Islamic Shops Add Vitality to the Royal Road
by Diane Andrews

Share |

Islamic Shops Add Vitality to the Royal Road

El Camino Real isn't just sitting around waiting for a master to plan to give it a facelift—specialized small businesses are already revitalizing Santa Clara's Royal Road. Sultana's Modest Collection & More and Maiwand Market are two Islamic shops that draw customers from around the South Bay. The shops sit side by side on El Camino Real next to SummerWinds Nursery near Kiely Boulevard.

Sultana's Modest Collection & More, 2905 El Camino Real, (408) 557-8700, is packed with Islamic men's and women's clothing, essential oils in fancy bottles, books, and decorative home items that may appeal to non-Muslims as well as Muslims.

"People hear so much about Islam. Non-Muslims [about 40% of the clientele] come here out of curiosity to know about Muslims and Islam. Everyone comes because our products are unique and inexpensive," says Pakistan-born Shaukat A. Ayubi, who owns and manages the shop with Anna Ayubi, his Russian-born wife.

Anna points out abayahs (traditional long dresses worn by Muslim women), long skirts, pants, tunics, and shawls. Thousands of colorful silk and chiffon scarves, many under $10, are imported from Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey. There are tubes of henna nail polish, bracelets, and healing herbs and teas made from Turkish black seeds.

Portable prayer rugs have attached compasses so one can determine and face in the direction of Mecca when praying. A clock gives the Arabic call to prayer in five different voices. The Qur'an is available in about 100 languages.

"I get a warm welcome every time I come in," says Frank Barton from Sunnyvale, who comes for conversation and books. "I'd recommend this store because of its great teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. It's a store that welcomes everything in discussion—it could be about Jesus or any Bible person."

Sultana's Modest Collection & More opened a year ago to serve the large South Bay Muslim population. The original shop in Berkeley has celebrated its tenth year in business.

Maiwand Market, 2915 El Camino Real, (408) 985-0988, next door to Sultana's, is a Middle Eastern Kebab restaurant and food market known for its fresh Afghan naan (flatbread) and its halal beef, lamb, goat, and chicken. Colorful Afghan baskets and Indian pots are on a high shelf.

Customer Malika Khan from San Jose purchased a whole goat for a family celebration honoring her daughter. She explained that "halal" is an Arabic word meaning "permissible." By Muslim law, a butcher says, "In the name of God," and quickly slits the throat of a live animal, which is then hung upside down to drain its blood. Also, halal meat must be antibiotic and hormone free.

"The naan is the best bread in Santa Clara. You can't buy it anywhere else that I know of—right out of the oven and still warm," says customer Zaigham Ahsan from Palo Alto. "I finish a quarter or half of it by the time I get home."

Ahsan is not alone. Maiwand Market makes 150 to 250 flat slabs of the bread daily. Each is a long oval measuring about one inch thick by 9 1/2 inches wide by 32 inches long. It is made with white and wheat flour or all wheat flour and sells for $2.

The family-run business opened its first store in Fremont, where 1,000 "loaves" of naan are made daily. Customers buy it by the armload and freeze it.

"People from this area who came to Fremont asked us to come closer to Santa Clara," says owner-manager Mir Nabizada, who runs the two shops with his wife, Shukorya Nabizada. "Everybody likes our authentic Afghan food in the restaurant. Whoever comes once, they try it again."

"The restaurant is very nice. I recommend it," says Ahsan as he carries an armload of naan out to his car.