qatar bakery pita bread

Our daily bread in Doha

by Michael on March 6, 2012

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From Michael in Doha, Qatar ~ Regular readers of this blog know about my carb fetish. It probably stems from when I was a little boy and my Sicilian grandfather owned a bread bakery on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. Since then the smell of baking bread will send me on a Pavlovian hunt seeking its source.

Middle East flatbread

Is there a better sight when traveling than a bakery?

Today we were walking down a street in Doha, Qatar. I stuck my nose into the wind whipping off the Persian Gulf and detected the familiar aroma of pita bread baking. Added to it was the aromatic smell of a wood being burned in a brick oven. We followed the scent wafting over us to the Al Raas Bakery. A scrum of men standing eagerly outside an open window told us there were delights waiting for us inside.

Arab flatbread pita

This stack of flatbreads right from the oven costs less than a dollar.

Every few minutes a stack of fresh flatbreads would appear on the window ledge. A man would hand over some rials, shove the bread into the plastic bag be had brought along and walk away. In typical bread-lover fashion they would tear off a piece to sample it as they ambled down the street.

Pita bread

Michael in his "happy place."

I eased my way into the crowd but my attempts to look like a local failed. However the other men, knowing we had something in common more important than appearance or nationality, welcomed me into their inner circle.

My grandfather taught me that bread making is all about rhythm: the way you slap the dough, knead it and shape it for baking is an art as much as any painter or musician. I watched the men inside the stifling bakery work through their routine with the skills of a rock band on tour.

Arab flatbread

The artists at work in front of the orange glow from the woodburning brick oven.

One man poked the wood to stoke the embers and generate more heat. The bread maker flipped the dough back and forth in his hands before smacking it onto a round mold to create its distinctive shape. The baker slid the mold into the oven and deftly tipped it so the dough hit the sizzling hot brick.

Flatbread like this is ready in about a minute. Each eager customer already had the money in his hand. One riyal for five loaves, about a nickel apiece.

Arab flatbread

In a generous gesture, this man insisted I go first.

Typical of the Muslim hospitality we have experienced throughout our stay in the Middle East, the man wearing the red-and-white ghitra headcovering in the photos could sense my eagerness. I didn’t realize it but he asked the others to let me go next. When the next batch appeared they stepped aside and handed it to me.

Larissa and I thanked them profusely and eagerly walked away with our treat; juggling our hot flatbread right from the oven. Where’s a stick of butter when you need it?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Bernie March 7, 2012 at 1:05 am

ok I am getting hungry here

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Us March 7, 2012 at 3:35 pm

And the aroma was fantastic!

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Barbara March 7, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I love Pita bread. Healthy and hearty though what I have at home will never be as good as those in the pics! Those men sounded really gracious.
What a tasty experience :)

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Michael December 24, 2012 at 10:46 pm

It turns out that man CAN live by bread alone.

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donna March 10, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Oh yes, You make me remember. My grandparents lived in Cleveland’s “little Italy” on Sunday’s, on our way to Grandma’s for dinner, we’d drive up to the door of Russo’s bread bakery, to pick up the bread that they made right there, no store front or anything. During the 5 minutes to Grandma’s I’d stick my little hand into the soft side of the warm loaf, where it had been pulled apart from the next one in the oven, pull out a hunk, and eat it in the car. Nothing better! We always bought more loaves so my mutilated one was OK. Thanks for the memory! And the views of your journey!

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Us March 12, 2012 at 3:59 am

Michael can’t wait either and always rips a piece off the end of the loaf before getting home. He thinks flipping the loaf around in the bag will hide it but I’m on to him.

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amir hossein karimi August 2, 2015 at 7:03 am

hi . if you like to see more flat bread and more interesting area hit my country
IRAN
we are please to be your host . its not expensive for you. you choosed expensive countries such as emirates and qatar in the middle east
love to see you here
kindest regards

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Michael August 2, 2015 at 3:18 pm

Thanks for the invitation. Some day.

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