A restaurant of Persian speaking Afghan at AlMajmaah
Text & Pics by Rehan Asad
(مطعم) Muttam an Arabic term used for the restaurant. The Al Turkistani Bukhari restaurants are commonly seen in Saudi Arabia. Majority of them are own or manage by the Afghans. Its a typical preparation of the rice (Ruz) and the recipe that reached here from the central Asian city “Bukhara” located on the old silk road. It is this historic connection, the rice preparation got its Arabic name, Ruz Bukhari. The Bukhari rice is one of the delicious and familiar rice preparation of Middle East, especially in Gulf countries. Its a preparation of basmati rice and grated carrots cooked in olive oil along with spices like cinnamon sticks, cardamon, and cloves. The crushed Saffron and fried garnish of whole carrots, almonds, pistachios, and raisin also add to its flavor and appearance. The rice has been served with different types of the roasted preparation of chicken and lamb.
Located a hundred meters away from the main Al Rajhi Bank on King Fahad Road, at Al Majmaah, this Muttam Al Turkistani Bukhari is managed by Abdul Ghafoor and his son. The man in his fifties originally belonged to Shehberghan, the capital city of Jowzan province of Afghanistan. Etymologically his home city name is derived from the Sassanian monarch, Shapur. Abdul Ghafoor was fluent in Arabic but hardly able to understand Hindustani/Urdu language. While communicating with him in my broken Arabic, I came to know that Persian was his first language. He told that Pashtun & Uzbek speakers are also present in Shehberghan but his tribe is hundred percent Persian speakers from the centuries. Abdul Ghafoor was dressed in the red shirt and trousers, a uniform for all the Al Turkistani Bukhari managers in Saudi Arabia. The son was dressed in modern attire with black casual shirt & jeans. He communicated in his sluggish Urdu predominated by the accent of his native language.
Abdul Ghafoor told that his son is studying and helps him for managing the restaurant. Other than Arabic and Persian, he is also studying the English language. Both father and son missed the food, culture & weather of their hometown but they are residing here for making the better livelihood of their family. He was satisfied with his business. The cooking team is from Afghanistan and the assistant is from our neighboring country Nepal. As Saudi Arabia has the separate section for bachelors and families. The front section for bachelors have both types of arrangement, the dining tables, and traditional carpets for those who wish to dine on the ground. Behind the main section, there are separate cabins for the family section. Other than grilled chicken, he is also serving several other middle eastern meat preparations such as (Shish tawook), (Shawaya), Camel, and Mutton Kababs (Muqebelat)
From the vegetarian dishes and salads also on the display are cucumber yogurt salads, Hummos ( Chickpeas paste), green salad, Mulokhia (Jews Mallows: an Egyptian vegetarian savory sauce made up of green leaves Molokhia with coriander and mint leaves), and Arabic style of ladyfinger preparation.