What’s the best halal restaurant in Dubai? The London-based entrepreneur Zohra Khaku is banking on the fact that most people don’t know.
Khaku has spent the last two years developing Halal Gems, a restaurant finder that helps people locate the best halal cuisine across the United Kingdom. In a few weeks, she’ll be launching the same technology in Dubai. She has also just released the first issue of her quarterly digital magazine Halal Gems, which focuses on halal restaurants in London and Dubai.
Khaku’s mission? To give halal dining its due.
“I want to celebrate halal dining,” says Khaku, who was in Dubai last week to launch the magazine. “I want halal food to be the highest quality food in the next 10 to 15 years. It’s something to be proud of. I want this magazine to be something people are proud of.”
Khaku plans to expand her restaurant finder beyond the UK and Dubai to include as many cities around the world as possible. “People need a place to find good halal restaurants,” says Khaku. “It’s really hard to find them on your own. I have visited 600 restaurants this year. In the last 12 months, I’ve done the United States, London, Malaysia and two trips to Dubai. I’m planning Australia for next year.” She’s also eaten her way through several cities in Europe.
In every city, she compiles a list of the best in halal dining. Once she feels she has the city “completely covered”, it gets added to her directory.
The directory lists what people should know about each restaurant before dining there. For example, Khaku will list whether or not the halal restaurants in Dubai also serve pork or alcohol (they have separate kitchens). “Everybody has a different definition of what halal is,” says Khaku. “We get as much information as we can about each restaurant and what makes it halal.”
With a degree in computer science, the 31-year-old Khaku didn’t plan on an entrepreneurial career. In 2012, while working as a consultant, she realised she needed a change. Khaku says: “I thought: ‘This is not very fulfilling. I can go for a promotion or I can leave.’”
That’s when she left to work on Halal Gems full time. She hasn’t taken a salary yet, and uses her savings to fund her travel and research and to pay her single employee. Khaku says she hopes advertising with Halal Gems will eventually help pay her bills.
But even if it doesn’t make money, Khaku says she is proud of what she has created. “The magazine is all about showcasing conscious halal dining. I believe this magazine is to halal food what Vogue is to fashion.”
Halal Gems (UK) is free to download for iPad and Android users. The Dubai version will be launched in a few weeks. For more information, visitwww.halalgems.com and www.facebook.com/halalgems
Originally published on www.thenational.ae