As students, staff and Athens residents walk down East Union Street next to College Green, they may not pay much attention to the food trucks they pass by daily. Little do they know, the owners of the food trucks each have an interesting story to tell.
The man behind one of these businesses, Nisar Shaikh, owner of the Ali Baba’s food truck, said he was among the first to open a food truck on campus. Now, he has been selling his international cuisine to Athens for 30 years.
Shaikh was born in India in 1941 and grew up in Pakistan. He left the country in 1970. He then received a United Nations scholarship and went to Europe to receive a teaching diploma from the International Labour Organization. Shaikh used that diploma to teach for seven years.
“I enjoy talking to the students of OU because I was a teacher for seven years,” Shaikh said.
Shaikh then got a job in Libya and worked there for eight years in an airport.
“Working with airlines, I met people from a lot of different countries,” Shaikh said.
Shaikh then came to the U.S. and received degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering at Hocking College. He later also attended Ohio University to study engineering, and while attending, he met his wife. His wife graduated from Hocking College with a culinary degree. She now works in the food truck’s kitchen, preparing the cookies, falafel, samosas and more.
Shaikh applied to several places for an engineering job but was struggling to find a place able to hire him. That led him to have the desire to open his own business. He opened three food “buggies,” and the most well-known is Ali Baba’s. He has owned the food truck business for 30 years, as it first opened in 1988. Ali Baba’s is usually parked on East Union Street, and Shaikh also periodically has a truck open on Columbus Road.
“I love to talk to boys on campus from my country,” Shaikh said. “I really do love seeing such a diverse campus, and I enjoy connecting with students of different backgrounds.”
Arcy Vetrano, a freshman studying finance, said he enjoys eating at the Ali Baba’s food truck.
“The food is great, and the owner seems like an interesting man,” he said.