the Souq restaurant that tells the story of Qatar’s first great entrepreneur

the Souq restaurant that tells the story of Qatar’s first great entrepreneur
the Souq restaurant that tells the story of Qatar’s first great entrepreneur

“It is the eye of the owner that makes the cattle fat.” Shams Al Qassabi, 59, is probably unaware of the popular saying, but for almost 20 years she has been following the proverb to the letter at Souq Waqif, in Doha. Always in an abaya and hijab black, she walks from the kitchen to the living room like an omnipresent figure, preparing the traditional breakfast of the Arab country, helping to serve it on the tables and even exchanging a finger of conversation with friends and strangers.

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This is how she runs Shay AlShomous, the first establishment owned by a woman in Soug Waqif, and which has become a culinary pilgrimage site for celebrities, tourists and, above all, Qataris who find the warmth of home cooking in a place with no pretensions of being chic or trendy.

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Created by her based on her childhood experiences with her grandmother, the menu features the balaleet as one of its flagships, one of the most requested at breakfast – or whatever time you want since the restaurant opens before 8 am and closes at 10 pm almost every day. . It is vermicelli (a type of pasta) sweetened with sugar and seasoned with spices served with an omelette or scrambled eggs on top.

Without speaking English, he welcomes everyone with the same diligence. Sympathy needs no translation. He relies on his daughter Eman, one of five children, to act as interpreter. But a few words are enough to leave there grateful and with a photo next to the owner.

Who knows, maybe you’ll end up on one of the walls alongside stars like David Beckham, Pirlo (the country’s poster boy) and Kaká. Or from public authorities, such as Emir Tamin bin Hamad Al-Thani, or from his mother Xeika Mozah, who has personally visited the restaurant and was one of the encouragers for Al Qassabi to carry out the business that does not stop growing.

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Perhaps she will have to expand the site, which gained a prime location within the Souq in 2014, at the request of the Qatari government itself, to house all the photos. Today there are more than 250 chairs, after having opened with about 10. Al Qassabi raises the country’s name in the region and abroad and has already received some entrepreneurship awards for this. They are all there in plain sight as a source of pride.

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In every interview, she repeats the mantra taught her by her father, who also had a business at the Souq: “A merchant has to start from scratch.” And so she did.

Without any savings, in 2001, she was invited to participate in an entrepreneurship fair for women to show their domestic skills. She took advantage of the lemons from her backyard, made preserves, sold them in the neighborhood and raised 500 rials (R$ 750).

Enough to make pots of typical Arab spices, which are now made in a small factory and sold to hotels and neighboring countries, and raise 32,000 rials in 10 days (R$ 48,000).

Since then, it has not stopped growing. She opened a little spice shop in one of the rooms of the house while she finished raising her five children. With fame in the region, she decided to rent a space in the Souq, which would open in 2004. She was quickly accepted, despite the place being a male-dominated environment.

The traditional family did not look kindly on the mother leaving home to work. But, little by little, the success of its flavors conquered the most conservative relatives. And it conquered more space in the Souq until it became the current restaurant.

– Shkran (Thank you) – she says, in thanks for coming.

The article is in Portuguese

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