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Local Knowledge
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Travel to Dubai

 
 

Al Mallah, Dubai

29 June 2015

Down in Dubai’s old garment district of Satwa, you’ll find that one of the city’s oldest restaurants is still also a favourite.

Al Mallah in Dubai’s old garment district of Satwa has been serving some of the city’s favourite Arabic food for almost three decades. As Adib Abo Faesal gazes out the windows of his 2nd December Street restaurant, bicycles and cars whizz past at a frenetic pace; the Satwa artery is a constant hive of activity and for 28 years Cafetaria Al Mallah has sat at its heart.

Wedged between the World Trade Centre and Dubai’s dry docks, Satwa is home to a diverse community of nationalities and as the manager of Al Mallah for 25 years, the relaxed and jovial Abo Faesal knows most in the district.

The Lebanese restauranteur first worked at Al Mallah when it was just a juice stand. After 28 years the restaurant now dominates one of Satwa’s busiest corners. “It used to be very quiet around here when we first started,” he says.

“2nd December Street in front of our restaurant here used to be only a car park. Many of our staff have been here a long time – 20 years, 15 years, 10 years – we’ve been here so long that our customers are now our friends because they’ve been coming here to eat for so many years. And, we always greet them with a smile, we’re never angry here.”

The Lebanese restaurant is a favourite of visitors and Dubai’s residents alike, many of whom have grown up dining on Al Mallah’s famed fresh juice and breakfast manakeesh, a dough flatbread filled with cheese or spiced with the Arabic herb mixture, Za’atar.

Abo Faesal says the restaurant, which now has four branches across Dubai and Sharjah, evolved over many years. First the juice, followed by shawarma wraps, manakeesh and falafel. The restaurant’s barbecue chicken and mixed grills, and mezze appetisers came later.

His customers are of varied nationalities, from the local community and visiting tourists. Some order delivery or grab a quick take-away sandwich from Al Mallah’s street-side stall, while others prefer an air-conditioned seat indoors or to linger over a meal outside, people watching as the bustle of Satwa’s daily life continues apace.

“We have many visitors coming here to eat our food, from Europe, India, America and Australia…from everywhere. As soon as their plane lands in Dubai, they come to see us,” he says. “They come for good food, at a good price and good service.”

Customers are attracted to the Arabic cafetaria’s fixed menu he thinks, too. Diners come and try a little bit of everything, and with a filling meal setting you back around Dhs30-Dhs40, the prices are also a big draw. But, Abo Faesal says the Lebanese food itself is the main attraction.

“The Lebanese have good kitchens. Lebanese is nice, good, clean and healthy food.”

Cafetaria Al Mallah is open 7am to 3am on 2nd December Street, Satwa.

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