Watch: Have you been to the new Farmer’s Market in Dubai for delicious Emirati food and fresh produce?

Watch: Have you been to the new Farmer’s Market in Dubai for delicious Emirati food and fresh produce?

Emiratis talk about their stalls and why it’s a great way to do your food shopping

Watch: Eat luqaimat, regag and more at Farmer’s Souq Video Credit: Sharon Benjamin/Gulf News

Mohammed Basheer, 27, is an aeronautical engineer by qualification. However, the young Emirati decided to establish roots instead of chasing clouds, all because he believed the future is green. So, he took up farming as a profession.

For 35-year-old Kousar Ameen, her passion for all things food is what fuels her to sit down, fry luqaimat – a traditional, Emirati dish made with fermented dough, drizzled with date syrup and sprinkled with sesame seeds – and serve it hot to every customer.

Jamal, 34, and Nargis Al Shamar, 29, spent their summer days as children, eating raw mangoes with Emirati spices. It was this memory that helped them set up shop to sell the same experience to customers, today.

All of these ideas, beliefs and passions are what you will come across when you visit the Farmer’s Souq at Al Nakheel Park in Al Aweer, Dubai.

Visiting the Farmer’s Souq

Farmer's Souq in Nakheel Park, Al Aweer, Dubai Image Credit: Sharon Benjamin/Gulf News

A quick stroll through the Souq will tell you that no two stalls are the same. Lined with different hues of colour, each stall is a product of the effort, sweat and tears a farmer has put into cultivating organic and fresh yields.

Hosted by Dubai Municipality, the market is a free, social platform that enables Emirati farmers to display and sell their products at the venue. The Food team spoke to Ahmed Ibrahim Al Zarouni, Director of Public Parks and Recreational Facilities Department, Dubai Municipality, who said: “Our goal was to encourage and support Emirati farmers as well as promote local business. However, the goals are twofold. One, it is for everyone to become more aware of the diversity of local agricultural practices and gain more confidence in local farming. And two, to increase the happiness of citizens and residents in Dubai.”

Brought in fresh from the farm, local farmers are keen on promoting a deeper message than just selling their products. For Mohammed Basheer, his decision of giving up aeronautical engineering was mainly because he wanted to keep up the UAE’s farming culture and encourage many to consider opting for a path like his. After all, it did reap benefits. “I’ve been doing this for two years now. I grew up on a farm and after studying for quite a long time, I decided that I did not want to be in the company of tools and mechanics – I just wanted to go back to my farm and start afresh. So I did, I set up my farm in Ras Al Khaimah and today I’m selling herbs, vegetables, dairy and even food made out of the fruits from my farm, so that everyone can taste a bit of my happiness in their own homes.”

Look no further and find fresh vegetables at the souq Image Credit: Sharon Benjamin/Gulf News

Rashed Al Ketbi’s 25 years of being in business taught him one thing – people will always choose a greener path one way or another. It was in 2008 when he decided to opt for organic farming and ever since then there was no going back for the 41-year-old. “I’ve only found success opting for organic farming. People love ‘fresh out of the farm’ products, especially because quality is never questioned. I feel social media is also a powerful platform and can work wonders for you when you plan your goals. I did so myself, and I can tell you many have asked for my products. The Souq here is a boost to my goals of achieving better results for my farm.”

The same goes for Abdul Al Owais, who has been running a farm of his own for 16 years; for 40-year-old Mohammed Noor, who travels all the way from Umm Al Quwain to sell his farm’s produce, and even for 29-year-old Samar Muhammed Abdi, who came from Liwa in Abu Dhabi.

But why is the souq in Al Aweer? And how is linked to the existing Al Aweer Market?

"Since the souq is focused on the farming sector, Al Aweer is known for the number of farms there. Hence, it is a strategic place for the participants to transform their materials and greenery. The link, however, to the Al Aweer Market is that it [the souq] is allocated for fresh fruits and vegetables with affordable prices, and it will attract the target customer to have a look and see other options in the souq," explained Ahmed Ibrahim Al Zarouni, Director of Public Parks and Recreational Facilities Department, Dubai Municipality.

Serving traditions on a plate

Dates covered in grated coconut for small bites Image Credit: Sharon Benjamin/Gulf News

Food is at the core of the market, the very food that is not at the hands of many farmers globally today. By participating in the Farmer’s Souq, a healthy competitive spirit among the farmers is fostered, so that customers get the best products at the best price.

One of the other things that make the Souq unique is that you can taste a portion of UAE’s vast food culture. In a small corner, Kousar Ameen and her sister run a stall where customers can relish luqaimat, regag, pakoras, harees and Karak chai, served fresh and hot. “We have been doing this for quite some time now. We live in Ajman and I have always been driven by my passion to cook food. Over the years, I have learnt something new and I incorporate it into my cooking. The farmer’s market has provided us with an outlet to prove that even women can run a business if they put their mind into it and we all have the equal right to showcase our talents, no matter what.”

Arabic ground coffee, anyone? Image Credit: Sharon Benjamin/Gulf News

Like Ameen, 34-year-old Mira Al Asli sells henna, cow ghee or clarified butter, olive oil and frankincense – which were a key part of her childhood. This is a dream that took years of trial and testing. She used the very same concept of ‘everyday use’ and transformed it to sell something homemade.

Yet again, the same goes for other Emiratis such as Mariam Al Nadi, who sells homemade pickles, laban and a few other dishes that has stayed with her since her childhood; and for 40-year-old Osama Halawa, who sells jars of labneh and drives down to Dubai from Al Ain regularly.

Preserving culture, traditions and hospitality

Sultan Syed and Khalid Muhammed will give you a taste of traditional Sidr and Samar honey Image Credit: Sharon Benjamin/Gulf News

The UAE has always stayed true to its culture and traditions – be it through customs or food. Visitors at the Farmer’s Souq will be able to experience Emirati culture, traditions and hospitality on a small yet notable scale.

The Food team visited 22-year-old Sultan Syed and his friend 30-year-old Khalid Muhammed’s stall. Their key products are Sidr and Samar honey. Hailing from Al Ain, the friends talk about their five-year journey to run a full-time business selling honey. “We wanted to bring in a product that would preserve our culture and also be tasty – so we came up with honey! You can never run out of it, it is healthy and it always makes people smile no matter how sweet it is. We have two kinds – Sidr and Samar honey, both from trees with the same names.”

Jamal and Nargis Al Shamar Image Credit: Sharon Benjamin/Gulf News

We also asked Jamal and Nargis Al Shamar why they chose Hamba mangoes to be the core of their business. “We grew up eating this and we noticed that this tradition was slowly fading away with time. We didn’t want to see it go away, which is why we decided to bring it back up ourselves. We spent a lot of time researching the sour liquids, the spices, the mangoes, everything so that we could give everyone the same feeling we experienced when we first ate it.

Take a bite of your childhood with hamba Image Credit: Sharon Benjamin/Gulf News

“It has been challenging, especially because mangoes are seasonal, but I can say our research has helped us make the business better. We know that because we see people eat it with such happiness and enthusiasm. It has been two years and nine months since we began… we first started at home and now we are here, we are in Global Village, Winter Garden at Al Habtoor… we just want to tell everyone about Hamba. We also serve pineapples, guava, laban ice popsicles and lemon-mint juice.”

Getting to the Farmer's Souq

The souq is part of an initiative by Dubai Municipality and will be open to visitors (free of cost), until March 2022 Image Credit: Sharon Benjamin/Gulf News

If you are driving, the easiest way to get there is by Emirates Road. If you are commuting via Dubai Metro, you can get down at the Rashidiya station and take the 11A or 11B RTA bus, which takes you directly to the location. It should take you about 50 minutes to an hour to reach the location.

Eat from the Koshari food stall while you are there! Image Credit: Sharon Benjamin/Gulf News

The Souq has 34 kiosks featuring organic produce and opens every Friday from 4 to 9pm. It will run until March 2022. Visitors can enter the park free of cost.

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