Though the Middle East is definitely an adventure, I admit that I haven’t been out on the economy as much as I normally would be in other parts of the world. The area that I am living in lack a bit draw as it is very much westernized. That being said, It is NOT remotely first world. They have imported almost every second-tier chain restaurant out of the states, but that’s about it. If chain restaurant food and shiny shopping malls are a sign of civilization, then I guess the place qualifies on that front.
Normally when I travel like to spend time eating local foods, stopping at local shops, and partaking of the local museums. I haven’t found a good outlet for doing that yet. There doesn’t seem to be a big outlet for natural Arabian dishes or culture in the area. The rumor running around the internet is that there is a new museum about to open. I’m definitely looking forward to that. There are also some shopping options available. Locally, it is the knockoff touristy stuff that you would expect in such locals. It’s not really the Souqs that the Middle East countries are famous for, but more the local alley shops that sell things you didn’t think you needed until you see it. Yes, I have bought things that I didn’t think I needed until I saw them.
Okay, that is about shopping, but this little ditty is about food. I will admit that there isn’t a great deal of local Arabian food options to be had. There are a lot of Arabian options. Sadly, they are mostly new and crappy alternatives or modern interpretations of dishes, not actual local food. There isn’t a lot of actual authentic local food available in my area.
That being said, what there is, if you know where to find it, is a fantastic wealth of foods from the regions of the people that are drawn to work here. There are Indian restaurants, and Pakistani restaurants, or Lebanese restaurants to be found. I say, if you know where to find it, because most of these places are in sketchy back alleys and on unpaved side streets. The parts of town you normally just pass through quickly.
The other day, my friend Z took me to a Pakistani restaurant that was absolutely fantastic. The place was called the Wah Ji Wah Restaurant, and was located on the outskirts of the Fahaheel district. It was a local’s type of place, with multiple languages being spoken as we entered. Fortunately for everyone in the group, Z speaks Pakistani. The language barrier might have been a hurdle if he didn’t. Even so, the people at the restaurant were genuinely friendly and welcoming.
It was lunch time during our visit and the place was full. We found seating in the corner and were almost instantly sat upon with food and drinks. Where I am not normally a fan of curry, the food was spicy and delicious. The pita bread was fresh and warm, and we used the bread to soak up all the curried chicken. No forks were needed. Just at the time when you thought you were done, they brought out more food. It was fantastic. It was filling, and unlike most other parts of town, the prices were very reasonable. It was exactly the experience that I wanted from this place.
With such a large immigrant population moving into the Middle East to work in the oil fields and in the construction and general labor trades, I am readjusting my view of what type of experiences I should be looking for. There is this whole layer of good food out there that I hadn’t considered until my friend Z took me to lunch. I am going to look for more of this. It can only be a good thing.
Some street food from my recent side trip to Dubai. Street food is my preferred method of eating when travelling. It gives a nice overview of the local culture.
Keep getting after it. Get out there. Do stuff.