All photos by Chantelle D’mello
Despite the heat and ongoing fasting during Ramadan, a Qatari family’s long-standing tradition of offering free homemade laban to the community continues to draw hundreds of thirsty visitors daily.
Over 2,000 liters of the yogurt drink, which is akin to buttermilk, is distributed each day after being produced inside the family’s residential complex, said an employee there who spoke to Doha News.
The laban is stored in chilled metal tanks, and can be accessed through a tap attached to the outer wall of the residential complex near Ramada signal off of C-Ring Road.
The home belongs to prominent businessman Ghanem Al Thani, who also owns the nearby Radisson Blu hotel.
Speaking to Doha News, Sher Singh, a bus driver from India, said he found out about the free laban through friends.
“They told me that a family was giving out free milk, so I came to check it out, and I’ve been coming back since. It’s very tasty…almost like lassi (a sweet Indian yogurt-based drink), and fresh. I’ve never gotten sick drinking it.”
He added that he has seen people of all nationalities stop by for a drink.
Other unique charitable acts here include a local Qatari family that last month installed an outdoor fridge stocked with free water, laban, yogurt and food for residents.
Organizations like See My Culture have also have chimed in to help people in need, encouraging others to give out water and juices to those toiling in the heat.
Each day, about 200 to 300 people visit the laban tap, which was installed more than 12 years ago, said one employee who has been working for the Al Thani family for the past three decades.
Amir Hamid, a Pakistani expat, added that the tap typically opens at 8am and closes around noon. The laban is made from fresh milk that is brought in from the family’s farm near Al Shahaniya, which houses over 5,000 cows.
While residents from all over the country have visited the complex to collect buttermilk, the number of people usually goes down over Ramadan, because so many are fasting, Hamid said.
Around 9am this morning, more than 20 people could be observed lining up to fill up plastic bottles, massive coolers and cans with the buttermilk.
Ghazni Khan, an Afghan worker who lives on the outskirts of Doha, said this was his first time visiting the tap.
“I heard about it from the people that I lived with. I was surprised I didn’t know it existed before. I’ve been here for 16 years!”
After filling the containers, the men left the tap running, and laban could be seen flowing down the drain. The workers manning the tank explained that this was because there was an overflow of laban inside.
On the other side of the residential complex’s wall, there is a domestic creamery that makes butter and buttermilk.
Huge vats, churners and mixers line the walls, while massive buckets of laban stand in the middle of the room.
The process, explained Gopal Malla, a Nepalese national who has worked there for 14 years, involves mixing yogurt and milk together in a large metal bucket before leaving the mixture standing overnight to ferment.
In the mornings, the milk is transferred into numerous smaller containers, the lids of which are fitted with mixers.
Once mixed, the buttermilk is poured into a tank, which leads to the tap outside.
Residents looking to get a taste should take the first slip road heading from The Center roundabout to the Ramada signal. The tap is located under an awning at the back of a massive beige wall with black gates.