Advertisement Close

Booza: Syria's Famous Stretchy Ice-Cream

posted on: May 4, 2022

By: Menal Elmaliki / Arab America Contributing Writer

In the middle of the busy souq, Al Hamdiiyah, located in the old city of Damascus is the famous ice cream shop, Bakdash. The shop has a long history, it was first established in 1895 while Syria was under Ottoman rule. It hosted Ottoman officials who would travel from Istanbul to Old Damascus to enjoy this peculiar dairy treat.

Bakdash ice-cream shop in the old souk in Damascus.

Till this day, it still a popular tourist attraction known for their famous ice cream, booza. In pre war Syria, Bakdash would serve an estimate 15,000 customers per day. The historical shop is still open despite the war and has opened a new branch location in Amman Jordan. It serves a delicious reminder to the Syrian refugees, residing in Amman, of their homeland.

The shop-owners have complained that there is a problem with the supply chain, raw materials like sugar, milk, rose water, and mastic are difficult to obtain since they are produced outside the capital.

Booza is a middle eastern ice-cream known for its texture and unique qualities. It is not like your typical ice cream, instead of eggs it is made with mastic and sahlab (salep).  Mastic is a resin from a mastic tree and sahlab is flour from an orchid. Mastic is grown and is popular in the Levant or Middle East area, Turkey, Greece, India, and parts of Africa. It is chewy like taffy and slightly hard. It’s solid enough to be cut with a knife and eaten with a fork.

Mastic and sahlab is what gives booza its famous stretchy and chewy texture. Traditional ice cream is made by the churning method while booza is made through the process of pounding and banging and it is then stretched in a freezer drum. Afterwards, sugar and milk are added, and a generous scoop of pistachios is added. Floral essences is also added for extra flavor like rose water and orange blossom. 

In Bakdash: Booza is pounded by hand with big wooden paddles.
Bakdash location in Amman, Jordan.

What makes this ice-cream special is that it tends to be more heat resistant than regular ice-cream, it is served at 12-15 degrees while typical ice-cream or gelato is served -4 to 5 degrees. Its ability to withstand higher temperatures makes it the perfect treat for the Middle East. 

This taffy- like ice-cream is popular in Syria, Turkey and Greece.


It is referred to Booza in Syria, dondurma in Turkey and kaimaki in Greece. The Greeks have adopted it from the Turks and added their own unique twist. Kaimaki is made with salepi and masticha, masticha is a Greek product, made exclusively in the island of Chios. Masticha or mastika is a liqueur containing mastic, water, sugar, and alcohol. 


In Turkey, booza takes on its own variation and it is called dondurma. It is a popular tourist attraction, everyone around the world flocks to Turkey to try this frozen dessert and comes with free entertainment.

‘Look at that stretch.’ Turkish man selling dondurma in Kyoto, Japan.

Unlike booza, this Turkish version is more heavy and difficult to work with. It is also more rich and fatty because it has a larger amount of sweet cream (heavy cream). Dondurma is usually served and eaten with baklava, pahlava  or anything other Turkish dessert.

Turkey: Dondurma served with pahlava.

It’s Origin

Dondurma’s origins traces back 300-500 years to the mountainous region of Kahraman Maras, located in the southeast of Turkey. The area was known for their goat milk and salep, salep is a wild orchid indigenous to Maras. Salep is a powder from the root of the wild orchid. The goat milk of Maras was exceptionally rich and creamy, the goat farmers would herd their flock of goats up the mountain, “as the mountain was lush with vegetation especially thyme, which resulted in the goat’s milk having a richer flavour.”

Some state that the combination of milk and salep was bound to happen. It was a happy coincidence that gave birth to one the world’s famous stretchy dairy dessert.

There is some evidence that claims this frozen dairy dessert dates back to 1500 A.D. Middle East.

Read Arab America Blog here!