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Grocer brings flavor of the Middle East and Asia to OKC

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Talha Rizwan
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EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the latest in our series on immigrants who make the decision to come to the United States and start a new life.

OKLAHOMA CITY-- Last month the world mourned the passing of Nadine Gordimer the South African Nobel Prize winning author.

As noted in the obituaries written for her, Gordimer wrote novels that detailed how the racial separation mandated in her native land by the apartheid that was in place for most of her life affected the lives of its citizens. But she was also known in her native land for her non- fiction essays, and in 1999, Gordimer published a compilation of them that was titled Living In Hope and History.

In one of those essays she wrote of her youth in a small South African mining town where her father, who was an immigrant from Eastern Europe, owned a small store where he sold and repaired watches. The author recounted how she enjoyed accompanying her parents to a small store that was not far from her father’s place that was filled with the scent of olive oil where a Greek immigrant with a heavy accent sold items from the Mediterranean area that included thick cheeses and Greek bread.

And it is possible that decades from now a resident of Oklahoma City will write of going to one of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern grocery stores in Oklahoma’s capital city that are operated by immigrants. One such establishment is Sabri Foods on West Memorial adjacent to the Broadway Extension that is run by Talha Rizwan who is an immigrant from Pakistan. His establishment sells what is known as “Halal’ meat which means that they were prepared in accordance with Islamic tradition.

Cow legs with hooves on them and other unusual meats can be seen behind the glass doors of his refrigerated section, and Rizwan reports that all of the meat that he sells is grass fed and has not been affected by steroids or any other artificial chemical . He also offers several different types of olive oil as well as syrups from Iraq, bread from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, and candies from India.

Rizwan sells a wide variety of teas, including some Pakistani teas that are in small plastic bags that he has packaged himself from tea leaves that he has imported from his native land. A visit to Sabri Foods is a reminder of the relative prosperity of most immigrants to the U.S., and its patrons include physicians, businessman, fashionably dressed foreign students, and affluent house wives with small children. The customers can be heard speaking a variety of languages to each other, and Rizwan frequently speaks Urdu, which is the primary language of Pakistan, with many of them. The store operator also reports that he is also developing a clientele of native born Oklahomans who prefer meat that has not been affected by chemicals.

Rizwan, who works in partnership with both his father and brother, says that his business has been very successful, and that he intends to move to a larger site sometime next year to accommodate the growth of his business. Rizwan, who is a US citizen, recently became a father for the first time, and he said that he looks forward to raising his son in Oklahoma. He reports that he is grateful to the state for the opportunities that it has afforded him and his family.

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About the Author

Bill O'Brien

Bill O'Brien is an attorney based in Oklahoma City.

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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