If the mere mention of filo pastry, sweet sugar syrup and nuts makes your mouth water and your mind go on hold, then Arabic sweets are for you and Al Mustafa is the place to get them.
Photo by Gida Homad-Hamam (click for more photos)
Al Mustafa is located just off Santa Filomena in the Patronato neighborhood. Surrounded by a black fence and shadowed by a big sign that reads “Delicias Arabes” (Arabic Delights), the place does not boast much from the outside. Inside, a small fridge and display cupboard contain sweets and pastries and more sweets. There is only one chair, where you can have your sweets then and there, or take them to go. The kitchen is separated from the room by a wall; transparent enough to make out the silhouettes of those toiling inside.
The shop was opened in January 2009 to help out the Palestinian refugees who arrived in Chile from Iraq between April and May 2008. The idea was to have four of the refugee families working there. However, the number has dwindled down to one family, and the main cook is a young man with training in sweet making from Baghdad.
Why the Patronato neighborhood? Traditionally it was the dwelling and commerce area of Arab immigrants — mistakenly referred to as Turkos (Turks) when they first arrived, due to the misconception that those under Ottoman rule were of Turkish ethnicity. Another reason is that many of the refugees that came to Chile in 2008 settled in the Recoleta borough.
There are currently over 300,000 Chileans of Palestinian descent, mostly from Bethlehem, and the towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour. It is believed to be the biggest Palestinian community outside the Arab world.
The name Mustafa is one of the names used for the Prophet Mohammad. It is a common Arabic name, and means the “chosen one”.
Al Mustafa is but a taste of the wide array of “Middle-Eastern” foods available in Santiago, and so far has been the one to take my taste buds closest to home. When I went there on a Thursday afternoon, the little place was full of people buying single sweets or waiting for their large orders.
Although you cannot deny the amount of “sweetness” in Arabic desserts, my one grievance with Al Mustafa’s delights is that they go overboard with the syrup.
Still, you can get a wide array of Arabic and Turkish delicacies. Ranging from the delectable Baklava (CP$250, or US$0.46), Swara — the Arabic word for bracelet — (CP$250, or US$0.46), the Turkish Ceregli (CP$650, or US$1.19) to the Mamul-dough filled with either dates, walnuts or pistachio (CP$350, or US$0.64).
There are enough delights to keep you coming back to Al Mustafa for more. You will walk out content, your fingers sticky with the sweet syrup and the taste of pastry clinging to your teeth.
All in all, calories well gained!
Río de Janeiro 405, Recoleta
Metro: Bellas Artes and Patronato
Hours: Monday to Friday, 9am–7pm; Saturday 9am–4pm; closed Sundays