Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be moving to a foreign country to live, let alone a country in the Middle East. Over the 2009 Christmas and New Year’s holidays, my husband Roger and I discussed what we wanted the next part of our life to be like. He thought that before retiring, he would like to do one more airport project but only if he could find something very interesting. I half-jokingly agreed that would be fine but could he try for an exotic location? As usual, Roger came through and soon we were headed to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. This blog is a recap of our "leap-of- faith" wanderings around the Middle East and beyond. We joyfully share these expat experiences.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

On the Streets of Abu Dhabi . . . . Comfort Food






A twirling action catches my eye as I round the corner. Across the street a man sits in the window of a tiny store. The store sign says Ariyana Bakery but why is the man sitting in the store window? 

I am on a stroll though one of the many “squares” created by the grid system of Abu Dhabi’s streets.



This downtown sector of Abu Dhabi is humming with the hectic flurry of men scuttling along the broad sidewalks.  Some are clothed in Emirati national dress of khandoura (robes) and ghatr (headscarf) others in the Pakistani dress called shalwar kameez. Deliveries and shopping I presume, and perhaps grabbing a quick bite to eat as the square is populated with ground level store fronts and a few hole-in-the-wall restaurants. 
 
As I near the bakery a crew of six men enter the small store in unison just barely fitting in the tiny space. They are all talking but I can’t understand. They glance quizzically at me and find something very humorous. Would that be me? 

There are actually two bakers sitting cross-legged in the store window. One takes a ball of dough and kneads it a bit and tosses it to baker #2 who shows off for me twirling the thin dough, throwing it high and deftly catching it just like the “pizza-jocks” at home.

“Picture OK?” I ask pointing to the camera. All I get is a nod.  

Baker #2 leans over and the dough is gone. 

The crew of six, wearing pale blue and off-white shalwar kameez and each carrying a white plastic bag, exit the tiny space en mass moving like a small school of fish.

I step closer entering the minuscule customer space catching a whiff of baking bread. I discover a hole in the floor and a store engulfed in intense heat. 

By pantomime and guess work I discover that the bakers are from Pakistan and the unleavened bread is called roti, a staple of Pakistani diet. The hole in the floor is the oven, a tandoor. After the dough attains the proper thinness the roti is placed on a form that looks like a pillow. Then the baker leans over the tandoor using the “pillow” to slap the roti up against the sides of the tandoor to be baked.

The bread comes out of the oven slightly charred and dimpled with that comfy just baked bread smell. The baker unceremoniously flips the roti onto a serving space for customers to help themselves. The second baker points to the plastic bags hanging on the side of the wall.

The roti bread never makes it home.  The soft texture and earthy flavor wraps around me like a warm blanket. I have found my new comfort food.

Ariyana Bakery
Location: On the north side of Hamden Bin Mohammed Street (5th Street) between Bani Yas Street (6th Street) and Al Sharqi Street (4th Street) 

Menu: One item – Roti

Cost:  1 dirham ($.27)

Timings: no idea but I have the sense they are there all the time.
 


16 comments:

  1. Wow. I want to got there! What fun. The bread must be delicious.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wonderful blog & good post.Its really helpful for me, awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!

    Hydra Village Abu Dhabi

    ReplyDelete
  3. Katie, THere is another one of these in Khalidaya, in the crazy block behind 7th. The abundance and accessiblity of real local food is one of the many reasons I like Abu Dhabi so much. Your blog makes me miss it even more. Cheryl

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can you recommend some of the places you like for local food. I am ready to explore. Thanks.

      Delete
  4. I wanted to thank you a lot more for your amazing website you have developed here. It really is full of useful tips for those who are seriously interested in this specific subject, especially this very post.

    property shop

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Katie
    its good to hear from you, its a Pakistani bread called "Nan"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was told that Nan is Indian bread - made the same way and Pakistani bread is called Roti. The difference is in the type of flour they use. Do you know if this is true?

      Delete
  6. I remember Arva from frying pan tours pointing out one in the streets of Bur Dubai. If only I could find the damn place again. Satwa has a few too, but always in a "blink-and- you-miss-it location.
    Nice post, thanks x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have heard from many people that there is a place in Dubai in the Satwa area that does the bread but like you they just don't remember where it is exactly.

      Delete
  7. So glad to see you're exploring the insider places in Abu Dhabi! I know a place in Deira that does this na'an or tanoor bread or tandoori bread (depends where you're from). It's hypnotic to watch them at work...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you have any food gems in Abu Dhabi you would recommend I go visit? I am on a mission!

      Delete
  8. It really is great to explore Abu Dhabi. There are so many nice places to go to there.

    property shop

    ReplyDelete
  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Soon visiting Dubai .... can some some suggest good hotels which already having dance bar, pub and nightclub.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can;t say that we are big "clubbing" people but I just heard that the Zabeel Saray has opened the Music Room that will feature top talent. For something that is just plain fun The Mogul Room is an experience not to be missed. Read my post on our excursion. http://www.arabiantalesandotheramazingadventures.blogspot.ae/2012/08/bollywood-dinner-theatre-only-in-dubai.html#more

      Delete