Being a 90s Arab kid means you’ll have days when you’re hit with pangs of nostalgia, reminiscing on the good old days before Tik Tok and smartphones became the epicenter of all our lives. Those days were simpler, marked by dancing to Amr Diab on your CD Walkman or obsessing over the tiny pixelated pet on your Tamagotchi. Yet, beyond all that, one of the pastimes that tug at the nostalgic heartstrings of any 90s kids are the snacks.
Every Arab country had its special league of snacks ranging from everything like ice cream and chocolate bars to biscuits and chips. Enjoyed during lunch breaks or when you gather together with your friends, looking back at these 90s snacks will bring back some great memories.
On a hot summer day, nothing could beat the icy fruity popsicles enclosed in that popular plastic casing, the infamous lolita. These are especially great when you are just coming out of the pool and craving a cool snack. You’d probably fight with your friends over your favorite flavor whether it’s the bitter yet also sweet taste of their deep purple grape popsicle or their more sour green apple flavor. It’s always fun to bite and twist off the top to get to the icy fruit interior. It’s probably one of the rare 90s snacks not restricted to one Arab country as both Saudi Arabians and Egyptians enjoyed it during the hot summer months of their childhood.
Saudia Icecream Sandwich
Another great snack to beat out the heat was Saudi Arabia’s Ice cream sandwich. Nothing beats the icy creamy vanilla filling wedged between its two soft chocolate biscuits. Sadfaco, one of the biggest factories in the Kingdom which opened in 1976 has been churning out this special ice cream as well as a wide array of products from milk to tomato paste. It’s still available today to be enjoyed. Biting into it may bring back memories of heading to the bakala (small grocery store) after school to indulge and make up for the long school day as well as the daunting list of upcoming projects and assignments.
Cadbury always had a special place among Egyptians, especially with its first factory opening in Egypt in 1993. Today, it lines the shelves of every supermarket and kushk (informal kiosk selling snacks) across the country with all sorts of varieties including Cadbury Oreo and Crispello. Yet, these new varieties cannot replace one’s childhood memories of biting into the older rare gem infamously known as Star, a chocolate bar filled with crispy wafer and rice Krispies that gave it that special crunch.
Way back in 1857, a man by the name of Mahmood Gandour opened a small sweet shop in Beirut. Hard candies and lokum (jelly cubes covered in powdered sugar) customers flocked inside to enjoy its handmade confections. Later, a factory opened and over time the small shop became an entire enterprise. With the 60s, the company introduced a small fez-shaped chocolate (a hat shaped like a truncated cone) to the masses aptly called Tarboosh. This was a well-loved chocolate for Lebanese 90s kids, not only for its sweet taste but for the fun experience of biting into the outer chocolate layer then licking its filling of marshmallow cream.
In the UAE, a great snack that marks the childhood of ex-pats and Emiratis alike was the cheese-coated crispy corn puff known as Emirates Pofaki. Packed with your lunch box or as an after-school snack, it dominated the lives of 90s kids especially as it was very similar to what is already considered an addictive snack, the infamous cheese puffs. Snacking on these crisps is a fun activity in itself as your hands turn yellow from its cheese powder which you then have to lick off from each finger. That’s why parents would avoid having their kids wearing anything white while they devour this special snack.
Oman chips are a significant part of the childhood of any 90s kid living in the UAE and Oman. They were every kids bestfriend, joining them at picnics, parties or at sleepovers. To up their snack game, kids would pair these chips with classics like a box of Areej (a UAE juice brand) or some milk like Laban Up. Today, Oman chips have transformed and grown beyond their adored status as the ultimate childhood snack. Now, you can enjoy them wrapped up in a cheese paratha (Indian flatbread) or sprinkled on top of some mac & cheese.
Sometimes dubbed as the Oreo of Lebanon, Dabke, a biscuit named after the famous Lebanese folkloric dance is another of Gandour’s creations. It is considered a classic snack among Lebanon’s 90s generation as they would separate the two layers of biscuits and lick the delicious cream. Its appeal has not died down as it’s still being enjoyed to this day with new flavors and varieties popping up like 2014’s new loukoum flavor.
Don’t be deceived by its name, under its red, white and blue packaging you’ll find three biscuits covered in rich chocolate. These Moroccan biscuits were adored back in the day, only costing 50 francs, Morocco’s old currency. They weren’t the only popular snack at that time. Kids also enjoyed other biscuits like Rialto known for their triangular-shaped biscuits dipped in white chocolate with several drizzles of milk chocolate on top.
Super Magic Gum
Honeywell, the factory that opened its doors in 1986 and introduced Egyptians to popular 90s snacks like Chicobon (colorful sugar-covered chocolate drops), has also spread the well-loved bubble gum known as Super Magic. The 15 cm long stick of strawberry sugary gum was sort of magical, in a literal sense. As kids would begin chewing a piece of this pink gum, they’ll notice it changing color to green or purple or blue and their tongue will also get a paint job and change color as well.
Lebanon’s 90s snacks seem to have a special relationship with marshmallows. Not only are they the central filling of Tarboosh chocolates, they are also eaten as a special candy in the form of small colorful sugar shoes. Known as “Sbabeet”, they came in a wide variety of flavors. What is special about these sugar shoes is that they weren’t sold as a packaged product that would line the shelves of supermarkets, they were instead sold in specialty sweet shops where the seller would use a metal shovel to scoop up whatever amount you want, dump it in a plastic bag and wrap it up for you to enjoy.
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