My guests are like my children, says mother restaurateur
Newcomers who didn't have a reservation had to grab a seat outside until a table was empty again.
Dubai - Her niece Hanan and nephews have been helping her manage the restaurant that is run by 14 staff members for 11 years.
When Fatima Hariki arrived in Dubai in 2002, she noticed the absence of Moroccan restaurants in the emirate.Living alone - as her husband passed away some time ago and her two sons reside abroad - Hariki thought of creating a place that attracts guests from a variety of homemade Moroccan dishes. This was the start of Moroccan Taste, a small cosy restaurant framed in its simple warm, coloured Moroccan design that gives a homely feel to it.
The second branch of the restaurant opened in 2012 and is located in a corner of La Plage Residence on the Jumeirah Beach Road. With about 10 tables neatly aligned and Moroccan sweets on display from behind a glass, the restaurant was still empty at 6.30pm. "People start coming by Iftar time," said Hariki, a 60-year-old mother of two and grandmother of six.
Her niece Hanan and nephews have been helping her manage the 11-year-old restaurant that has 14 staff members. The family-run business has been attracting families and has always given a homely feeling to Hariki, who spends her entire day - from 8am to 12am daily - at the restaurant.
"My guests are like my children. They sometimes come to me for advice on their weddings and years later, I watch their children grow," said Hariki, noting that her goodies are all freshly baked each day from the restaurant's oven. Naming a few popular dishes, Hariki said couscous, plum Tagine, peas and artichoke tagine are among her signature dishes.
By 7pm, visitors of different nationalities started flocking the restaurant and soon tables were full. Newcomers, who didn't make prior reservations, had to grab a seat outside until a table was vacant again.
Ramadan favourites served on the table included dates, chebakia (Moroccan sesame cookies), harira soup made with tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas and lamb and orange juice with carrot and cinnamon.
The buffet was lined up with briwat (triangular pastries stuffed with seafood, meat or vegetables), mesmenn or raghif (similar to parantha bread served plain or stuff with minced beef or onions), baghrir (Moroccan pancakes), and stuff Moroccan bread with vegetables.
"The appetisers are served first, and 30 minutes later we put out with main courses so people don't stuff themselves at once," joked Hariki, who opened her fast with only dates and a glass of water.
Among the guests was a Moroccan, Saeeda, who came with her Irish husband Brian Kelly and 14-month-old son Talal. "I have known Saeeda for five years now, even before she got married," said Hariki.
Saeeda, who's been married for two years now, said: "I first ordered food from here during my Henna party."
"I love the food and atmosphere here. Even though I don't visit the restaurant very often, I still order food from here," she added.
Her husband Brian said his favourite dishes were couscous and tagine. The couple started by selecting their favourite bits of the main course and 10 different types of salads that were now served.
Many non-Moroccan visitors could be seen taking friendly advice from the restaurant staff to order the right dishes. After the main course, it was time to relish some Ramadan special Moroccan desserts such as almond briwat (sweet triangular dessert) and Moroccan sellou or sfouf (toasted sesame seeds, roasted almonds and flour roasted until brown) with the signature Moroccan tea.
"What I love about Ramadan is the Taraweeh prayers and also the sense of togetherness," said Hariki. "I feel happy when people come and get together at the restaurant and leave satisfied."
Walking out by 8:30pm, it was clear that love, simplicity and passion are the key elements of any successful story.