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Take a sip of Colombia and tuck into a slice of Japan at SIBF 2023

With publishers from 109 countries participating, half the world’s countries are at the 42nd edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) to delight bibliophiles. The book fair is equally an epicurean delight for those who want the world on their plates too!

From a slice of Japan to a sip of Colombia, and everything in between, there’s a lot brewing and cooking almost every minute at the region’s biggest book fair for anyone that loves the sight and taste of gourmet food and drinks. And most of those on the festival’s gastronomic map are homegrown outlets making their debut.

Abu Dhabi-based Karazten Foodstuff Trading, for example, is selling cups of cardamom-infused karak for Dh5 to coffee from Colombia for Dh10. However, what makes them a standout is their range of beans from places as diverse as Yemen, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Ethiopia.

“Whilst you can only taste our Colombian coffee here, you can take home our freshly roasted coffee beans from all of these countries for prices as low as Dh50,” says Syrian Sami Zakaria who’s also giving SIBF visitors a taste of his company’s special lineup of honey that includes varieties like cidr jojoba, black seed and citrus. “Some prefer it in our coffee instead of sugar and we are happy to serve them that way,” he says.

Talking about getting a taste of newness, there’s no stopping fans of Amoodi’s Creamery, another SIBF first-timer that’s selling gourmet ice-creams with flavours as eccentric as Gahwa, Butter Cake and Corn Flakes.

“Whilst people come back for our traditional favourites like vanilla and Swiss chocolate, there’s no denying the fact that some are enamoured by the novelty of our unique flavours,” says Cameroonian Emille who’s been busy catering to fans of the homegrown Sharjah brand – young and old alike – by doling out free samplers in between selling scoops for Dh25.

“What also makes their ice-creams unique are their toppings that I have not seen anywhere else,” says 11-year-old Khalid Abdallah, who’s been coming back to the SIBF for the much-desired scoop along with his seven-year-old brother Mohammed – both fans of the vanilla ice cream topped with Graham’s cracker crumble.

For nine-year-old Dana Saeed and his younger sibling Maryam, six, SIBF has been a treasure trove of not just good books but also food they love. “They love coming back here every year because they can spend the whole day with books and snacks they are fans of – be it hot chips, pancakes or the classic favourite mini melts,” says Palestinian Shereen Ali who escorts her two children to the annual festival every year. “You now see why because there’s enough choices to keep me going as well,” she adds tucking into a quesadilla wrap, right next to Mohammed Magdy who’s been busy selling Cotton Candies of various colours to young visitors. “You think it’s usually always pink but what makes these candies exotic are their variety of colours,” says the Egyptian who’s been selling the ubiquitous sweet treat out of his kiosk in Hall 7 for Dh10, 15 and 20.

Most tea shops in UAE may continue to sell Karak for Dh1 but if you pay a Dh2 premium, you can sip some pure black tea brew from the hills of India’s northeastern state of Assam. “It’s been very popular so far and people are coming back for more just because of the taste,” says Wasiq, who works for RealBev that retails this special brew out of their Sharjah office in UAE and the rest of the region.

And how do you make your SIBF chai experience a whole lot better? Dunk a Dh10 Nutella paratha or a Dh25 Kinder waffle into the cup before you prepare for a gourmet meal of signature burgers at one of the many food trucks right outside the main entrance.

Our recommendations – a G.O.A.T burger (Dh55) that comes with premium Wagyu patty and American cheese in a brioche bun with lots of crispy onions. Make it slightly more exotic with shimeji mushrooms and enoki tempura and you get SIBF’s Arigato burger. That’s thank you in Japanese as well.

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