Noisy Old Dubai becomes a tranquil haven

Noisy Old Dubai becomes a tranquil haven

The bustling streets are filled with shopkeepers luring calls to passersby; delivery men rushing to their destinations on bikes and bicycles; jam-packed roads; and the occasional tourists bewildered at the ongoing sights.

By Dhanusha Gokulan/staff Reporter

Published: Fri 26 Jun 2015, 1:05 AM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:16 PM

Venu Kavungal serving  Iftar meal near Al Ghubaiba bus station in Dubai. — Photo by Juidin Bernarrd

Dubai - A trip to Old Dubai is never uneventful. The narrow but ‘energetic’ places near the Bur Dubai Al Ghubaiba Bus station are best known to be swarming with various activities throughout the year. The bustling streets are filled with shopkeepers luring calls to passersby; delivery men rushing to their destinations on bikes and bicycles;  jam-packed roads; and the occasional tourists bewildered at the ongoing sights, sounds, and different types of scent emanating from the place.

Interestingly, this hub of non-stop activity becomes a tranquil haven by 4pm during the holy month of Ramadan. With only three hours to Iftar, several men, mostly breadwinners of families, are seen rushing to nearby restaurants and cafeterias to buy snacks and savories for Iftar.

Local shopkeepers said that Bur Dubai is fabled for its samosas, a fried or baked pastry stuffed with savories; onion and chili fritters; and banana fritters and some of the oldest families living in the UAE have religiously bought their Iftar snacks from the narrow streets in the Deira creekside for over 20 years. However, the tough trick is in finding the right places for the best samosas.

Samosa street

Nestled a little away from the banks of the Deira Creek, the old Bur Dubai souq is like a “rare gem nestled in a coal mine. During Iftar, people start coming here as early as 4 pm to buy samosas and other snacks”, said Ibrahim Kutty, a shop attendant in the souk.

After you’ve crossed the long lane of stores selling leather bags, shoes, and perfumes, it leads you to a tiny little gully, which has been nick named ‘Samosa gully’ (Samosa street) due to the three stores that sell ‘the best samosas in town’. If you’re lucky, Kutty, who sits at the main doors outside the souk, will guide you to Samosa Street. You know you’ve reached your destination as the air in that part of the souk is filled with the aroma of deep fried samosas, piping hot tea, dates, jalebi (a sticky deep fried sweet dish soaked in sugar syrup), and banana fritters.

By 6pm, an hour and 15 minutes away from Iftar, workers in the cafeterias don’t have a minute to waste chatting, as they are busy taking customer orders, instructing delivery boys to drop off advance orders, and stacking rows of samosas and other Iftar snacks.

Selling at 0.50 fils per samosa, Mohammed Sameer, the owner of Ahmed Khalfan Restaurant, paused for a moment to announce that they sell an average of 10,000 samosas every day, and on Fridays, up to 20,000 samosas are sold.

“My father Mohammed Bapputty opened this store in 1976. Ramadan is our busiest time and sometimes, we get an order up to two to three days in advance. Most people make an average order of 1,000- 2,000 samosas per day. Uusally for big families who place the order three days in advance, we prepare the samosas, freeze it, and deliver it to them or they come pick it up,” said Sameer. “People start coming in after the afternoon prayers. The busiest time is between 4pm to 6.30pm. After which ,everyone waits for the muezzins prayer call to break fast,” added Sameer.

Khalid Sufiyan, a Pakistani resident who was buying snacks for his family said: “Nothing is better than the samosa we get here. I’ve been buying it for a few years now. It’s affordable and it is homely.” You can buy a dozen samosas for Dhs5, 25 samosas for Dhs10, and 100samosas for Dhs 40.

Two other cafeterias and restaurants also serve samosas, kebabs, and other snacks in samosa street.

Mass meal

A little away from the old Bur Dubai souk, a huge spread is laid out opposite the Ghubaiba bus station to provide Iftar meals for those in need. Every year for the last 30 years, Venu Kavungal, an Indian chef, has been preparing 2,000 plates of biryani for Iftar. The scent of Kavungal’s biryani spreads all across the Ghubaiba bus stand.

While serving the plates of food for those who are going to be breaking fast, Kavungal said: “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. Everyday, we use up to six bags of 39 kilogrammes of rice. Not a single grain of rice is wasted. The left over food is always given to those who come asking for it.”

Nur Mohammed, one of the organisers of the mass Iftar said: “Initially we would hold the Iftar in front of Fathima Mosque in Bur Dubai. Now, because of increased demand, we’ve moved to this open parking space opposite the bus stand. It is more spacious and we can accommodate more people.”

He said: “We serve one plate biryani, some fruits, a date, a bottle of water, and juice as well. However, most people come to eat this biryani because it is delicious.” 

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