of the Jewish state’s founding. The British government was concerned that Palestinian terrorists might try to crash an airliner into the Cunard flagship, and she was escorted part of the way by a Royal Navy missile vessel and Nimrod fighter jets. A year later Egyptian President Anwar Sadat claimed he had thwarted plans by Libyan leader Muammar Gadafi to send a submarine to sink the ship. 

In response to the claims, Cunard chairman Victor Matthews, said at the time: With the precautions that were taken, the chance of a successful attack by the type of submarine in question is virtually nil.”

QE2 is to get a Kosher center
The Queen’s Grill will reopen as the ‘Jerusalem’ kosher restaurant – Credit: QE2

QE2- hosting rockstars and royalty 

The QE2 was launched in 1969 by the Cunard Line and served as a transatlantic liner and cruise ship. The ocean liner transported rockstars and royalty – from Elton John and David Bowie to Queen Elizabeth –  and circumnavigated the world 25 times before it was sold to a Dubai investment company in 2008 for $100 million. However due to the financial crisis that year, plans to refurbish the ship as a luxury floating hotel and entertainment center were put on ice, and it was only in 2018 that it finally re-opened in Mina Rashid. 

UK broadcaster Channel 5 recently aired a three-part series Inside the QE2 Hotel about the ship’s transformation into a luxury hotel. 

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Queen’s Grill to serve Israeli food ‘with a twist’

Back to the present-day incarnation of the QE2, Chef Eitan Mizrahi, who will be managing the culinary side of the operation, reveals that the QE2’s flagship restaurant, the Queen’s Grill – once described as the “most famous restaurant at sea” – will be relaunched as the “Jerusalem” restaurant and will continue to serve fine dining, but with an Israeli twist. 

“We will serve innovative Israeli cuisine with a lot of work with olive oil,” says Mizrahi, who is chef of Tel Aviv’s five-star Royal Beach Hotel, and of the Israeli national soccer team. One of the signature dishes, he says, will be a play on the popular Jerusalem mixed-grill, a street-food smorgasbord of spiced meats and innards, usually served in a pita bread. 

Mizrahi is clearly excited about his new project. “Come and visit,” he says, “It will be just like cruising, but without sailing.” 

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