Halophytic Kitchen Lab


The Halophytic Kitchen Lab Program aims to raise public awareness about the health and other benefits of salt-loving plants such as Salicornia, which are also called halophytes. Halophytes (a Greek compound word: halo for salt and phyte for plant) are highly salt-tolerant plants that thrive in desert environments. They can be grown with saline water resources such as saline groundwater, seawater, reject brine from desalination and aquaculture effluents. As they do not require fertile soil or fresh water, they show promise for unconventional agriculture in marginal environments. They are fit for human and animal consumption and biofuel production. They can also be used for phytoremediation and medicinal and industrial purposes. Belonging to the family of halophytes, Salicornia bigelovii is one such crop that can be used as food, feed and biofuel.

The Halophytic Kitchen Lab Program is one of the activities under the EXPO LIVE project Phase II: “From desert farm to fork: Value chain development for innovative halophyte-based food products” funded by Expo 2020 Dubai’s Expo Live Innovation Impact Grant Program.

Under this project, Salicornia and other halophytic crops are currently being cultivated on eight farms in the UAE for the very first time applying intermediate upscaling methodologies. The Salicornia produce from the farms will be made into innovative food products and marketed locally at the initial stage.

The Halophytic Kitchen Lab Program will work to inform different groups of society, specifically youth, about the health and other benefits of halophytic plants. It will share tips and recipes for halophytic dishes that can be prepared at home.


  1. Hear a presentation on food security challenges and the importance of halophytic food products.
  2. Tour ICBA fields to see halophytic plants.
  3. Hear a presentation by nutritionist Yasmin Haddad on the nutritional benefits of halophytic foods along with tips on healthy and sustainable food choices.
  4. Cook a personal meal using halophytic plants with Chef Bilal Hassan.
  5. Take halophytic plants and products home.

Topics Addressed

  1. Food and nutrition security
  2. Climate-smart and nutrient-dense saline farming
  3. Salinization issues
  4. Marginal environments
  5. Halophytic and salt-tolerant plants
  6. Health and nutrition
  7. Art of cooking


  • 100 AED for students
  • 120 AED for adults



Dr. Dionysia Angeliki Lyra

Dr. Dionysia Angeliki Lyra joined ICBA as Post-Doctoral Researcher in 2013. Prior to that, she had been on a post-doctoral fellowship at the Laboratory of Agronomy at the Agricultural University of Athens where she was involved in the evaluation of barley genotypes for drought resistance and crop yield.

She holds a Ph.D. degree in Plant Science from the Agricultural University of Athens, Greece and she has received scholarships and grants from the Hellenic Ministry of Educational Affairs, E.U., European Weed Research Society, Arab-American Frontiers, USAID and private sector.

Currently she is working on the evaluation of Salicornia bigelovii germplasm and its cultivation potential in coastal desert areas and on Integrated Agri- Aquaculture Systems (IAAS) using reject brine from inland desalination units. She has authored and co-authored over 50 publications, including a technical manual on principles of sustainable agriculture and water management, articles in peer-reviewed journals, conference papers and research reports.

Ms. Mai Shalaby

Ms. Mai Shalaby joined ICBA in July 2018 as the Curator of the Emirates Soil Museum. Her responsibilities include the management of collections of soils, artifacts or works of art; fundraising and revenue generation for the sustainability of the museum; managing hands-on activities and tours for students and other museum visitors as well as building relationships and partnerships with various stakeholders.

Her prior experience involved managing educational programs with a focus on the environment. She worked at Eedama as the Programs Implementation Manager for Dubai and Northern Emirates, and before that as the University Program Manager at the Nile Project in Egypt. She also worked and volunteered for several development organizations in Egypt, India and Kenya.

She holds an M.A. in Economics in International Development from the American University in Cairo and a B.Sc. in Actuarial Science from the same university.

Ms. Yasmine Haddad

Ms. Yasmine Haddad is a nutrition consultant and a licensed clinical dietitian. She helps to raise awareness about the nutritional benefits of halophytic plants cultivated in a desert environment.

She is a clinical dietitian licensed by the Dubai and Abu Dhabi Health Authorities with over 10 years of diverse experience in clinical dietetics, community nutrition, food catering and operations.

She is based in Dubai and enjoys spreading nutrition and health awareness through social media, TV broadcasting, educational workshops and events.

She holds a B.Sc. in Nutrition & Dietetics and an M.Sc. in Food Technology from the American University of Beirut.

Mr. Bilal Saleh

Chef Bilal Saleh was lured into the culinary world when his passion for this industry and for food was recognized at an early age. Bilal went on to study the culinary arts at the Lebanese Culinary Institute, where he learned to develop his own unique style and flair. He continued with his career at exclusive restaurants and hotels worldwide.

Over the years, Bilal has worked under influential leaders of the Lebanese culinary profession who helped shape his style and depth of knowledge. After moving to Dubai, Bilal was appointed in top Dubai restaurants. Bilal balances his culinary career with enjoying every spare moment with his children.

Bilal's culinary philosophy and passion reflects the growing trend towards a healthier and down-to-earth lifestyle. Working with neighboring farmers to seek out the finest in regional and local organic produce is the essence of his Lebanese cuisine. His preference is to allow the natural flavors of food to express themselves.

In addition to cooking, Bilal's passion is to help younger chefs to discover their own talents in the same way that he was encouraged. Bilal believes whole-heartedly in staying active, continuously learning and always having fun.

Mr. Showkat Nabi Rather

Mr. Showkat Nabi Rather joined ICBA in November 2016 as Journalism and Media Outreach Specialist. His responsibilities include media relations, writing news updates, feature stories, project briefs, success stories, video scripts and other corporate and project content.

Prior to this role, he worked as Senior Media and Communications Officer for the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics – ICRISAT (a member of the CGIAR); and as Assistant Media Advisor for the US Department of State posted at the US Consulate General in Hyderabad, India. He also worked as a journalist in India.

He holds a master's degree in Electronic Media (Broadcast Media) from Bangalore University and a bachelor’s degree with Mass Communication and Video Production from the University of Kashmir.

He also holds certificates in Leadership and Communication from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA; and American Studies/Advanced Writing from the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, Foreign Service Institute (FSI), US State Department, USA.

He has authored many articles and blogs particularly focused on agricultural development and produced several documentaries.