Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Downtown for something different...

I should have taken my camera. [Wouldn't have mattered much, though, since I can't get the printer to work to upload pictures right now.]

Had a few errands to do. Paint. When have I gone downtown and NOT needed paint? I am done with Jotun's though. There is a shop right next door to Jotun's called Red Sea and they sell the same paint and they are much more willing to be of assistance and help. Don't get me wrong - the young men that are imported at Jotun's are very willing to be of assistance and help. When I returned the paint-card samples yesterday - I had a catalog which I paid SR100 to "borrow," and because I don't need a catalog of paint sample colors I wanted the SR100 I paid as a deposit for it returned to me - the two young men working there were both surprised that I didn't need paint. Nope, no paint for me today. Yes. I still need paint. I just couldn't be bothered with it, yesterday. Had other errands to attend to.

A friend was with me. We needed to go to the "Everything for SR2, 5, 10" store. Like a Dollar Store. I had ONE specific item I needed there that I am carrying back as gifts for friends in the States over the Holidays. [You KNOW you're in for a real treat when a friend gets you a gift at the "Everything for SR2, 5, 10" store! Hey, it's the thought that counts, right?] We needed to go to the kitchen store. [We have the most magnificent kitchen stores you can even imagine!] We needed to go to the curtain store. We needed to go to Kika. And while we were at Kika - which is at The Mall of Dhahran - I HAD to go to our new Gap and Banana Republic. There is even a New York and Company there. Awesome. It could be almost normal if there were dressing rooms [not allowed in this part of the world and probably you wouldn't want them to be]. When they open a J. Crew I'll be all set!!! [And a HomeDepot!]

We did all that in less than an hour and a half and then headed to the grocery store - Farm Fare or Farm Five - in Doha - which is on the way home. The friend with me said, "Oooh have you ever had the cheese bread there?" as she pointed to a little shop around the corner of the grocery store. Nope. I haven't. I asked if it was the same as the cheese bread that everyone goes downtown for and she said yes, but better. Okay. I'll try it. So we ran into the grocery store - I was buying cigars for DH - that's all I needed there and afterward we walked around the corner to this little "open air" shop that had three men working there in a teeny, tiny confined area. There is probably some sort of metal gate that comes down on the front of the shop to close it, but I didn't check it out carefully enough to know for sure. As I am watching the men work their bread dough I am also watching the flies land on the counters and giving the place the "once over" to think to myself, "It has been a long time since the place has seen a bucket and a mop and sponge and some Lysol." [If the place has EVER seen a bucket and a mop and sponge and some Lysol...]

We ordered cheese bread. And I watched as one of the men took a good sized piece of dough and put a HUGE handful [like two cups!] of grated cheese in the dough and then stretched the dough around the cheese and closed it up. The dough - with the cheese - the MOUND of cheese - in the center got rolled out to a six or eight inch sized disc - and then hand-tossed into the size of a medium pizza. This all happened with just a few flicks of the wrist. The dough was then thrown - yes - thrown into the oven. A big round stone oven. [The oven took up most of the space in the little shop!] The dough does not cook on the flat bottom of the oven like you might imagine. It is thrown onto the sides of the oven and actually conforms to the shapes of the rocks. All very, very interesting. This needs pictures to show the detail. I have no doubt that the men working there would have been happy to accommodate me if I would have had my camera. I WILL get the pictures of this that YOU need to see. In a matter of minutes one of the men grabbed the cooked bread out of the oven with a pair of three or four foot long tongs and voila - cheese bread. There were other breads that we could have ordered - the sign is in Arabic - no English - but I did see the zatar [a mix of herbs that is very tasty and supposedly quite good for you] being used on an order for bread - and there was some sort of lentil paste which was being scooped into cups to which chili and spice and oil was added for a dipping sauce [I passed on the sauce - I am just not quite that "exotic," but my friend had the sauce and said it was the best part of the bread]. The bread comes out of the oven and it is HUGE - bigger than a large pizza. And, again, with just a couple quick flicks of his wrist one of the men cut it in half, then folded it and cut it in half again, and then once more. You end up with pie-shaped pieces of warm flat bread that has melted cheese in the middle of it.

The warm, cut bread was put into a "grocery" bag and we carried it home in our cab. Just the smell of it makes you hungry. But I couldn't possibly grab a piece to eat in the car because I needed a "wipe" or to wash my hands, having touched so many different doors and touched money. I am "weird" that way. Think of Monk. I wash my hands a gazillion times a day. And I don't touch food unless I have either washed my hands or used a wipe if I can't wash my hands. After seeing the little shop and thinking about the conditions which looked so unsanitary I wondered if I was going to be able to eat the bread. I did. It was absolutely DELICIOUS!

I pondered afterward how these men - all three of them - could work in such a confined space. But more, I wondered how they do it in the summer when it is 120 degrees here every single day and the little shop is open to the air on one side [I don't recall seeing an air conditioner] and how they can even stand the heat with the big stone oven throwing off as much as it does. The bread cost SR3 per piece - that is EIGHTY CENTS! - and one piece could easily feed two or three people. We each ordered a slice - not knowing that it was going to be so big - but I had enough to share with my Gardener and my Kids! I fed two adults and two good-sized Kids for EIGHTY CENTS!!! Oh, yes. I'll go back there. Mostly because the bread was soooo good! But also because these and the things I need to take the pictures of to have to show my grandchildren some day. [Son, are you reading this? I'm counting on you!]


  1. Ive always wondered how those oven or kiln workers managed to stand there and take that heat in the midsummer without just keeling over....but then in the winter Im rather jealous that they can stand there half naked in the winter all toasty and baked.

  2. you're as bad as me wishing for grandchildren!!!


  3. Only those of us that live over here Coolred38 can appreciate the heat in the summer and how difficult it must be to work in one of these little food shops [how 'bout the Schwarma guys?!?]. And only those of us that live here and have acclimated to the cold can appreciate the heat the guys who work in these food shops enjoy. You and I will get NO sympathy for the cold from Gill, that's for sure!

  4. I want to be young enough to enjoy 'em, Gill. DS doesn't seem to quite understand that. Talk about selfish!


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