Saudi Arabia: A Taste of Home in Charlotte, North Carolina

I have to share that writing this blog has brought me, personally, many blessings in different ways.  However the most significant blessing are the friendships that have come about simply by the sharing that has taken place through American Bedu blog.  Thanks to my own experiences which I have shared there are many readers with whom I now correspond through my email (admin@americanbedu.com).

Most recently I had the opportunity to meet up with some individuals in the Charlotte, North Carolina are where I am presently located.  These individuals were expatriates who had lived and worked in Saudi Arabia.  Meeting with them and sharing our experiences was in some ways like a homecoming.  We laughed as we reminisced about traffic and shopping. We talked about the people of Saudi Arabia and the beautiful hospitality we received.  Talking and sharing with others who understood how Saudi Arabia became a second home for me was a healing catharsis.

Thanks to new friends I also learned where one goes to in Charlotte for a taste of (the Middle Eastern) home.  I was taken a few days ago to a market/restaurant in Charlotte called ‘The Cedars.’ On arrival at the place among the first things I noticed was the Arabic writing on the windows announcing to all “Arab Supermarket.”  Entering the place I found myself taking deep breaths simply inhaling the aroma from the fresh spices, the bakery and hot bread that was put out on the shelf. I saw so many familiar items from Saudi Arabia such as Mamool, Lebnah, Happy Cow cheese, Puck, black lemons, and Halwa.  The wide selection of spices is excellent and my kitchen is finally stocked so I can again prepare my favorite Saudi dishes (kubsa, seleek, garcon) with spices that add the finishing taste of home. Just like back in Saudi Arabia I could buy ‘kubsah spice,’ ‘samak spice’ and others which I will combine to make my own just like my mother-in-law Mama Moudy had taught me. The Cedars has fresh cuts of halal meat and probably the widest selection of lamb that I’ve seen in any grocery store in the Charlotte area.  Its bakery has a selection of fresh breads and of course traditional sweets.

The Cedars offers prayer beads and Zam Zam water. For those who enjoy the hookah there is not only a wide selection of hookahs available to purchase but a wide array of tobacco flavors too.

I’d be remiss if I did not mention that the Cedars has a simple restaurant with perhaps ten booths for customers to sit.  While eating customers can keep up-to-date on news in the Arab world watching Al-Jazeerah or other Arab stations thanks to the tv which is always on.  My friend and I paid little attention though to the tv.  We devoured the scharmwa which we had both ordered.  The flavor and taste of the schwarma made me feel like I was at Al-Bosseri of Al-Ajmi back in Riyadh.  It was fabulous!  In addition to dining in the Cedars provides take out and catering for all occasions.

Last but not least it felt good to have the opportunity to speak Arabic again.  The manager of the Cedars is from Lebanon and makes anyone entering feel instantly welcome.

The Cedars is located at 4832 Central Avenue, Charlotte, North Carolina.  It does not have a web site but the phone is 704.535.9662.

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13 Responses

  1. By chance, did you meet a woman named Lois, a dietician, whose husband’s name is Earl? She was my roommate when we both lived in the KFSH housing complex. I haven’t heard from her in years but I believe she is still in Charlotte.

  2. How awesome for you! That shawarma looks de-LISH! If that place doesn’t end up being enough for you, you can come to Michigan. We’ve got a whole CITY for ya!

  3. The place sounds amazing!!!! ❤ It's always nice when one finds a "taste of home" close to their actual home! 😉 Glad you were able to find an arabic food place in your area! 🙂

  4. That’s cool! The cultural food is one of the things that one may miss from a country when returning home. After my time in Korea and return home, I really missed some of the food (i.e. fresh octopus, squid, kimchi, etc.). Unfortunately, there are no Korean restuarants in my area:-( I’m looking forward to tasting some of Saudi’s cuisine.

  5. @Butterfly Jewel,
    What are some of your favourite Korean dishes? I forget what it’s called, but one of my fav Korean dishes are the rice cakes in spicy red sauce.

    You may want to see if there is an “Asian” grocery store near you. Even if they cater to one particular ethnicity, such as southern Chinese, they tend to stock at least some of the basics in the other types of Asian foods. Then you can just look up recipes online for it and/or have friends share them with you. If you can find a Korean convenience store in your area, it may have a deli or something like that nearby. If nothing else they could probably refer you to another area.You may also want to try to see if you can receive mail order ingredients.

  6. The best shwarma is in Saudi….I’ve eaten it in Canada, USA, Egypt, Turkey, and by far shwarma here in Saudi is the best 🙂

  7. I am so delighted to hear that here is some venue that serves arabian food as one would get in the in ME.
    Hummus is easy find and I can make myself. but it never seems to match up to special touch the authentic of the Lebanese ( I tried many variations and it does not come out right:()

  8. Yum!! Glad you had such a wonderful visit with the expats.

  9. Hi!

    We have quite a few middle-eastern, indian, pakistanian, persian restaurants here in Seattle (WA). We got to try one arabian couple of months ago.

    Our tenants, Vijay from India and his wife Sobia (a delightful couple btw) from Pakistan honored me on my 65th birthday by taking us for dinner to
    Marrakesh Restaurant http://www.marrakeshseattle.com .

    Marrakesh claims to be Seattle’s original arabian restaurant. We experienced a night like no other. The entire restaurant is set up under huge and colorful bedouin tents with oil lamps and the rest of the paraphernalia.

    Evening begins with a gentle hand washing and ends with a sprinkling of rosewater and a glass of sweet mint tea. In between, a parade of beautifully prepared arabian dishes are served to you as you recline on pillows and couches, basking in the warm surroundings.

    We also got to enjoy the fabulous belly dancing, which was a first for us :)-

  10. @ StrangeOne:

    I know the dish that you’re talking about with the noodles and spicy red sauce. It’s called ddeok-boggi. One of my classes prepared some dishes for me before I left Korea, and that was one of them (http://butterflyjewel.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/remembering-korea-my-last-whole-day-in-korea-with-our-oh-so-cool-sixth-graders/). I found a blog that shares a recipe for it too (http://www.cookingkorean.com/?p=144).

    I loved the octopus (cooked, sushi, live- tried once) and squid prepared alone or as part of a dish. I miss the soups (especially seaweed and squid), small fried pancakes (with vegetables mixed in), and kimchi. I used to like to eat the seaweed or laver sheets as snacks. I also like the baked eggs. I like most things and tried just about everything put before me while there.

    Thanks for your advice, too. I saw where there had been an Asian grocery near me, but it was out of business. maybe I can find one as you said that may cater to another ethnicity and can find some things there. I would so love to have some Korean food now, especially the octopus.

  11. Ok, that does it! It’s a shawarma sandwich with salad and a side of hummus for dinner tonight! YUM! Thanks for the idea Carol.

  12. @Mahram – my friend’s name is Lynn. She and her hubby worked in Jeddah.

    @Harry – the restaurant sounds like a wonderful experience!

    My grandson’s favorite snack when he wakes up from his nap is hummus! He’ll eat it by dipping little pretzel sticks into it!

  13. @Butterfly Jewel,
    Thanks for the links! 🙂 I would think that you’d be able to find kimchi, at least, somewhere or at least be able to order it? If not, I know that it’s possible to make at home if you have the time, I’m just not sure exactly how. I personally like to use google maps to search for businesses when applicable.

    @AB,
    I think it’s cool that your grandson loves hummus and pretzels as a snack! ❤ I keep my fridge at home stocked up on hummus now.

    One of the things I used to eat a lot in the UK was the Puck cheese or philadelphia cream cheese w/honey on toast. At first, I wasn't sure what to think of it, but I ended up liking it. I prefer the Arabic flatbread to the sandwich slice style of bread common here in the US now, too.

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