Turkish Cafes: Liminal Spaces in the Mashreq

It was a clogged artery connecting the many hubs of Muscat, seeing a burst in real estate development. Along the side of this artery, was some civil works underway by the edge of the road. The narrow entry into the parking lot adjacent to a row of retail outlets including a supermarket and a Turkish Cafe with a projector screen, beaming in a soccer game. On this not so chilly winter evening was a good soccer game between Oman and Saudi Arabia. The tables almost extending into the edge of the civil works was jam packed with an all men audience, following every small move of the game with a zeal of the priesthood. There were bouts of oohs and aahhs, and a huge roar of applause when the home team scored. As if salvation was near. Sport is a gladiatorial spectre of testosterone and skill, which attracts the viewer to tap into to a sense of belonging and affirmation. Cafes are liminal spaces, spilling into the public area; a type of inside-outside, the intimate in a public space.

Turkish cafes in Muscat are places where the Shwarma is available for a tasty and quick bite from the migrant labor to the struggling office worker who is in cost cutting mode. These eateries are purely operational; with a gruffly, middle aged model like Turkish man, who was surely very good looking in his prime, now jostling to run his business.

The service staff is Bangladeshi, and I quickly Code switch to Bangla to order my grilled chicken. The deft Bangladeshi; coordinates between the costumer, kitchen, the mudir (manager) to bring the order. The inside family seating section where I am with @bromide_duck @jiya_bromideduck for a bite, is empty which a pole apart from the bustle on the outside. The drive in costumers have a regal air honking away to glory. Cafes are human spaces which create nimble social networking on the ground, in this part of the world. The Turkish Coffee was splendid too, by the way.


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