On a nondescript road in Dubai, somewhere between the Burj al Arab and Knowledge Village, you’ll find this local Arabic caf sandwiched between a small grocery store and a garden centre. (Oops, I forgot to take a photo!)
Sheikhath Al Arab Cafeteria in Al Sufouh is a pokey, unassuming little place with no indoor seating and just four outdoor tables.
But how can you not swoon over three pages of colourful fruit juices with exotic names like Kuwaiti Cocktail, Expo 2020 and Burj al Arab? Some plain, some adorned with ice cream or fruit, some blended, some layered. (Which only cost between 6 and 12 dirhams!)
Locals sit in their cars and honk their horns to get car hop service so they can enjoy the fresh juices from the comfort of their air-conditioned SUVs. I, on the other hand, prefer the “authenticity” of the table service, and drinking my juice in a nice glass mug in the 100+ degree heat.
On this particular occasion, I started with a plain and simple Sweet Melon juice. I’m sure they add sugar to make this so addictively tasty, but I’m not going to complain.
Next I had a Chick Fantasia, a downmarket take on the quesadilla. Chunks of deep-fried, breaded chicken cutlet, olives, jalapenos, green peppers, tomatoes and a whole lot of cheap cheese in a toasted flour tortilla. Not sure about this dish – let’s just say I won’t be ordering it again.
I finished with the pièce de résistance. In the foreground is the Pantone Special, layered avocado, mango, strawberry juices and banana milk, with carefully suspended mango pieces, as per my request. In the background is the Al Jazeera, layered papaya and mango juices adorned with kiwi slices, jelly, roasted cashews, and a naughty scoop of vanilla ice cream.
The hefty menu spans 12 pages, with several pages dedicated to juices and another several to chicken burgers, wraps, sandwiches and other deep-fried fast foods (such as smiley face fried potato cakes), plus shawarmas and their famous hassan matter – a flat toasted pita filled with shawarma meat, mayonnaise, french fries and lettuce – though it’s worth noting that the shawarma doesn’t start cooking until 5pm.
When you feel like eschewing Dubai’s luxury and pretense, this is the perfect place to go. The juices, divine. The savories, less so. Though I will still be going back for a shawarma.
Shaikhath Al Arab Cafeteria
Al Sufouh Rd
Tel: 04 348 7688
What’s your favourite caf, diner or dive in Dubai?