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Saturday, August 20, 2005 

Damascus sweet shop becomes world famous

Ghraoui, one of the city's most exclusive sweet shops is the feature of a New York Times article. Perhaps because of the power of New York's Syrian community, or just the increasing world focus on Iraq's neighbour.

Ghraoui has been around for 200 years. It is located on Sharia Abu Roumaneh, the embassy district, and the city's most affluent road. The owner says his speciality of dried fruits was copied by the French during their time ruling Syria. Those fruit confits are now to be found in exclusive roadside Parisien cafes.

Their tiny dried fruits are picked when they are still small. Baby apples grow on the hills above Damascus.

I remember eating chocolate coated coffee beans from Ghraoui's shop near Saa'hat Yousef Al-Azmeh just two days before the war started in Iraq. I'll always associate the taste of bitter coffee flavoured chocolate with fear and trepidation. We sat in a cafe just round the corner from Azmeh.

And if you can't live without Ghraoui's conconctions, I suggest you try Semiramis - equally expensive, and located in Sha'lan, near Pitstop and the Benneton store.

Ghraoui's website is here, and the New York Times article is here.

It is articles like this that will show the West the real face of life in Syria - no more politics, no more borders, just sweets. Or at least one very upmarket face.

I was lately in Damascus and I took my family to Semiramis and we bought some sweets to go. I wanted a place where we can sit and have a coffe or tea with the sweets but I was told that arabic sweets boutiques don't have generally a place for that because local people sit in a store only for western pastry and that arab sweets are always to go. It is a pity I didn't know about Ghraoui, I will go next time. But Semiramis is really good. I tried Hallab and Kanaan in Lebanon and my verdict is that Semiramis is the best. Moreover arabic sweets in Lebanon are expansive. At Kanaan in Saida, it was a theft; they charged me 18 US dollars for two plates of arabic mix and when I asked them to justify the price which was 12 dollars more than what they annouced on the 'carte' they explained that my choice was wider because it included Baclava and that they charge 4 dollars for two tiny pieces of Baclava. I told them that this was theft and that I would tell the entire world about it, starting by my Gallimard guide book (footprints) which recommanded the place. And their sweets were less than regular.

So I wouldn't call Semiramis expansive.

By the way, I enjoy reading your blog regularly.

Semiramis is expensive by Syrian standards. Ghraoui is slightly more expensive than Semiramis.

But you are right, $5 for the best sweets in town is unthinkable in Europe.

The shop feels like an expensive Western jewellery boutique or watch shop.

Many Damascene sweet shops have seats - try around 8 Azar Square, and Merjeh.

hey, i am wondering how much it would cost for, say 500grams, of Ghraoui plane milk chocolate?

thanks!

About $10-$15, there website is www.ghraouichocolate.com and they've got a store in Jordan now too. Where are you?

ok thanks. Well i'm in Egypt but my friend is travelling to Syria so she can buy me some sweets from there! I tried ghraoui sweets before - the apricot with pistachios. however i'm more into chocolate so i'll check the online chocolate selection. Thanks!

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  • Written by sasa
  • From Damascus, Syria
  • From Damascus to London via Beirut. Based in and out of the central Damascene hamlet of Saroujah. News and feelings from the streets every day. I'm talking rubbish? Leave a comment. Welcome to the information democracy. See below for info about this site.
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