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1001 Arabian cookie boxes in 40 days and 40 nights

Michael's Blog

A selection of stories brought to you by delicious Félix & Norton cookies. 

1001 Arabian cookie boxes in 40 days and 40 nights

MIchael Eskenazi

Cookies safely in their new home in a freezer in Al Ain. This photo actually shows only 1,000 cookie boxes-Scheherazade must have already taken one!

Cookies safely in their new home in a freezer in Al Ain. This photo actually shows only 1,000 cookie boxes-Scheherazade must have already taken one!

Of course if we were going to open a Felix & Norton store in the Emirates, we had to have authentic Felix & Norton cookies there.  Made with real Canadian butter, Canadian flour, Canadian eggs and (well of course) European chocolate.  We had to make it here like we have for 30 years, by the people who have extensive experience with the secrets of mixing it according to the original recipes, and then have it transported to Al Ain, UAE.  Simple, right?

Having virtually no experience with exporting to faraway lands, we sought out assistance at both ends.  Getting quotes and finding a carrier who would take our 20 foot container filled with frozen dough across the ocean and a few seas was the easy part.  In a marvelous and magical way, we were advised that the shipping time from the Port of Montreal to the Port of Dubai would be precisely 40 days and 40 nights.  


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Our cookie dough is produced in a facility that is certified HACCP, which means it has the highest possible standards of food safety and control.  This also means we are subject to frequent inspections from the local health authorities.  Rightfully so, the authorities in the UAE want to be assured that any imported food products have been produced under proper controls, and needed certified documents that attested to the salubrity of the products.  And the labeling had to be in Arabic.


So we got busy producing, and the cookie dough was rolling along beautifully,as you can see:

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Then word came from the UAE that the container could not leave Montreal until an import permit was obtained showing that it was being shipped to a viable business in the UAE.  The rules for a business permit required that the business have an actual physical location in operation in order to receive the permit.  Construction had not yet begun on the store, as it was only October, and the store opening was scheduled for January.  The rules were that we could only ship once the store was open, but how could the store open if it had not yet received the cookie dough it needed?  This Kafkaesque dilemma took weeks for Swaidan to resolve as he visited one bureaucrat after another until a very senior manager agreed that this was an unreasonable requirement, and allowed for an exception under the circumstances.  The shipment left promptly on November 6 and arrived safely 40 days later in Dubai.

In the meantime, we had to prepare standard shipping documents, health certificates and certificates of origin.  These documents had to be signed by me, my signature then notarized, stamped locally by the Board of Trade office on behalf of Economic Development Canada, then shipped by return courier to the Ottawa offices of Foreign Affairs Canada for another stamp on each page.  Bureaucracy at it's best!

And now our little cookie pucks are safely in the UAE, after gently rocking themselves across the sea until they will warm up in a little oven in Al Ain, and warm the hearts and tummies of thousands of new fans enjoying a little thrill that we Canadians have been enjoying for years!