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Beyond Kahi Geymar: 3 Must-Eat Traditional Iraqi Breakfast Dishes

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1 month ago

For travelers to Iraq, breakfast tends to be a very quick affair. If you are exploring the cradles of civilization in the great cities of Baghdad, Mosul or Basra, you will probably be trying to get out quickly – you have a lot to see! And if you are traveling with an Iraq tour guide (we have opinions on this), your Iraqi breakfast experience may be limited to hotel buffets.

However, we are very much of the opinion that mealtime often gives a particular insight into a country, its culture and history. In Iraq, breakfast isn’t just a quick bowl of cereal before running off to work. Iraqi breakfast is often an elaborate mix of flavors, reflective of regional specialities or offering a zesty start to your day. And where you eat breakfast really depends on how sociable you are in the morning.

the iconic shahbandar cafe
Baghdad’s iconic (and historic) Shahbandar Cafe

With that in mind, here are my favorite Iraqi breakfast dishes.

1. Kahi Geymar

Kahi geymar may be the quintessential Iraqi breakfast. A piece of flat, flaky and slightly greasy paratha-like bread (the kahi) is served with water buffalo curd (the geymar (sometimes transliterated as kaymak, which is the same cheese used in some Syrian food) and topped with honey or sugar syrup.

Local tip: Most kahi geymar speciality restaurants tend to be busiest in the early morning – usually before 9 am.

Baghdadi style kahee gemer at Orfali's Kahee iraqi traditional breakfast
Baghdadi style kahee geymer at Orfali’s Kahee

Best place to try kahi geymar in Iraq

Baghdad

Orfali’s Kahi is one of the most iconic kahee geymer restaurants in Baghdad and is just a short easy walk over from Tahrir Square.

political graffiti in baghdad tahrir square
Sitting outside at Orfali’s Kahi you will get a good view over the political street art gracing the highway walls leading into Baghdad’s Tahrir Square

Orfali’s is a small hole-in-the-wall but there is usually a young man selling cups of tea hovering nearby. With a cup of chai and plate of kahi geymar, this is the perfect Iraqi breakfast combo.

Mosul

Something of a local Mosuli legend, Al Jandool first took off in Mosul and has since become a national chain. Our on-the-ground contacts regularly list Al Jandool as the best kahi geymar in the country!

kahee gemer al jandool restaurant iraqi breakfast food

In most of Iraq, you can find kahi geymar served with honey. However, in Mosul, they top the kahi geymar with a clear (and super sweet) sugary syrup.

2. Bagila bil Dihin

This is classic Iraqi breakfast food and consists of cut up chunks of bread which are soaked in broad beans, the broad bean broth and topped with a fried egg.

iraqi breakfast food bargila bidehen at restuarant in baghdad
Bagila bil dihin at Al Mawj in Baghdad

Vegetarians in Iraq will be pleased to know this dish is almost always made entirely vegetarian. The best bagila bil dihin is served with a side of fresh lemon or raw onion, which adds a fresh zesty kick to the hearty dish.

Best place to try bagila bil dihin in Iraq

Baghdad

Al Mawj restaurant is only a short walk up from Mutannabi and Al Rashid Street, making for a great (and very down-to-earth) lunch option when exploring the heart of old Baghdad.

Bargila Bidehen: the typical Iraqi breakfast food at Baghdad's Shaheen Hotel.
Bagila bil Dihin: the typical Iraqi breakfast food at Baghdad’s Shaheen Hotel (my favorite place to stay in Baghdad)

Although, if I’m to be candid, the best bagila bil dihin I have eaten in Iraq was at the Shaheen Hotel. This hotel also happens to be my favorite place to stay in Baghdad: great value for money, a secure Karrada location and the best breakfast buffet in Baghdad.

3. Falafel

I’ve spent enough time in Iraq to know that no Iraq itinerary is going to dedicate a few hours to breakfast. In my opinion, falafel is the best on-the-go breakfast (or lunch) option as you head out on big day trips to Babylon, Ur or Hatra.

former palace of saddam hussein in babylon
The former palace of Saddam Hussein in Babylon

The falafel in Iraq will taste a little different to the falafel you know from home, which is generally in Levantine style. Normally made with a little hole in the middle and, if I’m being honest, a little less salt and spice.

falafel sandwich tomato

But eating falafel in Iraq is a completely unique experience. Falafel is generally served for lunch at fast-food style joints. You will usually get 3-4 falafel balls stuffed into your Iraqi shamoon moon-shaped bread and maybe with a few vegetables (or eggplant if you’re lucky).

ruins of hatra
Falafel makes for an easy lunch on the road, especially when you are driving to remote sites like the ancient ruins of Hatra

From here, it’s up to you if you want any toppings or condiments. If you are keen to get deeper into Iraqi cuisine, you will need to try the unique Iraqi condiment, amba.

Best place to try Iraqi falafel

Baghdad

Karrada Falafel is a falafel factory right by Baghdad’s main evening street food market. You’ll need to be quick – these guys don’t stop churning out falafels!

falafel sandwich in shamoon bread from iraq

For a more relaxed option, I also like Falafel Ali Double. The falafel here is round and fluffier than elsewhere in the country. I particularly like this spot because of its outdoor seating with views over Firdos Square.

iraqi style falafel street food

Mosul

Raed Badr (فول وفلافل رائد بدر) is an atmospheric falafel restaurant with lots of outdoor seating on the edge of a major roundabout. In my opinion, this is the perfect spot to stop for a bite and contemplate the transformation and resilience of Mosul.

iraqi falafel restaurant outdoors mosul

Beyond Iraqi breakfast

If you are planning a trip to Iraq, you will want to make sure you also plan your other meals around exploring Iraq’s traditional foods.

kubbe mosuli on plate with green table and cups of hot chai limon in mosul iraq
There’s nothing like a plate of kubbe mosuli with a fresh cup of limon chai basrawi

In case it isn’t clear yet, Iraqi cuisine is full of unique flavors, often reflective of its long history. While you can certainly enjoy a cup of coffee or glass of chai with your breakfast, you will want to keep your eyes open for Iraq’s more unusual and unique drinks.


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