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Pakistan

January 17, 2019

Pakistanis opening Arabic, shisha cafes in UK

Pakistan

Thu, Jan 17, 2019

LONDON: Lots of Pakistani restaurateurs have turned to establishing Arabic food and shisha places, preferring Arab food over South Asian food.

Shisha cafes and restaurants selling Turkish and Arabic food are replacing the joints selling traditionally selling Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani food. One of the reasons behind this trend is rising awareness about health in Britain where efforts at all levels have gone up encouraging people to adopt healthy lifestyles. South Asian food is seen as full of cholesterol and its ingredients are seen as bad for health. On the other hand, Turkish and Arabic food is growing in popularity because it’s grilled, les spicy and less oily.

Pakistani businessman Sajid Khan has opened up a shisha place in Ilford where Lebanese cuisine is sold and the venue is already popular locally. Based in East London, home to thousands of South Asian, the place is frequented by lots of Asian youth and families. “I decided to open a place to serve Lebanese food after a lot of hard work and surveys. Shisha places are loved by an increasing number of people who find it relaxing to sit down while enjoying shisha. We saw our forefathers smoking Huqqa in villages in Pakistan and now the same Huqqa has become shisha. The only difference is its less harmful and doesn’t damage health in the way Huqqa did. The Shisha we serve is health friendly and non-addictive. We are very popular mainly because of huqqa,” said Sajid Khan.

His restaurant called Al Khayma is divided into three Arabic-themed parts: the ground floor is the main food hall, fronted by the Shisha café where two dozen seats are placed in traditional Arabic style and the first floor hall where small tents (khymas) have been made.

“The purpose of having these small khaymas is to provide privacy to the families and anyone who wants to have private dinner. These are exclusive Arabic settings and the whole aura is Arab-themed. You find these kind of places in Middle Eastern countries. There is demand for such places and when I did a survey before starting this project the locals appreciated that there should be privacy for the diners. We also do weddings and birthday parties and book the whole first floor khayma part for families,” said Sajid Khan.

He said that under 19s are not allowed to enter the Shisha area and hoodies, tracksuits and beanies are not permitted in accordance with the restaurant’s dress code. “We want everyone to come to shisha lounge and relax with expertly-made cocktails and some of the most unique and inventive shisha flavours in the city.”

Sajid Khan said that Pakistani and Asian food is not popular in the way it used to be as health consciousness is growing and more people prefer to eat grilled and less oily food. “Up and down the country, grilled food is gaining popularity although it’s a bit more expensive than the Asian food but people are ready to pay more for a better lifestyle.”