shaku maku

Shaku Maku – A Melting Pot of Culture With a Warm Welcome for All

If you’re a lover of Middle Eastern food, then you’ll have certainly heard of Shaku Maku. An Arabic phrase that translates to ‘What’s the story?’ or ‘Cad é an sceal?’, you’re sure to spot it a mile away with its colours of navy and pink brightening up Rathmines.

Why is it a melting pot? Well, in addition to the fact that you can get authentic dishes typically found in the Levantine regions of the Middle East, the staff here demonstrate this perfectly, from the waiters, to the chefs, and even to the owner himself. Adnan Shabab, a Palestinian-Jordanian man who has been living in Ireland for over two decades, opened Shaku Maku in 2022 with the intention of making it one of the go-to spots in Dublin for both Arabs and non-Arabs alike to get a taste of real Middle Eastern food. What Shaku Maku has become is larger than anything Adnan could have imagined.

Walking into Shaku Maku, you’re immediately struck by the unique decor – beautiful vintage posters with Arabic writing and calligraphy adorn the walls, with iconic figures from the Middle East like the late singer, Um Kalthoum. You’ll also find Um Kalthoum at one of Adnan’s other establishments, Umi Falafel. Shaku Maku is always bustling and busy, with the tables always full and an exciting energy filling the restaurant. You’re met with an open kitchen once you walk in, with the chefs working hard on the Josper grill, cooking up some fragrant barbecued meats. Stepping further into the restaurant and up the stairs, more booths are found, and as you are brought outside, the real unique touch of Shaku Maku is evident.

As a Palestinian, a restaurant serving authentic Middle Eastern food is something my ears will perk up for – anything for a taste of home. You’ll find the classic Mezze/starters like hummus, baba ghanoush and fattoush, but the extra touches like their Hummus Bil Lahmeh, which is hummus with meat and pine nuts, adds that element of authenticity you just don’t get anywhere else. The grilled dishes at Shaku Maku are reminiscent of the barbecues we would have back home, where the whole family gathers around and enjoys a range of different meats with the smokey aroma from the grill. Of course, having a classic Palestinian dessert like Knafeh is always a plus, bringing us back to the memories of home.

Outdoors, you’ll find a bright conservatory with a handful of tables and several couches. An area that has been in the making for a while, this section of the restaurant is perfect for diners to step outside after their dinner and enjoy a Shisha, or to get a taste of Shaku Maku’s recent addition, a wood-fired oven cooking up pizza and Manaeesh from Zaatar.

Shisha, sometimes referred to as hookah or argileh, is a common Middle Eastern tradition that is becoming much more popular in parts of Europe. A molasses-based tobacco product is heated in the hookah and is typically enjoyed after meals in the Middle East, and is one of the reasons why Shaku Maku has become a commonly frequented spot amongst Arabs in Dublin, and more recently, Ukrainians.

Following the recent events in Ukraine, a number of Ukrainians fled to Ireland for safety, many of them starting to build their lives in Dublin. Shaku Maku has now become somewhat of a safe haven for Ukrainians in Ireland, in addition to a number of other nationalities, like Syrians, Jordanians and Palestinians. You’ll find many of the staff speaking multiple languages, and since Shisha is a very common tradition in Eastern Europe, the experts in the outside section of Shaku Maku are Ukrainian.

The best quality Mu’assel (flavoured tobacco) is imported, with a range of flavours to be expected, including the classics of double apple, and much more unique options like chocolate fudge and Irish cream. You’ll often find the staff joking around with the customers, which is all part of the hospitality experience you’re guaranteed to get at Shaku Maku, and because many of the staff are Ukrainian, plenty of Ukrainians have frequented Shaku Maku with their friends, as a place where they can get a bite to eat, smoke some Shisha and enjoy the atmosphere late into the evening.

Recently, the outdoor area in Shaku Maku has hosted events to bring these communities together, like stand-up comedy. A place for those who perhaps search for an alternative to pubs or bars, or just want a spot that is alcohol-free to spend their evenings, Shaku Maku has become so much more than just a Middle Eastern restaurant.

It may not occur to us immediately just why a place like Shaku Maku having an international team of staff is important, but to them, it is somewhere they can go to get a taste of home, whether it be through the food, the atmosphere, the language or even the Shisha! Those who move to Ireland and consider it home have always been welcomed with open arms by the Irish people, who are known for their friendliness and hospitality, but having somewhere like Shaku Maku, whether you work there or just visit it, is important, because a taste of home is never too far.

Find Shaku Maku on Instagram here, and a dedicated page for their outdoor Shisha section here. The outdoor part of Shaku Maku is also available for private hire.

Article by Sara Abdulmagid

I’m a Palestinian who grew up in Cyprus and moved to Dublin in 2013, so I’ve had a mishmash of different cultures and cuisines surrounding me my whole life. I’m an avid foodie, and after realising that life as a lawyer was not for me, I studied media and became a radio host for Dublin City FM. I’m now writing for TheTaste full time, but I also have my own food blog where you can find a mixture of restaurant reviews and the occasional recipe. I talk a lot about being Palestinian; to be honest, I talk a lot in general. That’s why I did radio!

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