So we were mightily impressed to read this week about the business success of Iranian entrepreneur Kazem Ariaiwand, who sells kebabs from a converted military vehicle on the tiny island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelagio. Since this is located in the Arctic Circle, 300 miles north of Norway, it makes his ‘Red Polar Bear’ the world’s most northerly kebab van.
Ariaiwand ended up in Spitsbergen after he was refused asylum in Norway, and realised that the island did not require residency permits. And despite frequent attempts to get into Norway – where his wife and son were allowed to settle – five years on he's still on the island that is probably best known as the future home of Norway's 'doomsday vault' (a kind of deep-freeze to store the seeds of all the earth's known crops).
Admittedly it doesn’t sound like the most promising site for a mobile food business. The average temperature is minus 10 degrees, it’s in darkness for six months of the year, and most inhabitants carry around rifles in case of attack by polar bears. It sounds a bit like Newcastle’s Bigg Market on a Friday night – except the islanders of Spitsbergen probably wear a bit more clothing (and the wildlife is possibly a bit less scary).
However, like all good entrepreneurs, Ariaiwand has somehow managed to overcome the obstacles and turn it into a thriving concern. Apparently the van is proving so popular with the island’s 2000 inhabitants that it’s starting to supplant the local delicacies of seal and minke whale meat. Although we suppose that when these are the alternatives, even a kebab van doner must start looking quite appealing.
In fact, Ariaiwand’s main problem now is how to dispose of the proceeds. ‘I've made a fair amount of money but the problem is that I don't know how to spend it,’ he apparently said. If we were him, we’d probably stock up on the chilli sauce.