For many years, Yemen Hadhramaut had always been dependable for home-style Yemeni meals for Education City (EC) students. The restaurant closed down its original location outside of Gate 3 over the summer and recently reopened in Al Gharafa. While the move promises more business opportunities for the restaurant’s owners, future EC students will miss a gateway into Yemeni cuisine and an age-old EC social tradition.
Yemen Hadhramaut before (left) and the
location after closing in July 2020 (right).
The food scene inside Education City is not exciting, to say the least. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, those sick of greasy pizzas and overcooked cafeteria chicken escaped to Yemen Hadhramaut for a budget-friendly fresh meal. A mere 60 QAR fed four hungry friends, and 80 QAR bought a feast for special occasions.
Adorned with fairy lights on its own street corner, the restaurant was hard to miss for anyone who drove by. The aroma of chicken stock wafted from the restaurant’s kitchen and lingered on its old walls and Arabic cushions. The main dining hall was a boy’s club, where men sat cross-legged on floor cushions while enjoying casual suppers with their friends. If an inexperienced group of women or a family stepped through the main entrance, they were redirected to the family section to enjoy privacy in partitioned cubicles.
Visiting Yemen Hadhramaut used to be a rite of passage for students living in EC. Every year those who know the rope took newcomers for their first taste of Yemeni cuisine. Alum Ameni Abida recalled the Suhoor when two Yemeni friends introduced her to the restaurant: “We were there at 10 pm and it was empty, but it somehow felt like we went to someone’s home, like we were having a home-cooked meal.”
It takes one visit to become a regular and a handful more to become a die-hard fan. Senior Mudassar Shakir is among the fanatics who made visiting Yemen Hadhramaut after Friday prayers a weekly routine. “By the time you were done with prayers, that’s when you genuinely become hungry. Lucky for you, there’s three other guys just like you – so you all go there,” said Mudassar, who kept returning for the social experience and an escape from student life. “The hustle and bustle of the restaurant provided a great background to nonchalant conversations about the little things in life – a brief respite from the responsibilities of being international students in a foreign country. To us, it provided an escape – those 2-3 hours in [the restaurant] were much needed for our emotional well-being. Yemeni was itself [was] an experience, mere words don’t do it justice… But suffice it to say, it was… magical.”
For the occasional visitors, the restaurant evokes a distant nostalgia. Sophomore Hajer Ouzzani recalled a family experience at Yemen Hadhramaut from a few years back: “We went to Friday prayer at the QF Mosque with my grandparents and my aunt and I brought a Sarah J. Maas book and we went there for lunch and I read my book and ate fahsa (فحسة) and had a bopping time.”
Fans of the restaurant are feeling the gap Yemen Hadhramaut left in the community’s social and culinary landscape. Mudassar expresses disappointment at the distance of the new location. “A large part of that experience was dependent upon the proximity. A short walk back to the dorms each day certainly helped with the digestion of the feast we just ate. With the new location, it really just won’t be the same anymore… the experience is lost.” Alum Ameni Abida and Senior Abdullah Al-Malki share the same disappointment, stating it’s a shame given how the restaurant felt like a part of EC itself.
Nevertheless, the new location deserves a visit despite the extra distance. For long-time fans, seeing a beloved business out-growing its original location is a fulfilling experience. The restaurant now boasts two floors at the busy Al Gharafa intersection, competing with every major fast-food restaurant standing right across the street.
From left to right: Chicken mandi, Chicken Aqda, and Yemeni bread at Yemen Hadhramaut (photo from TripAdvisor)
For new-comers wanting to try a new cuisine, Yemen Hadhramaut is still the closest Yemeni restaurant from Education City. For your first visit, the must-try dish is Chicken Aqda (عقدة), a pulled-chicken stew simmered in a spicy tomato sauce with chopped vegetables. Sophomore Adeen Malik, who is from Pakistan, said that she really likes the dish because “it tasted quite like food back home.” Honorable mentions include the Yemeni bread that accompanies the Aqda and the Chicken Mandi (مندي), a rice dish originating from the Hadhramaut region in Yemen.