Boxes of desert truffles displayed at the truffle auction in Souq Waqif. (Photo by Ahlam Ghajjou / The Peninsula)
Doha, Qatar: As the spring season unfolds, truffle enthusiasts in Qatar eagerly await the first drops of rain in the country’s desert, ready to venture out into the wilderness in search of the desert truffles, locally known as Fagga.
For many, this seasonal natural subterranean fungi is not just a gastronomic delight but also a lucrative business opportunity, with prices fetching hundreds to thousands of Qatari riyals for one kilogram.
After completing the truffle-hunting expeditions in Qatari deserts, sellers gather their harvest and head towards the eastern square of Doha’s Souq Waqif, where a daily truffle auction takes place from 8am to 12:30pm.
Ali Lekbithi, an auction seller, revealed to The Peninsula that all the truffles brought to the Souq are usually sold out within two hours due to the high demand.
He adds that prices for these desert truffles range from 200 to 2000 riyals per kilo.
“A 3-4 kg box costs between 1,000 to 1,500 Qatari riyals, equivalent to almost 400 dollars. The high cost is due to the rarity of these truffles, and its numerous health benefits. At the beginning of the season, prices start at 1,000 riyals, gradually reducing to 500 riyals by the end of season” said Ali.
Qatari truffles, known for being rare and of good quality, are consequently the most expensive, with a single kilogram reaching 2,000 Qatari riyals. Despite their high prices, they remain the most sought-after in the market.
“The majority of the truffles here hail from Saudi Arabia and Iraq”, said Ali while pointing to the boxes he’s selling.
He explains further: “There are two types of truffles, the white one and the brown one, the white one is the most expensive, with size also influencing the cost”.
White and brown desert truffle boxes showcased for sale at the truffle auction in Souq Waqif
Passion passed down through generations
Ahmed, another vendor at the auction, explained to The Peninsula the reasons for the high prices of truffles, as he said, “It is not easy to find truffles, they are so rare due to the scarcity of rain in the desert. Lately I spent the whole day in the desert with my family and we could only find four pieces by the end of the day”.
Despite the challenges of searching for truffles in the desert for hours, Ahmed considers it as a deeply rooted passion. He learned the trade from his brother, who, in turn, learned it from their uncle, spanning a heritage of three decades.
Qataris, Arab residents, and people from Gulf countries have long shown a strong interest in desert truffles. Many line up in the truffle auction at Souq Waqif, since early morning, to get their ‘Fagga’ before the season ends.
Truffles are eaten and cooked in many ways like raw in salads, boiled in milk, sautéed in butter, roasted on campfires, or as stuffing or stew. It is also used in preparing some traditional Qatari dishes, especially “Majboos”.
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