By Mahadhir Monihuldin
Come with me dear readers, and let’s take a stroll through the void of IIUM’s enormous, open-air, multipurpose space—oh, you know, the large, often empty area that gives you a breath taking view of our massively beautiful mosque from below, the one surrounded by convenient blocks of stores left and right.
Well, if you were to look around you, you’d see a small little sundry shop by the name of Dre Shop Arabic Products just at your side. Perhaps you’ve been there a couple of times before. Perhaps you haven’t. Nevertheless, let’s try taking a look inside, shall we?
Head towards the back of the store where all the refrigerators are grouped together. Now, observe all the cooled drinks before you. You’d think that they would consist of your average Pepsi or Milo or F&N drink that you normally see every day, right? But nope. What they do have, however, are very rare drinks from the Middle East—from countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen, even Turkey. Heck, take a look at all the food that they have too. They all come from a myriad of countries, and all of them are centred around the Middle East.
Do you know what’s cool about that? This actually makes the store you’re in the only one in all of IIUM to sell food and drinks with Middle Eastern brands. Considering the fact that our entire country barely sells Middle Eastern goods at all, they’re quite a treasure indeed.
So, I was curious to find out more about these goods that we have in our hands. I was able to get into contact with the Outlet Manager of Dre Shop Arabic Products, Nurul Atikah binti Ramli, to inquire just that. She was glad to comply and shared as much information as she can.
The first question that came bursting into my mind was: Why sell Middle Eastern food and drinks in IIUM when others don’t? Here’s what Atikah had to say. “Our boss, Mr Rozi bin Ramli, wanted to make the store unique from the rest,” she shared. “We wanted to place our mark around here, because among all the shops that you see in the university, our shop is the only one that sells Middle Eastern products.”
Quite a bold move to make on their part. But how do they get these products in the first place? What’s the process involved in attaining these Middle Eastern goods. Well, according to Atikah, getting them would require being in contact with the right food and drink suppliers first and foremost.
For the case of Dre Shop Arabic Products, they would get hold onto the suppliers that they know of, and these suppliers are the ones who have connections with Middle Eastern companies. The suppliers will collect the food and drinks from the companies that make them, transport them over to the shops that request for them, and there you go. Mission complete.
So, now that we’re done with the basic questions, let’s get to the good stuff. How do these food and drinks actually taste like? Is there a distinctive feature among Middle Eastern goods that make them unique from, let’s say, Western goods? Regarding this, when it comes to the food, one thing that’s much more prevalent are dates, Atikah feels. They are quite a staple in the Middle East and will often be inserted into the ingredients of your favourite sweets and eateries.
As for Middle Eastern drinks on the other hand, a common characteristic Atikah notices is that many of them consist of fruit and vegetable juices. Soft drinks aren’t really a forte, but what this means is that Middle Eastern drinks tend to be healthier than Western drinks. And in Atiqah’s opinion, they also aren’t bombarded with as much sugar and chemical flavourings. “Their taste is more pure, more genuine than other drinks,” she shared.
If you guys are interested in knowing what the top three most widely sold Middle Eastern drinks are, here you go:
For all the food lovers out there whose main goal in life is to find new food to munch on, these are the food popular among customers of Dre Shop Arabic Products:
Okay, so if it isn’t obvious enough already, multiculturalism is quite a prevalent theme for these Middle Eastern goods, not only in terms of the diverse range of countries that they come from, but also the diverse range of students that buy them. Atikah stated, “They’re popular among Middle Easterners, Indonesians, Bangladeshis, Chinese, and more.”
But a question that also interested me was: Which group of students are the least likely to buy them? Take a guess people. Don’t take too long now. Okay, done thinking? Well, the answer is, Malaysians, unfortunately.
In Atikah’s opinion, she feels like some Malaysians don’t seem too keen in trying new things. “At times, I would hear some of them pass by and say, ‘Oh, it’s an Arabic shop guys. Let’s go to the next shop la.’” I suppose its a mentality that some of us just have.
In addition to that, another factor that plays a role as well is the fact that these Middle Eastern food and drinks aren’t really publicised enough around the campus. Malaysian students might not be aware that they’re even available to them. I mean, take it from this Malaysian writer right here, who took two solid years to find out that we have a store selling Middle Eastern goods all along.
Thus, it’s for this reason why Atikah, a very busy manager with quite a heavy schedule on her time, made it a point to speak with me in the first place. It’s of Atikah’s hope, through this very article that you, readers, are reading right now, that you’ll come to the awareness of these Middle Eastern products being sold. Believe me, they really are worth a try. Just give them a shot. If you do like them, then great! If you don’t, then at least you’re able to say you’ve tried something that others haven’t yet.
And to be honest, it’s actually for this reason why I’m currently writing this article to you as we speak. Because it’s of my belief that the best things in life are that which lurk behind the veil of the usual. The things that don’t belong with your everyday spectacle. Things that will only be known by a select few of people. So let me just say this. Kudos to you, readers. You’re now among the few who know.***