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Coffee and Tea


“Stuff of Canadian legend”: locals and expats react to the new Dubai Tim Hortons

We’re pretty sure that Tim Hortons brass were excited to set up shop in Dubai last weekend, but going by initial reports, that’s nothing compared to the joy of expats who’ve discovered a tiny oasis of Canadiana away from home. Sure, we’re used to getting our fix at any of three locations within spitting distance, but Canadians living in the Middle East have had to live Timbit-free since leaving home. We decided to poke around the Emirati blogosphere to see how locals and blissfully re-caffeinated Canucks have taken the big news.

• Writer James O’Hearn rushed to be the first Tim Hortons customer in the United Arab Emirates, and was thus the first to discover some minor differences from homegrown Timmy’s: larger, American-size cups, no “everything” bagels (importing poppy seeds is apparently very, very illegal) and a distinct lack of a drive-through lane. “Yet for all the differences I saw,” he writes, “it still felt like home.”

• Roula and Samer, the former Torontonians behind 2 Foodies in Dubai, were appalled to see macaroni and cheese on the menu (something that’s on U.S. menus as well), but the rest was “a Canadian taste extravaganza.” Sampling just about everything, they were overjoyed to find that the bagels tasted like bagels, “like they do at every Tim Hortons in Canada and not like someone took standard bread dough and rolled it into a circle.”

• Sangeeta Reghu Nair of Sangry Words had never tried Tim Hortons before, but knew from Canuck friends that the coffee and Timbits are “stuff of Canadian legend.” The company’s plan to undercut the competition may be working; after marvelling at the price of the coffee, she writes, “I hate to admit but I need to say to all my Canadian friends that I sort of now understand their love for Tim Hortons. I feel half-Canadian this evening!”

• A defender of the faith delivered three boxes of Timmys to Ann Marie McQueen, the presumably doughnut-deprived author of A Canadian in Abu Dhabi. “Like a long-distance delivery of pure love,” she writes. “I am not going to lie—the sight of that logo choked me up a little.”

• A Waterloo lecturer teaching at the university’s Dubai campus (yes, there’s a Dubai campus) made friends with a pair of fellow Canadians over an Ice Capp. She noted, “That just doesn’t happen at a Tim Hortons in Canada.”

• The Dubai location prompted plenty of activity on Twitter. While most Canadians maxed out their 140 characters on exclamation marks, locals wondered what all the fuss was about, and one cynic even called it “one of those stories that alien intelligence agencies on a faraway planet read and think man, humans are weird.” And of course, it’s all over Foursquare.

Tim Hortons Invades Dubai [Jimmy’s House]
Roll up the Rim! [2 Foodies In Dubai]
I feel half-Canadian this evening! [Sangry Words]
Tim Hortons IN MY OFFICE, RIGHT NOW [A Canadian in Abu Dhabi]
Tim Hortons—a Canadian Icon in Dubai [sandyindubai]

(Images: Dubai, Nelson Ebelt; cup, Tim Hortons)

  • jb

    we have tim horton’s here in ireland. it’s a pity i cannot give such glowing reviews as the ones for the dubai branch.

    ours branches are completely awful – coffee from a machine that doesn’t taste fresh, stale donuts that taste nothing like what they should, and you frequently see wasps on them in store. tim hortons have been here since 2005, but i don’t bother going there anymore. i just make sure to get my proper tim hortons fix every time i am home in southern ontario.

  • Sean

    Don’t understand people who like Tim’s coffee – it’s shit. The food on the other hand is great.

  • G.

    Funny how Timmies is being portrayed as a pioneering Canadian force on the last frontier. Second Cup has been in the Emirates for years. I don’t remember such a hoopla about that.

    I predict Timmies will flame out in 2 years or less. It’s a great story for domestic PR and a few impoverished ex-pats, but to anyone else in Dubai it’ll just be ass-tasting cheap coffee.

  • Sangeeta

    Reading the comments here and elsewhere, I am fascinated at such Marmite reactions to a brand of coffee…the legend grows!

    You can read my review at

  • Joe

    I don’t get the whole Tim’s thing. The coffee is bland and sometimes burnt, all of the baked goods taste the same and the stores themselves are anything but comfortable. If it wasn’t the only option on long highway trips I’d never step in one.

  • prince harry

    I have seen the store in dubai and love it, infact the best seen so far, as usual tims coffee is great.

  • just4you

    I agree this is by far the one of the best stores of tim hortons.

  • Martin

    This is no different than Americans abroad getting all excited about a McDonalds. Tim Hortons is also a giant corporation with lousy food. Hardly what I think of as feeling like “home.”