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Happy Birthday: A Smoothie Institution Turns 89

Though it might look like a hole-in-the-wall smoothie shop, Abu Shaker’s place is a Damascus institution, famous for its lavish, over-sized combinations of fruits topped with whipped cream, honey and pistachios. But like many great inventions, Abu Shaker’s signature drink was first created on a whim.

It always happened, he recalls, that when he was out of milk, customers who came in wanting a banana and milk smoothie would turn around and leave. Sorry to lose their business, he decided to come up with an alternative.

“Do you want me to squeeze some carrots together with some apple, orange, grapes, pomegranate and black mulberry, plus some sugar, and taste it?” he asked. “Go ahead and try it,” the customer said. Decades later, the delicious mix is still one of the most popular menu items.

Abu Shaker’s real name is Adnan Omari, and he inherited his spirit of innovation from his father, who used to tell his son that he “invented the orange juice business”. He opened his place in Salihiya in 1925, in the midst of the French Mandate, and taught his son to quote the price of a drink as “two francs, sir,” quietly so as not to seem uppity.

Abu Shaker took over after his father’s death in 1963; 51 years later, his own four sons all have university degrees. His shop remains “the axis of his existence”, his son Abdullah says—thankfully for Damascenes who get to keep savoring the fruits of his dedication.

For more info – Abu Shaker documentary

 

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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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