In Karachi, Palestinian mother-daughter trio offers ‘authentic’ Arabic desserts to Pakistani customers 

Eman Al Hajj Ali (right) prepares kunafa at her residence in Karachi, Pakistan on Feb 28, 2024. (AN Photo)
Short Url
Updated 01 March 2024
Follow

In Karachi, Palestinian mother-daughter trio offers ‘authentic’ Arabic desserts to Pakistani customers 

  • Eman Al Hajj Ali, her two daughters operate an online business selling Middle Eastern desserts prepared at home
  • The venture sells popular Middle Eastern desserts such as Kunafe, Basbusa and Katayef to Pakistani customers

KARACHI: Eman Al Hajj Ali, a Palestinian émigré with a background in electrical engineering and information technology, did not know she would carve a place for herself within the culinary landscape of Pakistan’s bustling Karachi city after arriving here with her family a year and a half ago because of her husband’s job.

Launching an online business named Palestine Sweets, she ventured into a field far from her formal training, armed with nothing but her mother’s traditional recipes. Ali is not a chef by training neither has she ever aspired to be an entrepreneur, yet she has made a noticeable impact on the lives of people around her while living in Pakistan’s biggest and most populous metropolis.

Middle Eastern cuisines are popular with people across Pakistan, resonating with the local palate due to their rich flavors and aromatic spices. But Karachi’s food scene is mostly dominated by people who either arrived there from India after the 1947 partition of the subcontinent or members of the Pashtun community from the country’s northwest, who are known for their passion for good food.




Eman Al Hajj Ali prepares kunafa at her residence in Karachi, Pakistan on Feb 28, 2024. (AN Photo)

“I have learned [these recipes] from my mom,” she told Arab News this week. “Some of these [recipes] I have, you know, created on my own, learning from here and there before tweaking them to come up with my own version.”

While both of Ali’s parents were born and raised in Palestine, she was born in Kuwait where her father worked at the time. She says she used to visit Palestine every summer until the Arab-Israel war in June 1967, when her family was living outside Palestine. Since the war, Ali’s family, like many other Palestinians, have not been allowed to go back to their home country.

Palestine Sweets is not just Ali’s initiative but also involves her daughters, Laila and Isra, who are both business graduates. Together the three described it as a heartfelt endeavor to share a slice of Palestine’s rich heritage with the people of Pakistan.

Especially since Ali says Pakistanis know little about Palestinians and associate the people of her country with only Israel’s war and occupation.

“They know very little about the culture,” she said. “And food is a great part of any culture. So, I thought that it would be lovely to introduce Palestinian desserts into the Pakistani community.”

So, Ali and her daughters started by introducing Pakistani customers to Kunafe, which Ali says is referred to as the “king of desserts” in Palestine.

Kunafe is a traditional Middle Eastern dessert, made with spun pastry and soaked in a sweet, sugar-based syrup. Although the dish has several variations depending on the region where it is prepared, Kunafe is typically layered with cheese, cream, or nuts.




Eman Al Hajj Ali (center), and her daughters Laila Al Qirim (right) and Isra Jaleel speak with Arab News at their residence in Karachi, Pakistan on Feb 28, 2024. (AN Photo)

Other Middle Eastern desserts offered by Palestine Sweets include Basbusa, cakes baked from semolina flour, and the Katayef dessert, stuffed pancakes often filled with nuts, spices, fruits and cheese.

Besides desserts, the online venture also offers customers the Maqluba, a traditional Middle Eastern rice dish that it serves with lamb’s meat and eggplant.

The prices of these desserts, which Ali and her daughters deliver from their apartment in Karachi’s Defense area through a delivery service, range between Rs1,000 ($3.6) and Rs2,250 ($8), which may vary according to the serving size.

Laila said Israel’s recent war on Gaza, which has killed over 29,000 people since October last year, triggered a lot of curiosity among Pakistanis about the people of Palestine, leading many to visit Palestine Sweets’ social media accounts and learn about their venture. 

“With that increase in curiosity, a lot of people found their way to our page,” she told Arab News. ” And praise be to God, a lot of Karachiites have supported our business.”

But Laila was quick to clarify that that wasn’t the only reason for the venture’s success, saying that customers loved the unique and original Middle Eastern taste its dishes offered.

She cited the example of the Kunafe dish, saying that it is not made with any variations. She said what sets Palestine Sweets apart is that it is the only venture that offers authentic Middle Eastern desserts to people.

“It [Palestine Sweets] is fully run by Arabs and Palestinians, specifically,” Laila said. “We have our own original recipes.”

And it is paying off as well, according to Laila. A chunk of their customers are the adventurous ones who want to try out a new dish just to see what it tastes like, however, the bulk are regular ones. 

“We have a lot of customers that are very, very loyal,” she said. “Some even order every week, at least once. It’s become a permanent part of their table.”

Some of their clients in Karachi are Arabs as well, who equally love their food items. But for very different reasons.

“They give me beautiful feedback that it is nostalgic,” Ali explained. “It took them back to memories with their grandparents and families back in the Middle East, especially when they have Katayef during Ramadan.”


Pakistan confers civilian award on Islamic Development Bank chief for his eminent services

Updated 6 sec ago
Follow

Pakistan confers civilian award on Islamic Development Bank chief for his eminent services

  • The IsDB is an international financial development institution that aims to foster socio-economic development in Muslim member countries
  • Pakistan is also among 56 members of the IsDB where the IsDB has invested in various projects and third largest beneficiary of its financing

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ahmad Farooq on Tuesday conferred the ‘Hilal-i-Quaid-i-Azam’ medal on Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) head Dr. Mohammed Sulaiman Al-Jasser in the Saudi city of Jeddah, the Pakistani consulate said. 

The Hilal-i-Quaid-i-Azam medal is one of Pakistan’s highest civil awards that is awarded to foreign nationals for their eminent services to Pakistan. 

The award ceremony was attended by representatives from Pakistan’s missions in the Kingdom and to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

“The President of Pakistan has conferred this medal on Dr. Al-Jasser for his instrumental role and for IsDB Group’s leadership in supporting Pakistan’s economic and development agenda and support at important world forums,” the Pakistani consulate in Jeddah said in a statement. 

The IsDB is a multilateral and international financial development institution that aims to foster socio-economic development in Muslim member countries. Pakistan is also among the 56 members of the IsDB where the IsDB has invested in various projects. 

In March, Pakistan and the IsDB signed a financing agreement worth $200 million for the Sindh Flood Emergency Housing Reconstruction Project. The project aims to construct 700,000 houses, benefiting an estimated 4.2 million people in rural areas of the southern province, and will support the creation of 75,000 water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities for over 1.3 million individuals.

The Bank announced a $100 million loan to support Pakistan’s polio eradication efforts in December 2023, on the sidelines of the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai. 

After the devastating floods of 2022 killed 1,700 people and inflicted losses worth $30 billion on Pakistan, the IsDB pledged $4.2 billion for the South Asian country over the next three years.


Pakistani, Saudi investors to set up $5 million edible oil refinery in Kingdom — Pakistan trade official

Updated 28 May 2024
Follow

Pakistani, Saudi investors to set up $5 million edible oil refinery in Kingdom — Pakistan trade official

  • Official says the joint venture is expected to be signed in next six months and it will allow export of 50 percent edible oil
  • Saudi authorities are offering land and other facilities to investors to encourage investment in the Kingdom, he adds

KARACHI: Pakistani and Saudi investors are establishing a $5 million edible oil refinery in Saudi Arabia through a joint venture (JV), a senior Pakistani trade official said on Tuesday, following recent business-to-business interactions between the two countries.

The development comes weeks after a 50-member, high-level delegation, led by the Kingdom’s Assistant Minister of Investment Ibrahim Al-Mubarak, arrived in Pakistan to explore investment opportunities in the South Asian country.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have been working closely in recent weeks to increase bilateral trade and investment deals, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last month reaffirming the Kingdom’s commitment to expedite an investment package of $5 billion.

“We are putting up an edible oil refinery in Saudi Arabia with the local partners. We have shared the feasibility with each other, and we will sign [an agreement] very soon,” Atif Ikram Sheikh, president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI), told Arab News on Tuesday. “There will be a joint venture.”

Ikram, who runs edible oil refineries and other businesses in Pakistan, informed that the project cost would be equally shared by investment partners, including himself.

“The project cost will be $5 million and we will share the cost together and this would be materialized within six months,” he said, adding the Saudi authorities were offering land and other facilities for the refinery. 

Saudi Arabia is currently consolidating its economy on modern lines under Vision 2030, a strategic development framework intended to cut the Kingdom’s reliance on oil. Under the framework, the Kingdom is also encouraging investment in diversified sectors to increase its export base.

“Their [Saudi authorities] condition is to maximize oil export up to 50 percent, while the rest you can sell in the local market,” Sheikh said.

The FPCCI chief said Saudi Arabia’s interest in Pakistan’s diversified sectors was “constantly increasing” and both sides had made tangible progress, including Saudi investment inflows in oil, agriculture and other sectors. 

In December last year, Aramco, one of the world’s leading integrated energy and chemicals companies, signed an agreement to acquire a 40 percent equity stake in Gas & Oil Pakistan that followed the signing of an agreement in November 2023 by Shell Pakistan (SPL) with Saudi Arabia’s Wafi Energy to sell its domestic operations after Shell Petroleum Company announced its exit from Pakistan with the sale of 77 percent shareholding in the local business.

Pakistani traders also expect further inflow of investment from the Gulf countries.

The FPCCI president said Pakistan’s Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a body consisting of Pakistani civilian and military leaders and specially tasked to promote foreign investment in Pakistan, is playing a crucial role in boosting investment in the South Asian country. 

The council, established in June last year, is focusing on investments in energy, agriculture, mining, information technology and aviation sectors, specifically targeting the Gulf nations.


Pakistan PM says ‘deeply concerned’ about Israeli strikes on Rafah, deplores violation of international law

Updated 28 May 2024
Follow

Pakistan PM says ‘deeply concerned’ about Israeli strikes on Rafah, deplores violation of international law

  • Israeli tanks reached the center of Rafah for the first time on Tuesday, three weeks into an operation that has sparked global condemnation
  • Shehbaz Sharif says Pakistan strongly condemns Israel’s bombardment of Rafah, urges international community, particularly UN, to play role

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Tuesday he was “deeply concerned” about Israeli strikes on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, deploring repeated violations of the international law by the Jewish state.

Israeli tanks reached the center of Rafah for the first time on Tuesday, witnesses said, three weeks into a ground operation in the southern Gaza city that has sparked global condemnation.

Overnight, Israeli forces pounded the city with airstrikes and tank fire, pressing their offensive despite an international outcry over an attack on Sunday that sparked a blaze in a tent camp, killing at least 45 Palestinians.

Sunday’s attack on the Rafah refugee camp came two days after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to end its military offensive in Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population had sought shelter before Israel’s incursion earlier this month.

“Deeply concerned by the disturbing developments in Rafah. Pakistan strongly condemns Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment that has led to heavy casualties,” PM Sharif said on X.

“It is deplorable that international law is being repeatedly violated, despite ICJ’s recent clear verdict against Israel.”

The case against Israel was initiated by South Africa in December 2023, where it labeled Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip as “genocidal,” asserting that they intended to destroy the Palestinian people in ways specified under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

In recent months, the South Asian country has repeatedly raised the issue of Israel’s war on Gaza, launched last October, at the United Nations through its permanent representative, Ambassador Munir Akram.

“The international community, particularly the UN, must play its part in protecting civilians from such brutal aggression,” PM Sharif said in his statement on X.

The war on Gaza broke out after Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, which killed more than 1,100 people, in response to the deteriorating condition of Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation.

Israel launched a retaliatory offensive, widely viewed as disproportionate, in which more than 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have lost their lives, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.


Pakistan PM calls for minimizing load shedding amid heatwave, urges steps against power theft

Updated 28 May 2024
Follow

Pakistan PM calls for minimizing load shedding amid heatwave, urges steps against power theft

  • Power outages are not uncommon in Pakistan during the summer months when the demand on the national grid spikes sharply
  • Pakistan’s power sector has also been plagued by high rates of power theft and distribution losses, leading to huge debts

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday urged authorities to minimize load shedding in Pakistan amid an ongoing heatwave and to take steps against power theft in the country, his office said.

The directives were issued during a meeting Sharif presided over in Islamabad to review the supply of electricity, load management and measures against power theft in parts of the country.

Power outages are not uncommon in Pakistan during the summer months when the demand on the national grid spikes sharply due to the widespread use of air conditioners and desert coolers.

These seasonal surges often lead to prolonged power outages, which fuel public discontent, particularly during the intense heatwaves that have swept across Pakistan in recent years.

“The situation of [power] load management in extreme heat should be improved, keeping the convenience of the public in view,” Sharif was quoted as saying by his office.

“Provincial governments and law enforcement agencies should fully support the anti-electricity theft campaign.”

The South Asian nation’s power sector has been plagued by high rates of power theft and distribution losses, resulting in accumulating debts across the production chain — a concern also raised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during recent bailout talks.

The government of PM Sharif has recently launched a campaign to curb power theft in the country to avoid huge financial losses.

The prime minister said he would personally review progress on the drive against power theft, urging authorities to ensure that consumers were not charged excessive bills.

“The national interest and the development and prosperity of the country require that all the government institutions perform their responsibilities effectively against electricity theft,” he added.


Climate change caused 26 extra days of extreme heat in last year — report

Updated 28 May 2024
Follow

Climate change caused 26 extra days of extreme heat in last year — report

  • In total, 76 extreme heatwaves were registered in 90 countries on every continent except Antarctica
  • Already this year, extreme heatwaves have afflicted swathes of the globe from Mexico to Pakistan

PARIS: The world experienced an average of 26 more days of extreme heat over the last 12 months that would probably not have occurred without climate change, a report said on Tuesday.

Heat is the leading cause of climate-related death and the report further points to the role of global warming in increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather around the world.

For this study, scientists used the years 1991 to 2020 to determine what temperatures counted as within the top 10 percent for each country over that period.

Next, they looked at the 12 months to May 15, 2024, to establish how many days over that period experienced temperatures within — or beyond — the previous range.

Then, using peer-reviewed methods, they examined the influence of climate change on each of these excessively hot days.

They concluded that “human-caused climate change added — on average, across all places in the world — 26 more days of extreme heat than there would have been without it.”

The report was published by the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center, the World Weather Attribution scientific network and the nonprofit research organization Climate Central.

2023 was the hottest year on record, according to the European Union’s climate monitor, Copernicus.

Already this year, extreme heatwaves have afflicted swathes of the globe from Mexico to Pakistan.

The report said that in the last 12 months some 6.3 billion people — roughly 80 percent of the global population — experienced at least 31 days of what is classed as extreme heat.

In total, 76 extreme heatwaves were registered in 90 different countries on every continent except Antarctica.

Five of the most affected nations were in Latin America.

The report said that without the influence of climate change, Suriname would have recorded an estimated 24 extreme heat days instead of 182; Ecuador 10 not 180; Guyana 33 not 174, El Salvador 15 not 163; and Panama 12 not 149.

“(Extreme heat) is known to have killed tens of thousands of people over the last 12 months but the real number is likely in the hundreds of thousands or even millions,” the Red Cross said in a statement.

“Flooding and hurricanes may capture the headlines but the impacts of extreme heat are equally deadly,” said Jagan Chapagain, secretary general of the International Federation of the Red Cross.