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Chef Shams looking forward to sharing Qatari cuisine with the world in 2022

At the heart of Souq Waqif – one of Doha’s busiest tourist destinations – Qatari chef Shams Al Qassabi serves traditional local cuisine. She’s built one of the most successful restaurants in the country and has developed a loyal clientele, including many famous faces from across Qatar.

Shams is currently looking forward to hosting thousands of fans from all over the globe when Qatar hosts the first FIFA World Cup™ in the Middle East and Arab world in under two years’ time. Her mission is to introduce international fans to Qatari culture and cuisine in a traditional setting.

“God willing, fans from all over the world will visit us and realise how amazing Qatari food is,” Shams told qatar2022.qa. “I’ll make true, traditional food that they haven’t eaten anywhere else, just like our grandmothers used to make.”

Inspired by grandma’s recipes

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Shams grew up watching her grandmother cook authentic Qatari dishes. She learned about the perfect spice combinations and how to run a kitchen effectively.

“I used to love watching my grandmother cook, so when I got married and moved to Dukhan, I wanted to take on the responsibility of managing my own home,” said Shams.

Shams would go on to train the cooks at her husband’s company cafeteria by teaching them local seafood recipes.

Early beginnings

Shams’ constant thirst and desire to learn new recipes encouraged her to take on new challenges.

“After my husband retired, I said I needed to play a role in supporting the family. I never finished my schooling but I decided to start my own business,” she said.

Shams participated in the first Qatar Family Exhibits in 2001 to promote her work and produced a cookbook, ‘The A to Z of Shoomos’, that gained massive recognition locally.

Following on from its success, in 2004 she opened her own spice shop, becoming the first woman to open a business in Souq Waqif.

Shay Al Shoomos

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In 2014, Shams opened a restaurant next door to her spice shop. Located in the heart of the traditional marketplace, the restaurant offers a unique cultural experience to residents and visitors.

Known for its traditional Qatari dishes, including ‘balaleet’, a scrambled egg dish served on a bed of sweet vermicelli, and ‘margooga’, a spiced vegetable dish served with Arabic bread, the restaurant exemplifies local hospitality, with the large platters reflecting Qatari generosity.

Shams said: “I specialise in Qatari food to show people what our cuisine is like. I like to show that Qatari culture is rich and we work hard to get the taste just right.”

After a rocky start and very few customers, Shams spent time perfecting her bread recipe. She baked samples of bread and handed them out for free. This proved an inspired move and helped to significantly grow her business.

“From that point on, I took the restaurant from six seats to 248 and from success to success. Now my restaurant spans the size of six shops,” said Shams.

Shams is now looking forward to welcoming fans during the FIFA World Cup and can’t wait for them to sample the dishes passed down through generations.