“Levantine” Dishes Are More Popular than Koshary?
By: Roqayah Tbeileh
All of a sudden; olive wraps, hummus, tabouleh, and falafel became part of the late night snack.
This is not Beirut, it is Cairo.
Although many people claim that advertised neighborhoods, such as Zamalek, have transformed from being a residential area, to a food court, this phenomenon is not necessarily local. The openings of these food outlets all over the Egyptian capital came alongside a new taste; one that is strictly Levantine.
As I walk through Zamalek, looking for an oriental Egyptian treat, I found an alternative of perhaps four restaurants/cafés that would fulfill my need for the oriental taste, but not the Egyptian one, it suddenly hit me; IS THE EGYPTIAN FOOD CULTURE HIJACKED?
Even though my political-oriented mind fought the urge of politicizing this matter, the back of my head kept this a potential reason for this change; maybe not because I was craving Egyptian food, but perhaps because I was just too curious to know. Ali Hmadeh, an owner of a newly opened café in Zamalek called 3inab, spotted the Levantine accent on our table and sat down to tell us more about the reasons behind opening his café one continent away from his homeland.
Ali Hmadeh said, “Nothing compares to Beirut’s nightlife, but when it comes to hanging out at cafés, Egyptian would certainly beat us. I came to Egypt six months ago, and made sure that I join my friend and my brother-in-law, and open a food outlet in the same area as they did. You know Abdel Wahab, the Lebanese restaurant by the Nile? It’s ours too.” He continued to explain how people tend to love the spirit of the place because of the Levantine friendly nature of those who attend the place. He certainly gave credit to Fairuz’s songs. He also added, “It’s not about the politics, I came here to open my own business, even though I could do it in Lebanon. However, here such businesses as mine cane easily flourish.”
May Abdul, a Palestinian resident in Zamalek says that she loves these outlets, “They remind me of home. The food is good. The ambiance is amazing. And all of this mixes well with the Egyptian company and lifestyle.” Reem Hany, an Egyptian resident of Zamalek, expressed her pleasure with this alternative to the burger outrage invading Zamalek. “I really hate junk food, and I would prefer having a healthy meal, and yet keep an interesting taste.” She continues, “I don’t really mind having another Arabic cuisine alongside the Egyptian one, Lebanese and Syrian food is really good.
After all, I don’t get what this has to do with political change in Egypt or Syria. These places pay the rents, benefit our country, and benefit from it, it’s a fair deal and I don’t see why anyone minds it.”
It’s not easy to recognize whether this change is related to any sociopolitical change or not, but I know that it’s a new trend that we are getting used to, and is finding a lot of approval from Egyptians. The race will continue between the burgers and falafel, but I’m not sure where will the taamiyya be placed between these two.