DEARBORN — Some might find it unusual for customers to be lined up at a local bakery at 2:00 a.m. on a weekday morning, but local Muslim residents would find this to be quite the norm during the holy month of Ramadan, as dining out for suhoor has become a common practice in Dearborn and its surrounding cities.
We decided to pay a visit to the Saj Bakery, located in Dearborn Heights, one weekday morning around 2:00 a.m., and while people in cities and towns across the state are tucked into bed getting some rest before waking up to another typical weekday morning, this bakery is wide awake, as locals are enjoying their one last meal before fasting for another 16 hours.
Hussein Ali Siblini, who owns the Saj Bakery as well a co-owner of the New Yasmeen Bakery located in Dearborn, is well prepared for the crowds. Along with other bakeries in the surrounding areas, his two businesses are open 24 hours during the month of Ramadan to accommodate whoever is craving some Middle Eastern cuisine.
|Muslim customers line up to buy their suhoor at the Saj Bakery and Deli in Dearborn Heights, which is open 24 hours during the holy month of Ramadan and serves a variety of delicious Middle Eastern food. |
PHOTOS: Nafeh AbuNab
"When we first opened Yasmeen all we did was pita bread. But when we added the food menu, we decided it would make sense to stay open during suhoor. We have been doing this since our second or third year of business and word of mouth has spread since then," Siblini stated.
Siblini says he noticed suhoor business became more prominent in the last few years, especially after the Islamic Center of America, located on Ford Rd. opened its doors in 2005. He says locals usually attend the lectures and programs that last past midnight or so, and then come to visit the bakeries afterwards.
While other businesses have re-adjusted their schedules to stay open later and instead close during the day time, Siblini says the 24- hour approach benefits his businesses, because there will always be customers during Ramadan regardless of what time of the day it is.
"We have customers from mixed markets. We have plenty of Caucasian and Christian customers that still come in for lunch. During that period we also get a lot of workers from the local companies. It's not always people who are fasting," Siblini added.
But opening 24 hours during the month also means that the two bakeries have to hire more staff and re-arrange work schedules. At the Saj Bakery, a staff of 12 is behind the counter from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m., taking orders and preparing the food, which includes everything from cheese, spinach and meat pies, manushis, croissants, fried kibee, hummus and falafal, as well as desserts such as crepes and popular Ramadan items such as sahlab and khaleej.
Working the late hours doesn't seem to be a problem for the staff.
"I actually really like working at night. It's fun to witness the Ramadan lifestyle and culture," said Fatme Beydoun, who was the cashier on duty. Normally Beydoun says she would be working every morning from 7:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
|Customers line up to buy their food from Yasmeen Bakery on Warren Ave, in Dearborn. The bakery was recently featured in the latest issue of GQ magazine, which raved about their menu.|
The customers don't just show up individually either, they show up in large groups, all the more making their suhoor experience as enjoyable as any regular night out with friends. On this particular early morning there were plenty of young males, young females and older couples dining in and enjoying their meals.
"We do this because we want to be full enough and have a bit of food in our system when it's time to resume fasting," said Billal Chami, 20, of Dearborn Heights, who came to have suhoor with four other friends. "We are regulars here, we have been coming every night so far. The staff knows our orders…I always get the labneh," Chami added.
But it's not just the Dearborn-Dearborn Heights crowds that have been staying out late every night taking advantage of the opened businesses. The later hours have also been drawing crowds from further out. A group of friends from Canton also decided to make the trip out to the area to grab some food and dine in at Saj. The convenient location of the bakery in Dearborn Heights also means residents from those areas don't necessarily have to go all the way out to East Dearborn.
"We came to this area because they don't have this kind of food in Canton," stated Sayid Youssef, 18. "Nothing over there is open this late. I heard about this location from my friends so I thought I would give it a try," he added, while enjoying menu items with his friends that included shawarma, manushi and grape leaves.
Siblini says customers from all over the area pop in through his doors. A couple of weeks ago he was surprised to learn that Yasmeen Bakery was featured in the latest issue of GQ magazine after a customer had told him about it. A reporter from the magazine had apparently made a visit to the bakery and wrote a positive review, raving about their shawarma, hummus, baba ganoush and tabbouli.
"Nobody told us about it, but the person who wrote the article is a customer that stopped by and he didn't tell us. It was a nice surprise and a really good recognition from a very respectable and well known magazine," Siblini stated.
Siblini says he's grateful for the strong business he has been receiving from the local community. Yasmeen Bakery continues to have a prominent presence in Dearborn, and Saj, which opened its doors just a little over a year ago, has also found its place in Dearborn Heights.
"This is a very blessed time of the year. You learn a lot about morals and values and people are just so generous all around. It really is a wonderful and exciting month," Siblini stated.