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A little slice of Tunisia

Last update - Thursday, July 30, 2009, 13:05 By Charlie Johnson

Charlie Johnson meets Amir Ben Amour of Amir’s Delights, a Tunisian native bringing the tastes and scents of North Africa’s café culture to central Dublin

Sandwiched between the busy Italian restaurants and French cafés on Bloom’s Lane, just north of Dublin’s Millennium Bridge, is a little slice of Tunisia.
Opened just two months ago, Amir’s Delights is a small café that aims to bring a Moorish flavour of food, drink, and culture to the city. And its owner and namesake, Amir Ben Amor, is dedicated to bringing his North African heritage to Ireland in the most authentic way possible.
“My wife suggested the store,” he explains. “I had visited Ireland and I didn’t see any Moorish coffee in Ireland and so I thought I would sell some, to bring a new culture to Ireland. I want the Irish to get to know and like the Muslim culture.”
Amir’s Delights certainly presents a wealth of Tunisian and Muslim culture. The shop features authentic Moorish coffee and Arab mint teas, along with more standard fare like soft drinks and smoothies. Foodwise, there are over 45 types of handmade Arab pastries brought in from Tunisia, as well as tagines, a North African style sandwich. The café also boasts a hookah menu with a variety of tobacco-free chichas for smoking. 
“I try to be very authentic,” says Amir. “It’s like Tunisia here. Everything is organic and homemade and healthy. Tunisians, Moroccans, Libyans, Algerians have been coming in because they can’t find something like this anywhere in Ireland.”
“And sometimes Irish people who have been to Tunisia or North Africa will come in and reminisce about their holiday,” adds his wife Inez.
Beyond the flavours of Tunisia, the café also sells North African pottery, books on Tunisia, authentic furniture, rose and orange peel flavoured waters, and hookah pipes and smoking accessories. Even the ornate tables and cushions for customers to sit on are available for purchase. If Amir hasn’t nailed it down, it’s for sale!
Opening any new premises in a recession isn’t easy, and business was slow at first, but is now picking up as more and more people have been stopping in to sample Amir’s various delights. Having worked as a taxi driver and tourist guide in Tunisia, he is used to meeting people from all walks of life.
“I like Ireland, it’s nice, especially in Dublin,” he says. “It’s different from Tunisia, not living in a Muslim country, but I’m happy to be here. [However] I do miss my family, and friends, and the fresh food and fruit in Tunisia. That, I miss.”
Integral to the authentic experience at Amir’s is the atmosphere that he and his wife try to create. With its and padded benches and cushions, the café is a comfortable spot to sit and relax, read a newspaper or even just watch the world go buy through the large windows.

‘Everyone is welcome here.  I want everyone to be able to enjoy the culture here,” says Amir, who hopes that his café will provide an alternative to the Americanised café culture and the dominant pub scene, especially for those who may abstain from alcohol due to their religious beliefs.
“Some people do not drink,” he says, “and here they can relax, eat something, maybe smoke some chicha and be happy.”

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