Taiba Market opens offering Middle Eastern food options

Aug. 25, 2013 @ 05:43 PM

On West Chapel Hill Street in Durham, two men have opened the Taiba Market to supply local residents with Middle Eastern products ranging from coffee to cookies to spices to pita as well as with flavored tobacco and hookah smoking pipes.

The store also opened a meat counter in the store this month offering halal meat, which is meat prepared according to Islamic law. Store co-owner Kamal Balal said he traveled to Egypt for 20 days to learn butchery techniques. On Friday, he had cuts of beef, seasoned as well as whole chickens and goat for sale.
“There is no other competitor in Durham,” said Balal, who said local residents previously had to travel to Raleigh for Middle Eastern products. He believes there is a large enough Muslim and Jewish population in Durham to support a store, and he hopes to attract the business of West End neighborhood residents as well.
In addition to halal products, Balal said the store also carries kosher products, which are prepared according to Jewish law.
Abdullah Antepli, Muslim chaplain at Duke University, said Muslim dietary restrictions are similar to kosher standards.
The word “halal” means “permissible,” he said, and can refer to food preparation or any item permissible under Islamic law. Among other standards, Antepli said an animal must be treated humanely and slaughtered in the name of God. All the blood must be removed from the animal.
“This particular store responds to a huge need, and I think it will be a huge success,” Antepli said, adding that stores in the city have sold frozen halal meat, but have not had fresh meat options. He also said the store is bringing international food products to the area from Turkey, Pakistan and other countries that he said should be welcomed by non-Muslim residents of Durham.
“I’m glad to see more visible Muslim businesses becoming part of the landscape of the Durham area,” Antepli said, adding that he’s seen an increase in the number of Muslim students at the university in recent years. “If you are really curious and adventurous about international cuisine, this store is a must-visit place,” he added.
Balal, 40, said he’s originally from Egypt. He moved to Durham from Cairo in 2001 after graduating with a degree in management.
His business partner in the store is originally from Sudan, he said. They both previously worked at a taxi company in Durham.
“This is the dream for everybody to come to the United States,” Balal said, explaining that he came to Durham because his brother moved to the area before him as a result of job opportunity here.
Balal and his partner get their products from a distributor. The store is stocked with items including juice that Balal said is popular in Egypt, coffee, tea, a dessert called halva, falafel mix, canned hummus, meats and vegetables.
In addition to selling hookahs, they also sell accompanying equipment including charcoal and flavored tobacco.
On Friday, Hasan Rasheed bought five whole chickens from the store that he said he planned to cook for friends for dinner. He lives in Beulaville, which is in the southeastern part of the state. He was in Durham to attend a mosque for congregational prayer held on Fridays.
He said he’d heard about the store through a friend, and was visiting for the first time.
“I’m simple – as long as it’s halal, I’m cool,” he said. “The store is clean, it’s neat,” he added.