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The early-morning hours at Zaatar W Zeit are the busiest.
The early-morning hours at Zaatar W Zeit are the busiest.

The Lebanese restaurant popular with Dubai's night owls

The fast-food restaurant Zaatar W Zeit attracts a large number of customers who want to eat and contiinue hanging out with friends after the night clubs close at 3am.

DUBAI // It could be any civilised Friday brunch, with great queues of fashionably dressed people in their 20s and 30s stretching from the orders counter to the entrance or packing tables to enjoy their feast.

Except that it's quite dark outside as one would expect at 3am.

Welcome to Zaatar W Zeit, the Sheikh Zayed Road branch of a popular Lebanese fast-food chain.

On a recent Friday morning every table at the restaurant, which serves a trendy version of the traditional Lebanese baked wrap sandwich, was full.

Outside, groups were waiting for their takeaway orders.

"It is open 24 hours and it is a good place," said George, 25, a management consultant from Lebanon.

He and his banker friend Joseph, 26, had spent the night at Boudoir, a popular nightclub in the Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa hotel.

They headed to Zattar W Zeit for a quick snack on their way home.

"We need to eat. We are hungry after being out," says George Haddad, 38, another businessman from Lebanon who was waiting for takeaway with several friends.

One of them, the Lebanese trader Tareq Monawad, 31, said: "They have the best food and it is a Lebanese restaurant."

But you do not have to be Lebanese to like it.

"I like the food and it is open 24 hours," said Edgar Lopez, 31, a hotel employee from Mexico who had hunger pangs after a night at the Armani/Prive lounge in the Armani hotel.

Mr Lopez said he did not usually eat at this time of the day, but a Lebanese wrap with some light cheese or meat and a vegetable platter was a healthier option than a burger and fries.

Zaatar W Zeit opened in Lebanon in 1999 and has been in the UAE since 2005.

It takes its name from zaatar - a blend of thyme, sesame and salt - and zeit, which means oil. Thyme and olive oil are staple ingredients in Lebanese cuisine.

An employee at the restaurant said the early-morning hours were one of the busiest shifts.

"We prepare specially for this shift. This is normal," he said, pointing to the queue of people.

"Every day after the clubs close it is the same, but the weekend is especially busy. Tuesday too."

Many clubs in Dubai organise special promotions on Tuesday to attract customers in the middle of the working week. Early on Wednesday morning, as well as Friday and Saturday mornings, customers start arriving at Zaatar W Zeit about 2am, with the peak just after 3am when the clubs close.

For many, the snack is a way to extend socialising for a little longer. This option is to them more valuable than catching up on sleep.

"I ask myself the same question," Ali Ahmed, 27, said with a smile when asked why he was not sleeping. "I have an important exam in 10 days but I am still here."

The Emirati civil engineer was sitting at a table with five friends, all of them from Abu Dhabi.

"If we are hungry, we are hungry," Mr Ahmed said. "And here there is food and nice people."

Girlie Lumactud, 25, from the Philippines, said that occasionally staying late could be liberating.

"It is Dubai, you should enjoy life," said the media professional. "What else to do? It is the weekend."


@ For more in our NIGHT OWLS series, click here.

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