A pinch of history
Homegrown cafés in and around Muscat bring in a nostalgic trend by adding a bit of the sultanate’s history and culture in their food and design concepts
“We needed a brand name from Oman’s history,” says Khalid al Abri, the owner of Ostool Albon in Seeb. Known for its speciality coffee, Ostool Albon stands for the ‘coffee fleet’ of Oman, when in the past large fleets would transport coffee from Yemen to Basra in Iraq. On a visit to Saudi Arabia, Abri learnt about the large variety of speciality coffee.
He realised that there were enough franchises in the sultanate that dealt with commercial coffee, but not many that dealt with speciality coffee. He decided to set up a homegrown café, which provided an atmosphere for people who wish to ‘relax over a cup of coffee’.
“We wanted to create a unique coffee culture for the people here and in a way also create a community from it,” says Abri adding, “It’s about touching people’s hearts with good coffee.”
The tastefully done interior design again borrows from the elements of a ship. The dim lights hanging from the ceiling and ropes, shrouds and stays from a ship add to this design.
The menu provides a wide selection of coffee to choose from and although no food is served, there’s a select variety of tea-cakes to choose from.
Situated on a pier that leads into the sea in Azaiba, Fanajeen is an idyllic café that derives its name from the Arabic word ‘fanjaan’ which is a small coffee cup.
The décor of the place borrows heavily from the word with the lights, tables and chairs designed like fanjaans. They also make customised handmade fanjaans which are displayed in the café for visitors to buy. The owner, Adil al Lawati, wanted to create a homegrown café to provide a taste of local Omani culture for visitors. At the same time, it was also a place where Omanis could feel at home.
“When tourists and expatriates come to Fanajeen they take away with them a feel of the Omani culture,” says Lawati.
The best part about his homegrown café, says Lawati is that customers can order for something off the menu. “We love to adjust the menu according to the customers’ wish,” says Lawati adding that this is not always possible in most franchises elsewhere. Visitors swear by the food at Fanajeen, which serves an excellent breakfast spread and boasts of a live fatayer station.
Instagram: fanajeen_oman, Contact: +968 9045 4545
Literally translated as ‘grandmother’s café’ in English, Habboh café located in Amerat is all about recreating the magic of Omani grandmothers’ cooking and their exemplary dishes. A family business run by the Al Wahaibis, Habboh is all about the simple yet delicious snacks and dishes made in Oman.
Aida al Wahaibi points out that the idea to set up the café came along when most women in the family realised that they like to cook and were often appreciated for their culinary skills. “We grew up eating these dishes served at the café,” says Aida about the time the family decided to open a café which would let one visit an Omani grandmother’s kitchen every now and then.
The interior of this quaint café reflects a very cosy space with mortars and pestles on tables, pastel
coloured furniture and wall paintings. “It’s about the nostalgia of the old houses, the colourful doors and windows that you will find in the small villages of Oman and of course the essence of going back to one’s grandmother’s house while eating all these typical dishes,” says Aida. The menu consists of traditional items such as Mardhoof (Omani flatbread made of date syrup), vermicelli noodles, stewed chickpeas, omlettes, and a range of spiced teas. “It’s a café where one can come and feel at home,” says Aida.
Contact: +968 9616 9191, Instagram: habboh_