Ramadan business picks up for London’s Arab eateries as coronavirus restrictions ease

Syrian supermarket Dimashqi provides all the standard food products and delicacies from the Middle East. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
1 / 27
Syrian supermarket Dimashqi provides all the standard food products and delicacies from the Middle East. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Syrian supermarket Dimashqi provides all the standard food products and delicacies from the Middle East. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
2 / 27
Syrian supermarket Dimashqi provides all the standard food products and delicacies from the Middle East. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Dimashqi supermarket and Ayam Zaman restaurant, based in Shepherd’s Bush in West London, are some of the favored Syrian spots in the city. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
3 / 27
Dimashqi supermarket and Ayam Zaman restaurant, based in Shepherd’s Bush in West London, are some of the favored Syrian spots in the city. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Syrian supermarket Dimashqi provides all the standard food products and delicacies from the Middle East. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
4 / 27
Syrian supermarket Dimashqi provides all the standard food products and delicacies from the Middle East. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Syrian supermarket Dimashqi provides all the standard food products and delicacies from the Middle East. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
5 / 27
Syrian supermarket Dimashqi provides all the standard food products and delicacies from the Middle East. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Ayam Zaman restaurant have closed their seating area and are only providing takeaway services during Ramadan and Eid. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
6 / 27
Ayam Zaman restaurant have closed their seating area and are only providing takeaway services during Ramadan and Eid. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
The recently-opened Pistachio and Honey cafe and bakery makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
7 / 27
The recently-opened Pistachio and Honey cafe and bakery makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
The recently-opened Pistachio and Honey cafe and bakery makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
8 / 27
The recently-opened Pistachio and Honey cafe and bakery makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
The recently-opened Pistachio and Honey cafe and bakery makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
9 / 27
The recently-opened Pistachio and Honey cafe and bakery makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
The recently-opened Pistachio and Honey cafe and bakery makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
10 / 27
The recently-opened Pistachio and Honey cafe and bakery makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Pistachio and Honey have managed to weather the storm and opened their second, larger branch a few months ago. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
11 / 27
Pistachio and Honey have managed to weather the storm and opened their second, larger branch a few months ago. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
The recently-opened Pistachio and Honey cafe and bakery makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
12 / 27
The recently-opened Pistachio and Honey cafe and bakery makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
The recently-opened Pistachio and Honey cafe and bakery makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
13 / 27
The recently-opened Pistachio and Honey cafe and bakery makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
The recently-opened Pistachio and Honey cafe and bakery makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
14 / 27
The recently-opened Pistachio and Honey cafe and bakery makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Pistachio and Honey have managed to weather the storm and opened their second, larger branch a few months ago. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
15 / 27
Pistachio and Honey have managed to weather the storm and opened their second, larger branch a few months ago. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Pistachio and Honey have managed to weather the storm and opened their second, larger branch a few months ago. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
16 / 27
Pistachio and Honey have managed to weather the storm and opened their second, larger branch a few months ago. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Pistachio and Honey have managed to weather the storm and opened their second, larger branch a few months ago. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
17 / 27
Pistachio and Honey have managed to weather the storm and opened their second, larger branch a few months ago. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Based in Shepherd’s Bush in West London, Naama opened in 2003 and specializes in Lebanese cuisine. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
18 / 27
Based in Shepherd’s Bush in West London, Naama opened in 2003 and specializes in Lebanese cuisine. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Naama restaurant and butcher has closed their seating area and are only providing takeaway services during Ramadan and Eid. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
19 / 27
Naama restaurant and butcher has closed their seating area and are only providing takeaway services during Ramadan and Eid. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Naama restaurant and butcher has closed their seating area and are only providing takeaway services during Ramadan and Eid. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
20 / 27
Naama restaurant and butcher has closed their seating area and are only providing takeaway services during Ramadan and Eid. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Ayam Zaman restaurant offers meals of the day for iftar, but have had to reduce their menu this year. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
21 / 27
Ayam Zaman restaurant offers meals of the day for iftar, but have had to reduce their menu this year. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Dimashqi supermarket and Ayam Zaman restaurant, based in Shepherd’s Bush in West London, are some of the favored Syrian spots in the city. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
22 / 27
Dimashqi supermarket and Ayam Zaman restaurant, based in Shepherd’s Bush in West London, are some of the favored Syrian spots in the city. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Naama restaurant and butcher has closed their seating area and are only providing takeaway services during Ramadan and Eid. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
23 / 27
Naama restaurant and butcher has closed their seating area and are only providing takeaway services during Ramadan and Eid. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Based in Shepherd’s Bush in West London, Naama opened in 2003 and specializes in Lebanese cuisine. Pictured Director Moussa Merhi. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
24 / 27
Based in Shepherd’s Bush in West London, Naama opened in 2003 and specializes in Lebanese cuisine. Pictured Director Moussa Merhi. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Ayam Zaman restaurant offers meals of the day for iftar, but have had to reduce their menu this year. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
25 / 27
Ayam Zaman restaurant offers meals of the day for iftar, but have had to reduce their menu this year. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Pistachio and Honey have managed to weather the storm and opened their second, larger branch a few months ago. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
26 / 27
Pistachio and Honey have managed to weather the storm and opened their second, larger branch a few months ago. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
The recently-opened Pistachio and Honey cafe and bakery makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
27 / 27
The recently-opened Pistachio and Honey cafe and bakery makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Short Url
Updated 09 May 2021

Ramadan business picks up for London’s Arab eateries as coronavirus restrictions ease

Pistachio and Honey have managed to weather the storm and opened their second, larger branch a few months ago. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
  • The gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions has contributed to a sharp increase in trade
  • UK’s third national lockdown was partially lifted on April 12 and outdoor dining is permitted at restaurants and cafes

LONDON: During Ramadan last year, the pandemic took a heavy toll on the famed Arab restaurants and food stores in west London.
This year, however, a combination of shrewd business decisions and the gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions has contributed to a sharp increase in trade for many and brought hope that the worst of the pandemic might be over.
“People can’t practice Ramadan as usual but we tried to make it in a different and safer way...and this year, we are more prepared and organized,” Khaled Alghorani, the manager of Dimashqi, a Syrian supermarket in Shepherd’s Bush, told Arab News.

The store is extremely popular; it stocks standard food items alongside delicacies from the Middle East, making it a favored Syrian spot. Like other business owners in the area, however, Alghorani has had to adapt the services he provides in response to the realities of the pandemic.
“We have new special offers and we introduced an online service, so customers can place orders for groceries, halal meats and desserts and we can deliver anywhere in the UK in chilled packages so they receive the food as fresh as it is in the supermarket,” said Alghorani.
The holy month, which began on April 13, has been somewhat of a blessing, he added. Shelves are restocked daily after iftar so customers can shop with ease during the day while adhering to preventative measures. Popular items include soups, drinks, sweets, dates, apricot paste (Qamar Al-Din) and maarouk, a traditional brioche-like bread filled with dates that is only made during Ramadan.




Syrian supermarket Dimashqi provides all the standard food products and delicacies from the Middle East. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

“Because of the pandemic we had a shortage of some products and we had delays as well, but by the end we managed to get most of the stock for Ramadan,” said Alghorani.
The supermarket shares its space with Ayam Zaman, one of the top Syrian and Middle Eastern restaurants in the city. It has managed to remain open throughout the pandemic but has had to restrict its services and is not offering as wide a variety of special Ramadan dishes as it usually does.
“People prefer to dine in a restaurant than sitting at home, especially on Eid. But unfortunately because of the lockdown, which is going to end on May 17, we are going to continue with takeaway orders only, with new offers on desserts,” said Alghorani.




Ayam Zaman restaurant offers meals of the day for iftar, but have had to reduce their menu this year. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

“Before COVID-19, Ramadan used to be the busiest time; we had better services, better sales and the restaurant wouldn’t have any reservations (available) — we were fully booked, because people like to sit and break their fast together.”
The restaurant also normally supplies iftar for office employees during Ramadan but because the majority of staff is still working from home, that service has taken a huge hit and the restaurant is instead relying on private functions.
The UK’s third national lockdown was partially lifted on April 12; non-essential shops were allowed to reopen, outdoor dining is permitted at restaurants and cafes, and up to 15 people from three households can meet and socialize outdoors.




Naama restaurant and butcher has closed their seating area and are only providing takeaway services during Ramadan and Eid. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

“The lockdown (eased) and the weather was good, so people were happy and I think everybody’s in the mood to go outside, do shopping and even eat outside,” Moussa Merhi, general manager of the Naama restaurant and butcher’s shop in Shepherd’s Bush, told Arab News.
He said business is picking up and this year is much better than last. People appear calmer, less scared of the disease and are spending money but no longer panic buying, he added.
He said Naama is not focusing on iftar as it normally does during Ramadan because most people are eating at home, but that the restaurant is receiving a surprising amount of delivery orders. Like Ayam Zaman, Naama is still restricting its service to takeaways and deliveries, to protect the health of its staff.

The well-established restaurant, which opened in 2003, specializes in Lebanese cuisine. One of its specialties is a whole lamb on a bed of rice, garnished with toasted nuts.
“People are now gathering a lot. It’s not like last year,” said Merhi. “This year it’s different — people are holding iftars (and) I am receiving big orders for large amounts of money. I think they had enough from the last lockdown.
“It’s a blessed month and it’s to do with the environment and providing good service to people who are fasting. It’s good for business, don’t get me wrong, but the main concept is to help people and I think everybody is trying and helping in their own way.”




Based in Shepherd’s Bush in West London, Naama opened in 2003 and specializes in Lebanese cuisine. Pictured Director Moussa Merhi. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

Bosses at cafe and bakery Pistachio and Honey also said that they are finding business easier this Ramadan compared with last year.
“People got to know more about the coronavirus, they got to know more about how to socialize and how to social distance,” director Anas Sheekh Aly told Arab News.
Aside from being scared to leave their houses last year, people were also scared to eat sugar, he said, due to the uncertainty about the disease and the limited information that was available.




Pistachio and Honey have managed to weather the storm and opened their second, larger branch a few months ago. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

A year on and many people have received a vaccine or caught the virus and recovered, Aly said, and the lockdown is also less strict. However the economic effects of the pandemic mean that a lot of people have less money to spend on non-essentials and are put off by high prices, he added, which has affected his business.
Sweets and desserts are a major part of the Ramadan table, and certain varieties are only made during the holy month, particularly qatayef, awama (luqaimat), namoura, madlouka, maghshousha and halawet el-jibn. The bakery makes all of these from scratch, along with its flagship product: qishta (a type of clotted cream). Aly has acquired the only license in the UK to make qishta from raw cow’s milk in the traditional, authentic way.
“It’s quite a hard process but this helps us get the real taste coming from our countries,” said Aly. “But our prices are very cost-effective, our sweets are healthy — we use less sugar, pure butter ghee and pure flour — and we are using all of the finest ingredients.”




The recently-opened Pistachio and Honey cafe and bakery makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

The area around the cafe is always fragrant with the scent of fresh-baked kanafeh, which it makes from scratch using akawi, baladi and Nabulsi cheese to get the authentic taste, unlike some other bakeries that use mozzarella.
Originally from Syria, Aly opened the first branch of his business on March 25 last year, a day before the first lockdown was imposed. By the time the restrictions eased and he could reopen, most of his stock had expired. Although he suffered heavy losses as additional lockdowns were imposed, he managed to weather the storm and opened his second, larger branch: like the first, in Acton — a few months ago.
“Ramadan is a month of blessing and you don’t even know how livelihood will come to you,” said Aly. “For business it’s very good; even if you don’t do anything you will get business in Ramadan.” But he added that the true spirit of the month is felt in one’s heart and we should appreciate what we have.
“There are refugees all over the world that don’t have food or water to drink,” he said. “It gets you to feel more about them, it gets you to feel more about people who are starving and thirsty, and so you do more religion and you appreciate what you have more — and this is what we teach our kids as well when we get them to fast.”


Afghan official: Bombs hit 2 minivans in Kabul, 7 dead

Afghan official: Bombs hit 2 minivans in Kabul, 7 dead
Updated 12 June 2021

Afghan official: Bombs hit 2 minivans in Kabul, 7 dead

Afghan official: Bombs hit 2 minivans in Kabul, 7 dead
  • The first explosion killed six people and wounded two and the second explosion killed one and wounded four
  • The area where the explosions happened is largely populated by the minority Hazara ethnic group

KABUL: Separate bombs hit two minivans in a mostly Shiite neighborhood in the Afghan capital Saturday, killing at least seven people and wounding six others, the Interior Ministry said.
The attacks targeted minivans on the same road about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) apart in a neighborhood in western Kabul, Interior Ministry deputy spokesman Ahmad Zia Zia, said.
It wasn’t immediately clear what type of bombs were used and no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks. Daesh has carried out similar bombings in the area, including four attacks on four minivans earlier this month that killed at least 18 people.
The first explosion killed six people and wounded two and the second explosion in front of Muhammad Ali Jinnah hospital, where a majority of COVID-19 patients are admitted, killed one and wounded four.
The area where the explosions happened is largely populated by the minority Hazara ethnic group who are mostly Shiite Muslims. Shiites are a minority in mostly Sunni Afghanistan, and the local Daesh affiliate has declared war against them.
Hundreds of Afghans are killed or injured every month in violence connected to the country’s constant war. But Hazaras, who make up around 9 percent of the population of 36 million people, stand alone in being intentionally targeted because of their ethnicity and their religion.
Violence and chaos continue to escalate in Afghanistan as the US and NATO continue their withdrawal of the remaining 2,500-3,500 American soldiers and 7,000 allied forces. The last of the troops will be gone by Sept. 11 at the latest.


After charming leaders, Queen Elizabeth sits back for parade

After charming leaders, Queen Elizabeth sits back for parade
Updated 12 June 2021

After charming leaders, Queen Elizabeth sits back for parade

After charming leaders, Queen Elizabeth sits back for parade
  • On Friday, she was the star turn at a reception with the G-7 leaders and their spouses at the Eden Project
  • She drew laughter from her guests as she chided them during a group photo session: “Are you supposed to be looking as if you’re enjoying yourself?”

LONDON: Fresh from charming leaders at the Group of Seven summit, Queen Elizabeth II was back at her residence at Windsor Castle on Saturday to view a military parade to mark her official birthday.
The 95-year-old monarch sat on a dais to watch the ceremony that despite ongoing social distancing restrictions did not disappoint on the pomp and pageantry front. If she was tired after meeting G-7 leaders, including US President Joe Biden, on Friday evening, it didn’t show.
The ceremony is a gift from the Household Division of army regiments, which has a close affinity with the monarch. It featured soldiers who have played an integral role in the COVID-19 response, as well as those who have been serving on military operations. She was seen beaming from ear to ear as the nine planes of the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows flew past in formation and let loose their red, white and blue smoke.
The traditional Trooping the Color ceremony is normally staged in London and features hundreds of servicemen and women and thousands of spectators. However, for the second year running, that was not possible and it was a slimmed-down affair in the grounds of Windsor Castle, which is around 27 miles (44 kilometers) west of the capital.


Dubbed a mini Trooping the Color, it featured soldiers in ceremonial scarlet coats and bearskin hats. The servicemen and women on parade numbered almost 275, with 70 horses, compared with the 85 soldiers who took part in the ceremony last summer. A small handful of seated guests lined part of the quadrangle — a change from last year when only the military were present.
The ceremony originated from traditional preparations for battle. The colors — or flags — were “trooped,” or carried down the lines of soldiers, so they could be seen and recognized in battle.
Lt. Col. Guy Stone, who planned the queen’s official birthday celebrations in Windsor Castle’s quadrangle, said he wanted to create a “memorable and uplifting day” for the monarch.
The ceremony took place a couple of months after the death of her 99-year-old husband Prince Philip, whose funeral also took place at Windsor Castle.
Though she has been mourning the loss of her husband of 73 years, the queen has carried on performing her duties, including delivering a government-scripted speech to mark the new session of parliament.
On Friday, she was the star turn at a reception with the G-7 leaders and their spouses at the Eden Project, a futuristic botanical garden housed inside domes that features the world’s largest indoor rainforest.
She drew laughter from her guests as she chided them during a group photo session: “Are you supposed to be looking as if you’re enjoying yourself?”
Though the queen’s actual birthday is on April 26, she celebrates another one in June when the British weather — it is hoped — is more conducive to outdoor celebrations. It’s a royal tradition that goes back to 1748 and the reign of King George II, whose actual birthday was in November.
One of the major parts of the queen’s official birthday is her award of honors to those deemed to have made a positive contribution to society.
This year’s honors list has celebrated those at the forefront of the UK’s rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines over the past few months, which has been credited with turning around the country’s pandemic response.
Sarah Gilbert, the professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford who was instrumental in the development of the vaccine being manufactured by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, and Kate Bingham, the former head of the UK Vaccines Taskforce credited for the country’s successful procurement program, have both been recognized with damehoods.
Though the UK has seen Europe’s highest virus-related death toll, with nearly 128,000 people having lost their lives, its vaccination program has been deemed one of the world’s speediest and most coherent rollouts.


At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas

At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas
Updated 12 June 2021

At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas

At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas

AUSTIN, TEXAS: Officials in Texas say at least nine people have been injured following a shooting Saturday morning in downtown Austin.
Police said in a tweet that multiple victims had injuries. The Austin-Travis County EMS said in a series of tweets that at least 12 patients had received treatment or been transported to local hospitals.
It was unknown how many of the injuries may have been gunshot wounds.
It was unclear what sparked the shooting. Police have not announced any suspects or arrests.


France’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word

France’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word
Updated 12 June 2021

France’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word

France’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word
  • Since Britain completed its exit from the EU late last year, relations with the bloc and particularly France have soured

CARBIS BAY, England: French President Emmanuel Macron offered on Saturday to reset relations with Britain as long as Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood by the Brexit divorce deal he signed with the European Union.
Since Britain completed its exit from the EU late last year, relations with the bloc and particularly France have soured, with Macron becoming the most vocal critic of London’s refusal to honor the terms of part of its Brexit deal.
At a meeting at the Group of Seven world’s most advanced economies in southwestern England, Macron told Johnson the two countries had common interests, but that ties could only improve if Johnson kept his word on Brexit.
“The president told Boris Johnson there needed to be a reset of the Franco-British relationship,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
“This can happen provided that he keeps his word with the Europeans,” the source said, adding that Macron spoke in English to Johnson.
Johnson will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel later on Saturday, where she could also raise the row over part of the EU divorce deal, called the Northern Ireland protocol.
The British leader, who is hosting the G7 meeting, wants the summit to focus on global issues, but has stood his ground on trade with Northern Ireland, calling on the EU to be more flexible in its approach to easing trade to the province from Britain.


Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump

Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump
Updated 12 June 2021

Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump

Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump
  • Russian leader describes Biden as a ‘career man’ who has spent his life in politics
  • Biden has said he is under no illusions about Putin and has described him as ‘a killer’

WASHINGTON: Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced hope Friday that US President Joe Biden will be less impulsive than his predecessor Donald Trump, ahead of his first summit with the new US leader.
In an interview with NBC News, Putin described Biden as a “career man” who has spent his life in politics.
Though he described relations with the United States as having “deteriorated to its lowest point in recent years,” Putin said he expects he can work with Biden.
“It is my great hope that, yes, there are some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will not be any impulse-based movements on behalf of the sitting US president,” he said, according to a translation by NBC News.
“I believe that former US president Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual... He is a colorful individual. You may like him or not. But he didn’t come from the US establishment,” Putin was quoted as saying.
Biden plans to raise a range of US complaints, including over purported Russian election interference and hacking, in the summit with Putin on Wednesday in Geneva at the end of the new president’s first foreign trip.
Putin has openly admitted that in the 2016 vote he supported Trump, who had voiced admiration for the Russian leader. At their first summit, Trump infamously appeared to accept Putin’s denials of election interference.
Biden has said he is under no illusions about Putin and has described him as “a killer” in light of a series of high-profile deaths including of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov.
Asked directly if he is “a killer,” Putin chuckled but did not give a yes or no answer.
“Over my tenure, I’ve gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles and from all kinds of areas under all kinds of pretext and reasons and of different caliber and fierceness, and none of it surprises me,” he said, adding that the term “killer” was a “macho” term common in Hollywood.
Such discourse “is part of US political culture where it’s considered normal. By the way, not here, it is not considered normal here,” he said.
Putin also dismissed as “fake news” a report in the Washington Post that Russia is planning to supply Iran with an advanced satellite system that would allow it to track potential military targets.
“At the very least, I don’t know anything about this kind of thing,” the Russian leader said, speaking from the Kremlin. “It’s just nonsense garbage.”
According to interviewer Keir Simmons, Putin also denied any knowledge of cyberattacks on the United States, and called on Biden to strike a deal with Russia on cyberspace.