Al Mukhtar, the oldest bakery in the UAE, has been serving customers for over 40 years

Al Mukhtar, the oldest bakery in the UAE, has been serving customers for over 40 years

Manakish, sausage roll, éclair and samoon bread… spreading the joy of good baking

Have you been to the UAE’s oldest Lebanese bakery? Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Step into Al Mukhtar Bakery on Al Ittihad road in Sharjah, and you will be welcomed with kind smiles, unwavering hospitality, and the aroma of freshly baked Arabic bread. Having perfected the art of making bread for over 41 years, this is UAE’s oldest bakery and is the go-to haunt for those who are looking to grab a quick bite at the break of dawn or late into the night.

Perhaps it is the warm cheese or zesty zaatar in the first bite of a Manakish (a popular Middle Eastern flatbread with various toppings), the hot sausage roll, the steaming brew of black coffee, or the aroma of freshly made Arabic desserts that draws in hundreds of customers each day from 6am to 5am the next day. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, the bakery is home to many who are looking for quality food at reasonable prices – and it’s all thanks to the dreams of a Lebanese expatriate named Ahmad Hoteit.

Building dreams in brick and mortar

Ahmad Hoteit, the owner of the UAE's oldest Lebanese bakery Image Credit: Supplied

Twenty-two-year-old Hoteit, who worked in his older brother's bakery in Lebanon, had come to the UAE during the 1970s, in search of better prospects. On arrival, he bought his own truck and used it for his daily commute from Sharjah to Abu Dhabi. His job put food on the table but the heart yearned for the creative satisfaction of being a baker.

After a few years of driving a truck, he realised that his hands much rather be kneading flour than steer a wheel. He decided to pursue his heart and set up a small bakery in 1981, Sharjah Industrial Area, with just one item on the menu – Arabic bread.

Hoteit’s bakery was the first of its kind in the UAE and while the country was still fresh to the idea of buying bread rather than making it at home, their customers eventually wanted more Lebanese food items on the menu. Gradually, they introduced the samoon (yeast bread) followed by manakish.

Al Mukhtar Bakery in Sharjah Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

He didn’t have a lot of investment initially to hire a big team. So, he roped in his brothers and other family members to help him with the business and cater to his customers. The bakery functioned with a 30-member staff in the beginning. However, as its popularity grew, he hired more bakers and brought in technology.

Today, there are 160 employees in total and the bakery is run by Hoteit’s 37-year-old daughter Mariam and her brothers, while a 74-year-old Hoteit has retired back home to Lebanon after 34 years.

Mariam Hoteit, the owner of Al Mukhtar Bakery and Ahmed Hoteit's daughter Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

“Dad actually started out on his own – a time when they manually made the bread. It became a family business later and, and eventually we expanded when we grew popular. We started hiring people as well, as our menu got updated – when a new butcher came to town, we hired him and that’s how we have the meat dishes on our menu and more.

“When we began, it was actually very simple, you know. I remember him [dad] telling me that even while choosing the name, they [officials] asked him to put three names for the bakery and they would choose one of them. He just penned down ‘Al Mukhtar’ and two other names, and they approved it instantly,” explained Mariam.

Al Mukhtar translates to ‘the chief of the town’ in Lebanese. The first branch, in the Industrial Area of Sharjah was closed in 2007, because the business had grown and the bakery needed a larger space. They opened two bigger establishments with a 24-hour service, one near Ansar Mall in Sharjah and the other in Ajman.

The cheese manakish is one of the most-bought dishes at the bakery Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Despite the move, the bakery’s customers remain loyal; some even travelling every day from Dubai to enjoy a cup of black tea and cheese manakish.

The love and loyalty for Al Mukhtar Bakery

Thirty-five-year-old Farah Badawe and 41-year-old Mohamad Tariq, from Syria and Egypt respectively, are two customers at Al Mukhtar Bakery who make it a point to come every month for a bite or two. “We have come here for the past 16 years. Al Mukhtar has always been a go-to place for us – whether it is on our way, or if we are bringing our friends over – we are always here. We come from Dubai, and we don’t mind the drive. It’s fresh food, generously added ingredients and it is popular, of course. We only wish it opens in Dubai soon.”

Another customer is 34-year-old Rania Ahmed Elwakkad from Egypt, who is reminded of her father and Eid, every time she sits for a meal at Al Mukhtar Bakery. “I am born and brought up in the UAE, and my father and I used to come here all the time, especially during Eid. It’s been 20 years now since I’ve been coming here from Dubai, with my kids now. We come here four times a month and it’s purely because they have maintained quality without changing what they are known for. They’ve added a lot of new things, but I keep my memories alive by always ordering the Manakish.”

For 37-year-old Lebanese expatriate Issa Makki, Al Mukhtar is the one-stop bakery that reminds him of home. “It’s one of the best bakeries in town. I’ve been coming here for the past 10 years and that’s primarily because they serve authentic Lebanese manakish that you would find back home. In fact, it’s actually better than some of the places in Lebanon itself. I love the Manakish with cheese and meat. I work in insurance in Dubai, however, I make it a point to drop by every time I’m on my way to Sharjah, no matter what.”

The bakery is open 24 hours Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

“When we operated opposite the The International School of Choueifat in Sharjah, a lot of the students over there would be regulars at the bakery. Now, after so many years, they have left, but they do visit us from time to time at our other branches,” said Mariam.

No challenge is ever a challenge

The pandemic did affect the customer flow at the bakery. However, they managed to do well despite the challenges by ensuring all safety protocols were in place. “We kept our shop open after getting permission, and we continued to work. We made sure our products retained its quality, especially because we supply to certain restaurants on a regular basis,” said Mariam.

With many people approaching the bakery with requests to open in Dubai, Al Mukhtar aims to set up a branch in the Emirate this year, either before or after Ramadan and Eid.

Share your food stories and recipes with us on

More From Food

This website stores cookies on your computer. These cookies are used to improve your experience and provide more personalized service to you. Both on your website and other media. To find out more about the cookies and data we use, please check out our Privacy Policy.