Thursday, 17 July 2008

Costly but still cheap shawarma nights

This is the original version of the story I filed at XPRESS.

By Ares P. Gutierrez

Dubai: Shawarma nights in Dubai may not cost you an arm and a leg, but residents and visitors are now forking over a few more dirhams to indulge their gustatory craving for an authentic yet inexpensive Arabian meal.

Restaurants and cafeterias from bustling Bur Dubai to the bedraggled streets of Satwa have jacked up the price of shawarmas to compensate for the relative spike in prices of commodities.

A random sampling of eateries in the neighbouring districts show that the average price of a chicken or beef shawarma has increased by one dirham – from Dh3 to Dh4 – with some establishments twice adjusting their prices in the first six months of the year.

At Picnic Home off a busy corner near the Bank Street Roundabout in Bur Dubai, a hot piece of shawarma can be had for Dh4.50. Paired with a can of soda, diners are set back by Dh6.

Janet, a food server at the joint, said they used to sell shawarmas for Dh3 apiece, but had to jack up the price to Dh4 at the start of year, and topped it up with 50 fils by mid-year.

Shyrel Iligan, who waits tables at Sabah Lebnan restaurant along Al Musallah Road, said they now sell shawarmas for Dh4 or 50 fils more than their year-ago prices.

“It’s not just the price of shawarmas. We had to reduce the size of our manakesh and fruit beverages to cope with rising costs,” she said as she lists down the prices of chicken and cooking gas as the ones that weighed heavily on the restaurant’s operating costs.

Abdul Aziz, who mans the cash counter at Hot Burger Restaurant along Bank Street in Bur Dubai and Narshad of Al Khayel Cafeteria in Satwa agrees with Shyrel.

“We used to get a kilo of chicken for just Dh8. Since last week, a kilo costs Dh18,” said Abdul Aziz.

Customers milling around the front of Al Khayel Cafeteria, opposite the Satwa Bus Station, gaze at an A4-size sign announcing the new shawarma prices at Dh3.50.

“Chicken and beef (prices continue to go) higher and higher,” Narshad said.
But in spite of the price hike, shawarma joints still enjoy brisk sales.

“At the end of each day, nothing is left. All sold out,” said Shyrel as she points at the stack of chicken slowly roasting on the revolving metal oven. A log of beef or chicken could make over 300 servings of shawarma, she said.

Henry Casas, a signal man at a Japanese construction company, said he doesn’t mind if his favourite Arabian delight now costs more.

“I’m already too tired to prepare dinner so for me, a shawarma is the cheapest and fastest meal in town,” he said.

Ariel Gesta, a steward at Fairmont Hotel, said eating shawarmas is a way of life in Dubai.

“You’re not in the Middle East if you don’t eat and enjoy shawarmas.”

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