Shawarmaji restaurant brings Arab cuisine, hospitality to Downtown Oakland

ByJason Beal Localish logo
Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Shawarmaji restaurant brings Arab cuisine, hospitality to Oakland
Here's how Shawarmaji brings Arab comfort food from the streets of Amman, Jordan to Oakland while giving back in the process.

OAKLAND, Calif. -- "Karam" is a guiding principle in Arab culture; the word means generosity and building a sense of community. It's a mentality that's woven into the mission of Shawarmaji restaurant in Downtown Oakland.

"We always want to give people food, feed people," said Mohammad Abutaha, the owner of Shawarmaji. "People appreciate things that are authentic."

Shawarmaji serves shawarma, falafels, and more from the streets of Amman, Jordan to California. The menu options feature Arab cuisine inspired by Abutaha's upbringing.

"My family is Palestinian," shared Abutaha. "In 1948, my grandfather had to flee, and he went to Jordan and that's where my dad was born and that's where I grew up."

"My goal wasn't to necessarily like take Arab food to the next level," Abutaha added. "It was more of like sharing what people actually eat back home with people in the Bay Area to share a little bit of our heritage."

In addition to sharing Arab culture, Shawarmaji is also raising funds to support people in Gaza.

"What's happening in Gaza is really affecting us, affecting us so much mentally and physically as well," shared Abutaha. "It really means a lot to us to raise awareness and to try to support as much as we can."

Shawarmaji has raised funds for organizations like MECA, who are on the ground supporting people in Gaza.

"I see the light at the end of the tunnel and experience the sense of community and support, especially here in Oakland where a lot of people have been coming out to support Gaza," said Abutaha.

He continued, "That's what we're here to do more than anything is to show that this is an Arab restaurant, we have Arab art all over the walls, we play Arabic music, and we want to share that with the community as well."

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