Zaki Kabob restaurant in the state of New York, the economic capital of the United States, is standing fast in the face of alienation and temptation and yet continues to be a successful venture. Owners Naim Ayyad and his wife Faiza said that they have rejected many offers to "increase their revenues" by selling alcohol and allowing dancing on the premises.
Faiza told the San Francisco Chronicle that the opening of the restaurant was an opportunity to showcase Arab and Palestinian culture, especially after the Gulf wars in 1991 and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as Americans "have changed the way that they treat Arabs and Muslims" since then.
"No alcohol or dancers was our motto from the beginning," she explained. "Many have tried to convince us that alcoholic drinks should be served and dance performances should be allowed, but our religion rejects such things and I believe that this is the secret of our success."
Faiza went to the United States 31 years ago. "I wanted people to know that we are human beings and that humans can be right and can also make mistakes everywhere and in every society. As such, we wanted our restaurant to be an ambassador for anyone who wants to get to know everything that is Palestinian by eating our food."
Although neither Faiza nor Naim had any experience in restaurant management, they prayed that the food would impress customers. "If it didn't, they simply wouldn't have come back again!"
Naim says that he is working hard to bring a lot of Arabic dishes to his restaurant, starting with meals inspired by his grandmother when he was a boy. Faiza's childhood included walking on foot into exile in Jordan during the 1967 war. "We were so hungry that we ate grass," she recalls. "I still remember those difficult times today when I am in the restaurant."
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.