A steaming cup of karak or sulaimani tea first thing in the morning could be a game-changer for many tea lovers. These invigorating hot beverages, along with the Arabic coffee gahwa, can bring people and cultures closer. A shack in the middle of the mountains in the UAE has become a viral sensation for doing exactly that - serving up free hot drinks to visitors and creating a lasting bond. Its popularity is such that individuals travel hundreds of kilometres just to savour a sip of their free beverage.
When Khaleej Times visited the spot in Wadi Tuwa, Ras Al Khaimah, we found 20-year-old Bilal Khan serving hot drinks to everyone. We parked on the roadside in a remote, quiet place surrounded by mountains. This quaint place is only visited by a few area residents and, of late, by tea and coffee aficionados.
The young Khan strikingly resembles Pakistan’s famous “chaiwala” Arshad Khan, who shot to fame overnight when his photo went viral while serving tea.
Sitting in a shack made of palm leaves, Khan welcomes everyone with a smile who comes to relish his tea and gahwa. “I was brought in here to serve tea and coffee to visitors and look after the mosque by the Emirati sponsor,” he said.
“Many individuals, including families, come here to drink tea and coffee. I have guests who are Europeans, Arabs and Asians. They love my tea and thank me and my sponsor for their generosity. A bus filled with workers stops here every alternate day for my tea,” said Khan.
Such is the popularity of his beverages that Khan has had people turn up during the wee hours, asking for tea and coffee.
“One day, I got up around 5.30am and found a car parked outside the hut. A lady sitting in the car asked if the tea was available. I told her it was not, but I could brew it in 15 minutes. She waited till I served her. She had come all the way from Sharjah to drink tea after watching a video shared on social media by some Europeans,” said Khan, the sole breadwinner for his parents and five siblings.
“I was surprised to see her waiting for me to serve her tea.”
On average, around 2,000 people visit the place to enjoy the free drinks every month, averaging over 66 cups daily.
“We bring around 1,000 cups every 15 days. Arabs prefer gahwa, and Europeans like to sip Sulimani tea,” said the young man, whose responsibilities include looking after a small mosque just behind the shed.
During Khaleej Times’ visit, a few of his compatriots visited him. “I saw him on TikTok, so we came to meet him. I am very pleased. We will definitely revisit him,” said Aftab Uddin, who came with his uncles.
Bilal Khan makes tea twice daily – first around 5.30am and then again at 2.30pm. “If you don’t find thermos here in the hut, then I am in my room preparing tea for the visitors,” he said.