Browsing 'Ramadan 2014' News

City Center mall

Ray Toh

The first day of Eid al-Fitr in Qatar will be Monday, July 28, officials from Qatar’s Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs (Awqaf) have announced.

Awqaf’s moon sighting committee met at their Dafna headquarters to receive witness testimony and make their decision.

At 7:15pm this evening, they confirmed the moon had been sighted and that holidays would officially begin tomorrow:

Eid prayer will be held at some 300+ mosques around the country at 5:15am on Monday. Awqaf has released that list in Arabic.

You can check out our Eid guide to see activities and events planned around town starting tomorrow.

How will you be spending your holiday? Thoughts?

All photos by Chantelle D’mello

For the Al Saida Bakery and Stores in downtown Musherib, this Ramadan – like so many others – has been a month of abundance.

While the majority of the country fasted and enjoyed abbreviated working hours for the past several weeks, the bakers at Al Saida have been working at top speed to prepare hundreds of their famed kataif pancakes for hungry customers daily.

Kataif, a pancake-like dessert that consists of flour, water and other ingredients, has been a local Ramadan staple since the bakery opened 56 years ago.

To keep up with the massive demand, Al Saida bakers start preparing the kataif at 7am, continuing to produce a steady flow of piping hot mini pancakes until late evening.

Speaking to Doha News, Samer Maqsoud, a business partner at Al Saida and relative of the owner, said:

“We are known for our kataifs. Aside from our direct customers, around 80 percent of sweet shops in Doha sell our kataifs. During the year, we take orders for kataif twice a week – Mondays, and Thursdays, but in Ramadan, because it is a traditional sweet, we make them every day.”

All in the family

The bakery is a family business. First opened in Doha by the late Mahmoud Ahmed Al Nadaf, a Lebanese expat, the bakery is now owned by his brother-in-law and nephew, Abdullatif Al Nadaf.

Owner Abdullatif Al Nadaf.

Owner Abdullatif Al Nadaf.

The elderly man, who is nostalgic and incredibly energetic, is a regular at the open-air kitchen, set up especially to make kataifs outside the bakery.

“For him, this is his pleasure. We come out sometimes, and he’s here in the heat serving customers. As long as he sees a smile on their face, it makes his day,” said Mohammed Khalil, an employee at the bakery.

For Al Nadaf, Qatar is home.

“We came here when there was no AC, nothing. All we had was fans,” said Al Nadaf, gesturing to the roof. “We watched (Qatar) grow.”

While a part of Qatari society and history, the Al Saida bakery has its roots in Lebanon, where the shop was handed down from generation to generation.

The shop takes its name from Sidon (Saida in Arabic), the third largest city in Lebanon, and one of the oldest cities in the world.

Other business

Aside from kataifs and other Arabic sweets, the bakery also operates as a grocery store and wholesale supplier, specializing in dry foods like lentils and beans, spices and dairy products that aren’t found locally.

The store also imports olives and olive oil from Lebanon.

“We try to ensure maximum quality,” said Maqsoud, who handles the supply business side of Al Saida. “We bring in great tasting goods from suppliers who have worked with us for hundreds of years.”

Among them is a Czechoslovakian dairy facility that produces a specific type of akkawi cheese used as filling for the kataif.

According to Maqsoud, Al Saida also supplies Czech cheese, Lebanese lentils and olive oil to over 70 hotels in Qatar.

“I think it’s the first store of it’s kind in Qatar, where we have a bakery, a grocery, and a wholesale supplier all in one,” he added.

The store also imports products from Syria and Palestine, but the ongoing conflicts there have made the process difficult.

“We sell our goods at a higher price, but that’s because of the quality of our ingredients and….the trouble involved in getting it delivered and made. After the Arab Spring, things got hard. It’s a lot more labour-intensive to get these goods imported,” Khalil said.

By the numbers

However, the kataifs are still the bakery’s main selling point, drawing over 500 customers daily.

On an average, the bakery sells from 500 to 800kg of the pancakes every day.

They are either sold plain, to be filled at home by the customer, or freshly prepared with a filling of nuts, coconut shavings, or cheese. They are then baked or fried.

The process includes creating a watery batter, which is placed in a large metal bowl by the side of the cooking station outside the bakery.

While the ingredients of the batter are a well-kept family secret, they do include a special blend of two flours imported from Lebanon, and a mineral-infused version of local water.

The batter is then spooned into a canister with an attached funnel, and then poured rapidly on large rectangular hot plates, where the kataif are only cooked on one side for a few minutes.

When ready, they are transferred off the stove with a spatula.

Once done, they are set aside or in boxes for eager customers waiting in their cars, or outside the store.

According to Al Nadaf, the kataif stay fresh for more than 24 hours. “But if you freeze them, they can stay for up to four months,” he added.

Thoughts?

All photos by Chantelle D’mello

Despite the heat and ongoing fasting during Ramadan, a Qatari family’s long-standing tradition of offering free homemade laban to the community continues to draw hundreds of thirsty visitors daily.

Over 2,000 liters of the yogurt drink, which is akin to buttermilk, is distributed each day after being produced inside the family’s residential complex, said an employee there who spoke to Doha News.

The laban is stored in chilled metal tanks, and can be accessed through a tap attached to the outer wall of the residential complex near Ramada signal off of C-Ring Road.

The home belongs to prominent businessman Ghanem Al Thani, who also owns the nearby Radisson Blu hotel.

Speaking to Doha News, Sher Singh, a bus driver from India, said he found out about the free laban through friends.

“They told me that a family was giving out free milk, so I came to check it out, and I’ve been coming back since. It’s very tasty…almost like lassi (a sweet Indian yogurt-based drink), and fresh. I’ve never gotten sick drinking it.”

He added that he has seen people of all nationalities stop by for a drink.

Other unique charitable acts here include a local Qatari family that last month installed an outdoor fridge stocked with free water, laban, yogurt and food for residents.

Organizations like See My Culture have also have chimed in to help people in need, encouraging others to give out water and juices to those toiling in the heat.

Timings

Each day, about 200 to 300 people visit the laban tap, which was installed more than 12 years ago, said one employee who has been working for the Al Thani family for the past three decades.

Amir Hamid, a Pakistani expat, added that the tap typically opens at 8am and closes around noon. The laban is made from fresh milk that is brought in from the family’s farm near Al Shahaniya, which houses over 5,000 cows.

While residents from all over the country have visited the complex to collect buttermilk, the number of people usually goes down over Ramadan, because so many are fasting, Hamid said.

Laban tap

Chantelle D'mello

Around 9am this morning, more than 20 people could be observed lining up to fill up plastic bottles, massive coolers and cans with the buttermilk.

Ghazni Khan, an Afghan worker who lives on the outskirts of Doha, said this was his first time visiting the tap.

“I heard about it from the people that I lived with. I was surprised I didn’t know it existed before. I’ve been here for 16 years!”

After filling the containers, the men left the tap running, and laban could be seen flowing down the drain. The workers manning the tank explained that this was because there was an overflow of laban inside.

The process

On the other side of the residential complex’s wall, there is a domestic creamery that makes butter and buttermilk.

Huge vats, churners and mixers line the walls, while massive buckets of laban stand in the middle of the room.

The process, explained Gopal Malla, a Nepalese national who has worked there for 14 years, involves mixing yogurt and milk together in a large metal bucket before leaving the mixture standing overnight to ferment.

In the mornings, the milk is transferred into numerous smaller containers, the lids of which are fitted with mixers.

Laban tap

Chantelle D'mello

Once mixed, the buttermilk is poured into a tank, which leads to the tap outside.

Residents looking to get a taste should take the first slip road heading from The Center roundabout to the Ramada signal. The tap is located under an awning at the back of a massive beige wall with black gates.

Thoughts?