We had the good fortune of connecting with Arva Ahmed and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Arva, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
The food tours evolved from my food blog, iliveinafryingpan.com, which I’d started when I returned to Dubai after studying and working in the US for 8.5 years. As I started documenting my food discoveries for the blog, I realized that there wasn’t enough that we were doing as a community to celebrate the small independent homegrown restaurants, many of them nestled away in Old Dubai with no budget for marketing. As someone who grew up in Old Dubai, I desperately wanted the Dubai food narrative to be more inclusive. We had to broaden the focus. Rather than just talking about the glitzy high end restaurants by celebrity chefs, we had to start a conversation about the no-name restaurant dishing out extraordinary flavours with zero fuss. These places were also a powerful way to experience foods of sub communities that call Dubai home — Syrian, Palestinian, Pakistani, Iranian, Indian (with all it’s nuanced regional flavours from Kashmiri to Keralite) and so many more. This was the story that needed to be told, appreciated and preserved, and one of the most impactful ways of doing this is by telling that story yourself, in person, at the restaurants themselves. That’s what we do through the tours.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Frying Pan Adventures runs food and culture tours across Dubai. Our small group food tours in Dubai are immersive experiences that serve local favourites and take you where crowds don’t go. Our tour guides are passionate storytellers and explorers who transport you beyond the food with their stories, nostalgia and insider secrets of the city.

We were the first company in the Gulf region to offer food tours. Our dedication to research and storytelling is (I’d like to think) unmatched, which is why people don’t just see us as a tourism company, but often a content creation company. We get asked to write articles or support food and travel productions because our team is seen as experts.

What I’m really proud about is that we serve a much higher proportion of local residents than most other tourism companies. Even people who’ve lived here for decades have found value in joining our tours, which is the biggest compliment ever!

Of course it’s never easy. I don’t know which challenge to even begin with — and I don’t want to paint an image of a mythical stallion riding through fire. We’ve fallen flat on our faces and cried through the pain, but somehow we pull ourselves back up and try again. I hope we always continue to do that, bruises and all, because that’s what it takes to keep a business around for the long run.

I’d like the world to know that Frying Pan Adventures is one of the region’s pioneering food and travel companies. We are researchers and explorers, and whether you want to visit Dubai or experience the region virtually, you can do that with us. Through our food tours, our social media and our podcast, Deep Fried.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Ha! You’d need to join a food tour for that. But here’s a real quick run down:

1) Breakfast at Mama’esh, our favourite Palestinian bakery with the most incredible za’atar and cheese fatayer and mana’eesh in the city. Washed down with sage tea.

2) A ride on the metro to Old Dubai — we love the metro and it’s a fun way to see the city’s skyline!

3) Walk through the Spice Souk and try an Iranian frozen noodle dessert, splashed with rosewater and lime juice.

4) Take a sunset abra ride across the creek, it’s simply magical especially at prayer time when the mosques are echoing the call to prayer.

5) Dinner somewhere close to the creek– too many options, join our tours to know what they are!

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Three shoutouts:

1) My father, Saleem Ahmed. For understanding and supporting my decision to start a business rather than work in the family business. He has been my rock through the best times and the worst, giving me incredible advice and being a sounding board along the way.

2) My sister Farida. For selflessly putting her dreams aside and helping me realize mine. She runs the business along with me now, in fact, she runs most of it now that I have a little one that takes up my time!

3) A Day of Honey by Annia Ciezaldo. The powerful storytelling in this book has informed how we’ve do research and tell stories on the tour.

Website: https://fryingpanadventures.com

Instagram: @fryingpanadventures

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/14698875/

Twitter: @fryingpantours

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FryingPanAdventures

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpY5atdn6E0DQZJVX6Kcl9w

Other: Our Podcast called DEEP FRIED at http://fryingpan.fm and all major podcast players.

Image Credits
Sheban Naim

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