Anchorage's First Halal Grocery Opens

January 18, 2010

Author: Staff Writer

Source: The Oklahoman

On an icy winter day when the sun barely rose higher than the peaks of the Chugach Mountains, one store in a sleepy strip mall near the airport was abuzz with activity. The hand-lettered cardboard sign outside told the story: Alaska's First Halal Grocery.

Inside, owner Lamin Jobarteh was pricing bottles of bright-orange palm oil, a product he was sure would fly off the shelves as soon as he called the Nigerians in town to let them know it had arrived. A group of Somali women in brightly colored headscarves looked through a gleaming white freezer for cubed bone-in goat meat.

Anchorage is now home to nearly 4,000 Muslims, up from a hundred or so when Jobarteh, who hails from the West African nation of Gambia, arrived in Alaska to attend graduate school in the 1990s.

For years, he watched as the growing community ordered bulk shipments of Halal meat and specialty groceries from Seattle and Vancouver, Canada, the nearest cities where they were available.

"I've seen the demand for a long time," he said. "Muslim people cannot live without Halal food, and it's expensive to ship it up.