High-end UAE chain brings ‘passion’ of Arabic qahwa to Pakistani capital

ISLAMABAD: When you step into Shaghf in the heart of the Pakistani capital, the first thing that hits you is the aroma of freshly-roasted coffee.
Waiters buzz around with trays of long-spout, curvaceous metal pots and customers sip Arabic qahwa, or coffee, out of ceramic shot glasses next to a side of dates. Behind the counter, espresso machines drip out thick, concentrated coffee and noisy baristas mix up concoctions in cocktail shakers.
At Shaghf, meaning passion, a cafe chain that originated in the UAE and opened a branch in Islamabad last month, customers can order coffee grown on farms in the Emirates, enjoying blends spiced with cardamom and ginger in a meticulously designed space that presents a bold, modern take on a long beloved Arabic beverage.
“People in Pakistan really like Arabic brands since they have an attachment with the UAE and Saudi Arabia,” Rana Tauseef, the owner of Shaghf’s Islamabad franchise, told Arab News at the newly opened cafe, the latest among 150 branches across the Middle East.
“There are many different brands in the Pakistani market as you know but this is the first time a purely Arabic brand, I think, has been brought to Pakistan by the name of Shaghf.”
“We are serving Arabic coffee and qahwa, Turkish coffee, and Arabic frappes, which are available nowhere else in the Pakistani market,” Tauseef added.
Customers can also order all kinds of lattes, including one made from dates, teas flavoured with peach, pomegranate and rose hibiscus, and milk tea with pearls. For those with a sweet tooth, brownies and cakes, including a saffron tres leches, are available from a long list of desserts.
“It’s a very nice, very friendly environment — very nice cozy place to sit down, if you’re interested in coffees or desserts,” Osama Ehsan, a customer, told Arab News as he spooned through a slice of chocolate cake. “It’s a very good place running in the heart of Islamabad.”
Dr. Mohammad Abdul Momin, a Yemeni national based in Islamabad, praised the cafe’s environment and said it reminded him of his native culture.
Coffee is widely believed to have been invented in Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Middle East.
“We (people in the Middle East) are used to having it, so we can appreciate the taste,” Momin said. “I could say that it is really one of the really good Arabic qahwas, which you can find in very few places here in Pakistan.
“Whenever I want a break, I come to Shaghf as previously it was very difficult to find a place like this,” he added.
Hamna Ateeq, a young customer working on her laptop at a corner table, said she “really liked” the concept of launching Arabic cuisines in Islamabad.
“Shaghf has a very comfortable environment and I like their desserts,” she said. “Their (Shaghf’s) taste is amazing so far … The things that I’ve tried, definitely I would say Arabic cuisine must be great.”

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