You’ll find plenty of restaurants in the city, from fast-food outlets to fine dining experiences. But for an eminently rewarding experience, why not eat like the locals do? Amid the warren-like streets, you’ll find cafés and street vendors cooking up a storm and filling the air with the scents of grilling meats, bubbling stews and freshly ground spices.
The most popular drinks are strong, earthy coffees and sweet, black teas, and you will often see Basra’s residents chewing on dates outside cafés as they drink and chat. Also, try the local cold drink: a mix of buttermilk, salt and water.
Keep an eye out for al-kaoub, a mix of eggs and onions, served with a radish-like herb native to the area, which has a pleasingly potato-like taste to it. Kefta is another popular dish, incorporating meat into both the pastry and the filling. The pastry is made from ground borghul rice and mashed with meat until a dough forms. The filling is typically made from lamb, cooked with garlic, almonds, raisins and a herb-infused tomato sauce.
Iraqis have a notoriously sweet tooth and it would be a shame to travel to Basra and not try sojok – a sweet made from nut pulp and molasses.