Khalil Kamal makes sure he regularly visits Kuwait’s popular Souq al-Mubarakiya, where he enjoys his favorite kebab meal with onion, rocket and freshly baked Iranian bread.
The smell of the bread wafts through the market as it bakes in a traditional oven at the al-Walimah restaurant in downtown Kuwait City.
The restaurant’s Iranian baker takes one of the many dough balls lined up in front of him and spreads it over a cushion, using the pad to stick the dough against the inside wall of the clay oven. Once ready, he uses a long stick to reach in and pull out a steaming rounded loaf, served piping hot to customers.
For decades, Iranian bread — known as taftoon — has been a staple of Kuwaiti breakfast, lunch and dinner tables. For Kuwaitis, their bond with Iranian culture remains unchanged, despite the growing regional tensions between the Sunni-ruled Persian Gulf countries and the Shiite Islamic Republic.
Iran sits just across the strategic Persian Gulf waterway and its culinary influences are strong.
“Iranian bread is the only bread we’ve known since we were born,” 60-year-old Kamal told reporters.
Hassan Abdullah Zachriaa, a Kuwaiti of Iranian origin, opened al-Walimah in 1996. Its tables are spread across a courtyard, surrounded by wooden columns and entryways.
Zachriaa, in his 70s, said that the restaurant puts out between 400 and 500 loaves of Iranian bread each day.
“The big turnout in Kuwait for Iranian bread stems from the fact that for decades, our mothers used to make it at home,” he told reporters. “We then started to buy it from bakeries and stand in lines to get it fresh and hot in the morning, noon and evening.”
The flatbread is offered alongside many dishes popular in Kuwait, such as al-Baja, lamb bits stuffed with rice; al-Karaeen, cooked sheep feet; classic chickpea plates; or beans and cooked fish.
Almost all restaurants in the old market have their own traditional clay ovens where either Iranian or Afghan bakers work.
Derbas Hussein al-Zoabi, 81, a customer at al-Walimah, said that many Kuwaitis were raised on Iranian bread.
“Since childhood, Iranians baked bread for us ... and we used to eat in the morning with milk and ghee,” he said, referring to clarified butter.
Other than at street markets, Kuwaitis can buy Iranian bread from cooperates, where people line up in the early hours of the morning and again in the evening to get the freshly baked goods.
Some bakeries even have designated segregated entryways for men and women.
Some Kuwaitis customize their orders with spreads of sesame, thyme and dates, and many come prepared with cloth bags to keep the bread as fresh as possible on the trip home.
Bakeries specializing in Iranian bread began popping up in Kuwait in the 1970s and have since expanded to more than 100, Union Co-operative Society deputy chief Khaled al-Otaibi said.
“These bakeries produce 2 million loaves of bread a day to meet the needs of Kuwaitis and residents,” he told reporters. “They receive fuel and flour at a subsidized price so that bread is available for not more than 20 fils [less than US$0.07].”
However, the price can go to up to 50 fils depending on the amount and type of additives, including sesame and fennel.
Taftoon has remained popular in Kuwait, despite escalating tensions in the past year between Iran on one side and the US and regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia on the other.
“Bread has nothing to do with politics,” Zachriaa said. “Iranians live here, and there will be no shortage of this bread that is very desired.”
Shiite Iran maintains good relations with Kuwait, unlike its strained ties with other Persian Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Heritage specialist Jassem Abbas said that regional politics do not have a major effect on the social lives of Kuwaitis.
“Despite the current tensions and what has happened in the [1980 to 1988] Iraq-Iran War, Iranian bread remains a top favorite,” he told reporters.
About 55,000 Iranians live in Kuwait, according to the Iranian embassy, while Shiites make up about one-third of Kuwait’s 1.4 million native population.
“Politics does not ruin friendships between people,” Abbas said.
STAYING AHEAD: Fitch said that TSMC remains technologically ahead of others, but Samsung is building a new chip fab, while China is investing in its domestic industry As escalating US-China tensions and COVID-19-related production disruptions force US technology supply chains to transform, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co’s (TSMC, 台積電) US$12 billion chip fabrication plant in Arizona would be key to spurring greater US production of core semiconductor components, Fitch Ratings said. “We view the US-TSMC alliance as a first step in building a more autonomous US technology supply chain, given high barriers to entry, specifically related to the significant capital and design capability required for leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing,” Fitch said in a statement on Tuesday. “By working with TSMC, US chipmakers will not face the financial burden of incremental investment
DIVERSIFICATION: Although COVID-19 would push more companies to produce in emerging markets, DBS said that it was unlikely that firms would totally leave China Geopolitical tensions and supply disruptions are expected to accelerate the migration of manufacturing out of China, as concerns about the risk of production concentrated in one country increase, S&P Global Ratings said. Although its economic expansion might be weaker than previous levels due to the accelerated relocation of manufacturing, China’s economic growth would still be stronger than that of most other economies, the ratings agency said. “While absolute growth rates will moderate, we believe China’s economic performance will continue to be a key sovereign credit support,” S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Tan Kim Eng (陳錦榮) said in a statement on Thursday. “Its growth
Taiwan’s corporate landscape has changed significantly over the past 20 years, with Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) replacing Formosa Plastics Corp (台塑) as the revenue leader, while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC, 台積電) has emerged as the most profitable firm, a survey of Taiwan’s 50 largest companies published on Tuesday last week showed. The Chinese-language CommonWealth Magazine survey ranked Taiwan’s 50 largest companies based on their revenue last year, and compared them with the results of a similar survey it conducted in 2000. Only 33 companies on the original list remained in this year’s rankings, the survey found, following two
GEOPOLITICAL RISKS: Beijing announced plans to strengthen ‘enforcement’ in Hong Kong, sparking losses across Asia led by the Hang Seng’s 5.6 percent plunge Local shares on Friday ended sharply lower amid renewed tensions between the US and China over Chinese telecommunications equipment giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd (華為) and China’s plan to introduce a national security law in Hong Kong. The TAIEX on Friday finished down 197.16, or 1.79 percent, at 10,811.15 on turnover of NT$177.183 billion (US$5.9 billion), almost flat from a close of 10,814.92 on May 15. The market was down across all major sectors, in particular electronics shares, which finished down 1.99 percent from Thursday’s close. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the world’s largest wafer foundry and a chip supplier