In a large bowl, add half the amount of flour, the yeast, sugar and salt. Whisk to combine.
Add the olive oil and warm water, and use your hands to mix the dough until combined. Add the remaining flour, and knead it in until dough is nice and smooth. Shape into a ball, and lift out of the bowl. Drizzle some olive oil in the bowl you were using, place the dough ball back in, and drizzle the top with a little more olive oil.
Loosely cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, and allow to rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes or until dough is doubled and puffy. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 F (205 C ).
Punch dough down, knead a little, then divide into 6 or 8 balls, depending on the size of the manakish you want. On a lightly floured surface, press the dough balls into an oblong manakish shape like pictured. You can use your hands to shape the dough, or a rolling pin.The dough should be very easy to work with, but if it's sticky, lightly dust the top with flour
Mix together the zaatar and olive oil to make the zaatar topping, and use a spoon to spread evenly on the dough, leaving a border of dough without zaatar. If using cheese, just top the zaatar mix with the cheese, or add cheese without any zaatar underneath. You might find it easier to place the dough on parchment lined baking sheets, and assemble directly on the sheets.
Bake for 8-12 minutes (the range of time depends on the size of the manakish), until dough is lightly browned on the edges, and if you lift up a manakish the bottom is cooked through and lightly browned. I like to then broil for 1-2 minutes to get a little more crunch and to get the cheese golden brown.
Let rest for a few minutes outside the oven for the zaatar topping to become a little less wet, then enjoy warm!