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Gayyash Al 'Aatifa

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dairy Prayers

I wandered around Mobtadayan street today, stuck between plans, awaiting a phone call from the mechanic. I walked to the fuul shop on Kasr el Nil and it was crowded, then stepped into the koshari place up the street, only to find the guy behind the counter resting his bare nail-bitten palm on the actual lentils. And my favourite Mounira fuul stand (which is attached to an ahwa, perfect) was closed (it was noon) so I kept walking.

A supermarket at the intersection with Falaki street caught my attention with it's jutting Cocal Cola glass-front fridge. I scanned its contents and spotted a stack of baladi (more wholesome, non-corporate) yoghurt cups. Inside, the dusty wooden cabinets, shelves and counter bore poorly stacked supermarket crap in silence, not even the hum of a fridge, the knocking of a cheese knife nor the grind of a basterma slicer, not even a lit bulb, just a single large beam of grey, incidental natural light. The middle-aged proprietor would not return my smiles nor my good morning, how are you. He wiped clean for me the single-portion honey packet and stepped outside, to daydream it seemed.

I took a (recycled-) plastic spoon from the ice cream fridge and ate the yoghurt with the honey, in the quiet shop alone. I imagined I was eating roz b laban (rice pudding) at Saber in Alexandria, for where else do people eat from sweet cups in public, standing? There is much to be said for baladi yoghurt. Today's was typical, each spoonful filling me with a deep and overwhelming joy without indulging my propensity for fiend-like delight in the sensory; it made me want to wake up earlier, to make myself more like I imagined it would be, were it a person. I thought to thank the man and say good bye but feared a repeat cold response, so I left quietly but look forward to returning.


  • wow.. you describe it so well. I was only there for a visit but my heart is still there.

    wish I had tried the yogurt :-)

    By Blogger Mia, at Fri Dec 15, 06:09:00 AM GMT+2  

  • Intense sweetness is offensive, it affronts the palette like a pungent cologne. Saber, and Egyptian cuisine at large, leaves no room for subtlety; it's decisive the way a bullet to the head would be.

    By Blogger Jester, at Sat Dec 16, 04:41:00 AM GMT+2  

  • ...a welcome offence nevertheless...I love dem soft golden 'atayef' doused in sweet syrup!

    By Blogger Jester, at Sat Dec 16, 04:45:00 AM GMT+2  

  • What wonderful descriptions! I can taste the baladi as I stand next to you in the shop. I also remember the distinctly opposing tastes of basterma and raz b laban---was that a purposful junxtaposition?

    By Anonymous Om Rebecca, at Sat Dec 16, 05:22:00 AM GMT+2  

  • thanks mia, yes, you should have definately tried the yoghurt.

    jester: yes instense sweetness is offensive. but being egyptian and accustomed to it we're actually able to overlook it and revel in the subtleties beneath it.

    hi um rebecca. no, not a purposeful juxtaposition. or maybe it was and i don't know. in any case i'm glad it caught your attention.

    By Anonymous gayyash, at Sun Dec 17, 03:32:00 PM GMT+2  

  • With this post, you've taken me to Saber and a heavenly muhalabiyya super on that impossibly tight corner where Alexandrians curse the Cairenes who dare to drive in their beloved city. Thanks for the trip. You remind me of the moments that I miss about Egypt.

    By Blogger raaasa, at Thu Jun 05, 02:26:00 AM GMT+3  

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