All I’ve done is eat, chat and watch people smoke shisha

Seriously. It’s a good thing I’ve put my body hang-ups on hold, bc this trip is easily shaping up to be a 10-pounder.

I was going to write about how yesterday I spent 7 hours in the same restaurant, first having brunch with my godmother’s niece and then having coffee with a girl from my aborted MechEng studies. That is a post that will still happen, but a new story has superseded it – coming to you live!

On my first day in Dubai, IronSweetie took me out for lunch at Dynamo’s favorite restaurant: Al Hallab in Dubai mall. The food there; oh my!!! Lebanese and Syrian and delicious. The staff was darling too. I ate till I would burst. (That didn’t stop Bossman from insisting I eat an elaborate supper a few hours later…) I think it took me 36 hours to digest it. I was definitely still digesting the meal while at the beach the next day.

Today, I treated myself to an exhausting day of sunshine-filled blogging at a café and a little shopping. Of course, that level exertion stimulated my appetite. I needed to find a place to eat lunch. What better place than at Al Hallab?

The staff welcomes me – a woman eating alone, a white one in an Arabic restaurant at that, is unusual. They gave me a lovely spot on the balcony with a perfect view of the Burj Khalifa. 

This time, I opt to not take the table d’hôte: the dance festival starts tonight, gotta have enough blood to stay awake, can’t be digesting a soup and main and dessert! I order a Syrian dish of spinach with beef meatballs, accompanied by rice. Sensible. 

The usual pita basket and olives arrives. Yummy. But wait! What’s this? A waiter brings me a platter of tomatoes, covered in dollops of sauce and paprika. Compliments of the restaurant. Well then. It would be rude not to try.


A few moments later, the manager visits my table to welcome me, and ask how I’d heard of his restaurant. You can imagine his delight when I tell him of Dynamo’s overseas recommendation. The manager wishes me a pleasant visit.

I’m still working through my first piece of bonus-tomato, when my main dish arrives. Please note that all this food is for ONE person. Me.

Intimidated by the quantities I might be, but my mama didn’t raise a quitter. I begin my spinach dish. SO GOOD. But then! The manager appears with a dish of hummus and pleads me to try it. Please. A 2nd pita basket materializes because obviously for hummus to be properly enjoyed, it should be consumed with baked pita.

Photographic evidence of the multiplying dishes:

A waiter notices my attempts at documenting this magical phenomenon, and kindly offers to take over as photographer, thereby sparing me the embarrassment of attempting a selfie.

We are all agreed that if we piled up all the food on that table, it would be almost as tall as the Burj Khalifa?

I do my best to make inroads into that mountain of food. I fail. As my stomach is running out of space, poof! A mint smoothie materializes.

At this point I am embarrassed by this generosity. The manager comes by, I am profuse in my thanks, and all he replies is that he is glad I’ve enjoyed it, and he hopes I have a good time in Dubai.

If you think I got off without dessert, y’all clearly underestimated this story.

I might die from competing food babies.

Here’s the thing.

This isn’t just a story about a nice restaurant manager spoiling a visitor. As I sit on the terrace eating that lovely Arabic food, listening to lovely Arabic music, my heart is bursting with happiness. Dubai, for all its cosmopolitan flair, remains a Muslim city in an Arab country. Yet I, a white fake-blond woman, am welcomed. As I’ve always been welcomed by the Arabs I’ve met in Montreal, Beirut and here. Yes, I’ve met some jackasses along the way, but for the most part, Arabs (whether Muslim or not) have always lived up to the legendary hospitality and generosity for which they are renown. All it takes is an inquiring mind to see past some of the superficial differences.

It’s experiences like these that make me hope that all the hateful Western rhetoric against Arabs & Muslims will not succeed. How can it, when compared to individual experiences of tolerance and generosity such as the one I witnessed today?





  1. What a great experience! If only more people interacted with those “different” from them. We have more similarities than we think.

    That food is impressive.Do doggy bags exist there?

    I love spending hours at a cafe and receiving different friends in succession. 7 hours– nice!

    Liked by 2 people

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