Very early every morning, Salma al Saqri, or popularly known to everyone as Um Suhail heads out to an establishment of which the inside decoration reminds one of an Omani traditional home. She usually leaves very late tired of making all the preparations for the restaurant but she does it everyday happy. All the little trinkets hanging on the walls were selected by Um Suhail herself and they spoke volume about a proud heritage and tradition.
Opened in October of 2017, the restaurant was a massive success. It’s opening, which she decided to be a free buffet for females, was attended by all traditional food lovers in the area. Police had to be brought in to man the roads as there was a massive traffic build up.
“It was the most pleasurable day in my life ever. Imagine everyone was flocking to try my food. I decided to have a free buffet for ladies to show them that women are also capable of doing everything,” she said. Although opened several months back, Nizwa AlKhair Restaurant continues to enjoy popularity to this day. It is a rustic place with the ambition of bringing food lovers together in an environment uniquely Arabic and the food, traditionally delicious. Um Suhail has been running the restaurant with the help of his partner Saud Bin Nasser Al Jamoodi. They used to work for different restaurants specialising in different cuisines but the relationship was fostered by the fact that Saud’s restaurant has always enjoyed the dishes prepared by Um Suhail.
Working previously for someone else’s restaurant, Um Suhail shared, “I will never be able to describe how much I struggled during that time. All of my female co-workers have stopped after one month. It’s definitely not easy to work in such a setting so, after six months, I decided to stop.”
Launching her own restaurant was very difficult in the beginning but with the help of Saud who looked upon the material needs and the needed boost, the restaurant was eventually put into its best shape.
Um Suhail shared that to her, if there is any person who can cook Omani traditional food best, it’s an Omani woman. Although she understands that foreigners can also cook it, she believes that getting the right taste not only depends on the experience but the cultural context as well.
She wanted to offer authentic Omani food which is why she made sure that the majority if not all of her staff are Omani.
Explaining the concept and design, Um Suhail explained that it was all her idea. She wanted to stick to a traditional theme that would complement the types of food being served.
But Um Suhail is aware that there will be people who not be accustomed to Omani food so she is open to adding some foreign food on the menu to provide non-Omani eaters different options. She explained that this is also a realistic way of running the business but emphasised that the heart of the restaurant is its Omani roots.
Sumaiya, a waitress in the restaurant, shared that she enjoys serving food to people and is looking forward to learning cook Omani food. They are also opening their kitchen to their guests. If they are interested to see how the food is prepared, they can be granted access to the kitchen to witness the behind-the-scenes in person.
Marwa who already visited the restaurant and tried the food said that she found the selection delicious. She wishes however that the restaurant will have an even bigger place so more people could come to enjoy it.
OMAIMA AL KINDI & SAIF BIN ZAHER