Shams El Balad Cafe: food from the heart. A new organic restaurant in Amman

Shams-el-balad-Amman-

A wave of green concepts is currently unfolding throughout Jordan. Here and there, new initiatives are being launched like eco-hotels, farmers’ markets, upcyling…

Jordanians are getting conscious about the need for sustainability and the importance of eating well.

Talking about food, we took a closer look at the latest endeavor of Hazem Malhas: Shams El Balad, a new organic restaurant in Amman.

Our Eye in Amman, Natacha, met him to know more about the philosophy of this entrepreneur, the restaurant and his other future projects.

Information

69, Mu'hat Bin Jabal - Jebel Amman (down rainbow street) Shams El Balad Facebook page

Hazem Malhas, Shams El Balad, Amman

 

What is the origin of this organic restaurant?

The restaurant is attracting a lot of different ages and social strata. It has a cool effect for the ladies as it is non-smoking and there is a certain level of handsomeness on the waiter’s side…

The space is an example of work from the heart, with the help of designer Shirin Najjar who developed the whole concept with me. Meant to be international and cosmopolitan, we let customers do what they want. The quality lies in providing clean organic food with modest prices.

 

Shams-el-balad-Amman-

Shams-el-balad-Amman-

 

This simple idea of home food seasonality is combined with the desire of people to go out and socialize. All age groups, from 20 to 70s are represented, including young moms with babies and friends. I am very happy to see a baby in our restaurant; it means it is a trustworthy place.

 

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Shams-el-balad-Amman-

Shams-el-balad-Amman-

 

Our terrace is now open offering an amazing new angle of view on the neighborhood and the Citadel, in a holistic context. The neighborhood is “sensual”, and follows the curvature of the city and its rolling hills. Our establishment is a public but secure place, surrounded by old trees and stones and where drinking water is free. As you can work on your laptop all day, it also becomes a portal for business, without pressure.

I want customers to leave happy, that will be the biggest self gratification.

 

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Shams-el-balad-Amman-

 

What is the link to Shams in Abdoun? Does it go along a common philosophy?

I was Minister of Environment from December 2009 to November 2010, where by law I resigned from all business. As I was free from legacy, I felt liberated. I joined boards of universities and schools, joined the American Center of Oriental Research and came up with the Tree Foundation. Archeology is now my activism after being a Jordanian pioneer for business in investment.

I was 50 years old when I got out of the government and I got a 2nd chance to pursue my passion. Before that, it was survival. When I was a fresh graduate, I had restored houses on Rainbow Street and built a mud house in the Jordan Valley.

My wife first opened Shams next to Khaldi Hospital 13 years; a very humble shop where she would make her own pots. Soon, she developed the shop into a complex business of landscaping, nursery, maintenances, etc. (see our tip Shams Shop). Ziad Zuraikat, designer at Bend The Box, helped her to focus on retail, developing a branding strategy during one year. They decided to shut down all maintenance work, and expand from flowers to hand-made gifts, recycled items; all affordable to middle class society.

After trips to Italy and NYC from which we got another part of our inspiration, we decided to pursue the concept and open Shams Urban. Shams Urban will be next door to Shams El Balad, our organic restaurant, which is only destined to remain a café. Shams Urban will be the celebration of dining with a proper restaurant kitchen infrastructure as well as a retail point for flowers, fresh produce, and food.

This project reinforces the rehabilitation of the neighborhood which was my idea and investment. The Masterplan was elaborated by 2K Architects; the Mayor of Amman has approved to make it a heritage district. Some engineers and artists also believed in the neighborhood, bought old houses, restored them and now live in them.

 

Shams-el-balad-Amman-

Shams-el-balad-Amman

Shams-el-balad-Amman-

 

Political bloggers in Jordan founded 7iber.com, and now have a conference room above the café. The aim is to create a hub for young activists where they can rent a desk or a room. Key words : cool café, thinkers, start building the community root and up, local economy, follow the passion, no greed, no neo liberal capitalist. Another objective is to help and address the neighbours. Bring students to design, carpenters and crafts people around to be involved in the construction process. Bring back the glory of the past.

We are working with the community to start sorting garbage and find a district parking solution. The launch will be the celebration of old gardens on Amman, thus a celebration not only of architecture but also of trees.

Shams Urban will be “the” restaurant hub where all ingredients need to have a story. The opening is scheduled in 2 to 3 months inshalla, before Ramadan.

 

What impact will these projects have in Jordan?

We have a gentle approach to development, where speed is not needed. We want to take the time to create sustainable jobs and dignity. We work with very diverse suppliers :

  • Coffee beans direct from farms in Yemen,
  • Tea blends by Jordanian business ladies who created Isteakan, a Salon de Thé,
  • Cookies by Halaby Bakery from Damascus, an old biscuit shop,
  • Desserts are baked by private ladies,
  • Organic citrus from Halaby farms,
  • Bread flour by Beni Hamida ladies, South of Madaba,
  • Fresh produce by Jabbok, Salleh and Botmma,
  • Jams and cheeses from social kitchens,
  • Zaatar and mekdous are home-made.

 

Shams-el-balad-Amman-16

Shams-el-balad-Amman-

 

We will soon have our own sugar mills, produce molasses and honey; start growing lentil, wheat, barley, chick peas.

We want to impact people who believe in excellence and production.

As an overall strategy in the evolution of Shams, we wanted our family to start as a non-profit organism and www. Alhima-jo.org (shams Life) was born with the assistance of Dr. Erin Addison, PhD in History and Landscape. Al Hima symbolizes the Arab philosophy of territory grazing and the welcoming of the new comers. We say the “Himaz of different tribes”, the “Al Hima system”; it has a very strong sense of proud identity. I believe in the civilization of civilizations only although the Arab identity crisis already had started with the Renaissance and the Ottomans.

Al Hima wants to work with everybody and link it to Shams Food. We want farmers and ladies to make the most income possible. By that, we also want to support Slow Food initiatives and the Foodies, promote food security and heirloom agriculture. Jordan missed the industrial revolution and lost Palestine. Jordanians are bad collectively but good individually. At the Individual level, Jordanians are of international standards. For that matter,  “co-eptition”, as in cooperating with competitors, is the solution to reduce the ammani fragmentation.

Shams is the story of the family, the city, the identity, the culture, the passion, applying it concretely in its space, an alternative scene of our own existence spaces and gardens.

 


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    li class="comment byuser comment-author-cathy bypostauthor even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-10">
    Cathy - 5 May 2016 at 11 h 33 min

    Hi Kelvin, Thanks! Have you already been there?

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-kelvin odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-9">
    Kelvin - 5 May 2016 at 6 h 08 min

    Nice review of a positive initiative.

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