'This street was still sand': Dubai baker making fresh bread since 1970s recalls city's early days

All he needed was a small corner, dough, and a crepe pan to make his signature Regag bread

by

Waad Barakat

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KT Photos: Shihab
KT Photos: Shihab

Published: Thu 9 May 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 9 May 2024, 10:36 PM

Elias bin Haider has witnessed how Jumeirah grew through the years. He started working as a bread maker in the mid-1970s, when he was only 18 years old. When a landlord offered Haider an opportunity to work in a local grocery store, he asked for a small bakery instead.

Filled with ambition and natural baking talent, all Haider needed was a small corner, dough, and a crepe pan to make his signature Regag bread (Emirati flat bread).


Today, 48 years later, at the age of 66, the Iranian expat has remained a familiar face in Jumeirah, still making the same simple bread in his small bakery.

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Haider's journey as a bread maker began in an era when Jumeirah's landscape was significantly different from today.

"When we opened this shop, this street was still sand," Haider told Khaleej Times, recalling: "All these houses and buildings did not exist. I have seen all these with my own eyes. I have witnessed Jumeirah's city being built before my eyes.”

Deep connection with residents

In the early years, Haider became an integral part of the neighbourhood, forging deep connections with local residents. Citizens knew him by name and flocked to his bakery regularly, relying on him for daily bread needs. However, as the area underwent rapid development and citizens moved to new homes, Haider feared his loyal customer base would dwindle.

But to his delight, as Jumeirah transformed into a thriving tourist destination, people from various nationalities, both locals and foreigners, still seek out his bakery. They taste the bread he meticulously hand-crafts every morning.

"Even now, I still receive numerous requests from those who want to experience my authentic flavours,” said Haider. He knew that selling just plain Regag bread would not be enough. He had to make the product more approachable to people. He expanded his menu by adding cheese and chips, or eggs, and honey – making it an enjoyable, simple meal to anyone passing by.

Served hot and fresh

“I make bread in large quantities because many families come and take it by the kilo. However, if I have a special request, for example, to add anything, I have to make it again to serve it hot and fresh," said Haider.

The expat dedicates himself to his craft, from early morning until late evening.

"I start my day at 7am, so many people come by for some simple breakfast of regag bread with eggs or cheese. Even children pass by and buy some for school,” explained Haider. He closes his bakery at 11am, makes the dough, ready to start again at 5pm, and doesn’t stop business until 11pm.

Throughout the years, Haider's loyal customer base has expanded beyond the Emirates. Visitors from neighbouring countries visit his bakery. Demand for his bread peaks during Ramadan.

"During Ramadan, our workload doubles," Haider reveals. "The regag bread is very famous among citizens, who eat it with their suhoor meals or with Emirati cuisines like Ghozi and Tharid," he added.

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