I’ve been longing to have a hearty aroma-infused home-made meal for as long as I can remember. What I didn’t know or expect, was that my long-awaited meal would present itself through a total stranger I had met on the street!
I had posted earlier about a girl around my age who I met at the bus stop while we were both trying to get to the nearby mall. She was on a journey very similar to mine. She was also trying very hard to find a job in this city. It’s as if the Universe had brought us together since we were both working towards the same goal, fighting the same obstacles and coming from matching cultural backgrounds and societies.
We had only met twice (including the brief encounter at the bus stop and walk to the mall) before my new warm-hearted friend had invited me for lunch to the house where she was staying as a guest during her job hunting period. Since I am a novice cook who can make simple dishes that don’t necessarily have a distinctive taste, and since I live alone in a city where loneliness is a feeling that you must adopt to if you want to survive….I immediately accepted the invitation with joy and excitement to spend quality time with my new friend and her relatives, and to finally get to eat a proper home-made meal for a change.
The destination was Deira…Palm Deira I was told. For some reason, I imagined it to be an island surrounded by water from all sides. Something like the Palm Jumeirah…But instead, we were walking down the streets of Deira souq and the ever-popular Naif market. These streets, occupied by mostly men, and full of shops with their merchandise displayed on the pavements, reminded me of downtown Khobar…the city where I am from. The scene where the men were coming out of the local mosque couldn’t emphasize the point any more. It was Friday after all!
My incredibly generous hosts were from Pakistan. Therefore, our main course was a traditional chicken Beryani, served with a refreshing bowl of Raita (yogurt mixed with cucumbers and tomatoes)…if that wasn’t enough to fill a big appetite, a small plate of roasted camel meat along with Dhal and Sag was too good to be neglected. As with Arabic fare, different types of pickled vegetables are an essential addition to a wholesome meal. Complementing our delightful feast was a mango chutney known as Achar, which ironically is an Arabic word used to describe pickles too. The Achar was so appetizing not only did it taste wonderful, it also made you want to eat more…A perfectly made custard sprinkled with saffron was the best way to end our beautiful traditional Pakistani lunch.
As we headed towards the metro station to take a ride back into the modern, Western-influenced part of Dubai, a large sign that warned people from “carrying fish on the metro” was truly amusing! My friend said she had witnessed people carrying big bags of what might have been fresh fish bought from the nearby famous Deira fish market. As odd as the instruction may sound, apparently there was a valid reason to put it up in large fonts.
As much as I love the contemporary, cosmopolitan and modern-day Dubai, the old and traditional corners portray the real face of the region, as well as the lives and culture of its people…a face that never seizes to impress anyone who visits this place; whether a tourist, a local or a resident expat.