Rouhi’s Rehab: Day 5- Sentimentality and Dining Out

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This was an interesting day for me. It was my first day back to my husband’s academy, where I spent the duration of my first trip to Egypt back in November. In a sense, it is like a second home to me. I truly never expected to get so attached to such a place, so the emotional pull I felt once I came back was astonishing.

What makes it more suprising is that the academy doesn’t even look the same since I was there last. It’s been renovated and repainted. The decorations are different. But still, it feels like it belongs to me. Really, the visceral experience was so deep, it couldn’t have been any deeper had I grown up there. I’ve stayed lots of places in my lifetime, some I certainly liked very well, but nothing else has this dramatic effect on me except perhaps the house I actually did grow up in (which I haven’t been in for years; it was sold over a decade ago).

My husband and I tried a new cafe for dinner called Lino’s. I like Lino’s because for one, the decor is crisp, modern, and tasteful (except for the Harley Davidson plaque- that really doesn’t blend well with red velvet chairs accented with white rhinestones, modern light fixtures, and austere white walls). It turns out that Lino’s is just an international franchise, and some stores exist in the US even. Nevertheless, there is still an Egyptian spin on the menu, like this ‘cheeseburger’ I ordered on another visit:

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So let’s talk about the dining experience in Egypt. Most restaurants are small cafes or shops crowded into the street level. Coffee and tea is usually a highlighted specialty of the house, if not the sole purpose of the place’s existence.

Sheikh Shwarma is a sandwich shop,  perhaps a distant relative to Colonel Sanders!

Sheikh Shwarma is a sandwich shop, perhaps a distant relative to Colonel Sanders!

I can guess why this place isn't franchising in the US!

I can guess why this place isn’t franchising in the US!

Most cafes serve some variety of mediterranean cuisine such as kofta, Kabob, shwarma, and similar dishes. Most meat dishes come with rice, a cucumber/tomato salad, a basket of bread, and a bowl of tahini. If you are looking for a familiar American dish, it’s better to go to a identified western franchise. I tried burgers at many of the places I visited, but only the the fast food restaurants or western-modeled restaurants made it as I knew it (meaning, with a hamburger bun, with a round patty, etc).

It was hard finding a restaurant that had high chairs for Shukurah. Most places simply don’t have them. Another thing that they don’t have is dish sanitizers. Most cafes wash dishes by hand, or use machines that wash but don’t actually sanitize. I realize that in our modern, western time of everything being so very neat and germ-free, this is unthinkable. But the reality is, every society hand washed dishes without sanitizers until within the last several decades. Even now, many countries function similarly to Egypt, and life goes on just fine. One of the things I love about traveling is that it really makes you think more deeply about how you live your own life, and what is really necessary or not.

Speaking of necessity, I think food delivery is one of the comforts of western living that I most enjoy. There is nothing like ordering a pizza on a busy night for the kids, and I have always wished more restaurants delivered regularly for times we DON’T want pizza. But check this out, Egypt has totally gotten the point! EVERY restaurant delivers in Egypt. It doesn’t matter if it’s a classy sit down affair, or a fast food joint like KFC. Every place has a little motorbike outside with a delivery box on the back, like this one:

Sheikh Shwarma to the rescue :)

Sheikh Shwarma to the rescue 🙂

But despite all the perks of dining out in Egypt, that only captures one aspect of food availability. In coming entries I will detail more about street food vendors and indiginous flavors that cannot be found easily in the US (much to my devastation).

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2 responses »

  1. I just got around to reading this. The Shaykh Shawerma logo actually looks a bit scary. It’s interesting that they make burgers with everything except buns. That reminds me of Mexico, where nothing is standardized. I ordered a banana split once in some town in Sinaloa, and got odd flavors of ice cream with a granola topping.

  2. I was a San Francisco bike messenger and I thought that was dangerous. Imagine delivering food on a scooter in Cairo? It’s got to rank up there as one of the most dangerous jobs.

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