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My Scholarship entry - Understanding a Culture through Food

EGYPT | Wednesday, 14 March 2012 | Views [3300] | Comments [1] | Scholarship Entry

A Feast Fit for a Pharaoh
Our taxi slams on its breaks, narrowly avoiding a malnourished donkey. Ironically, the scrawny animal draws a rusty oven of sweet potatoes mounted on wonky wheels. "It's the batata man!" announces the driver. Suddenly he pulls over, rolls down the window and buys us a steaming batata wrapped in paper. His hospitality makes the charred orange flesh taste even sweeter.
There’s no such thing as a short trip in Cairo. Bikes swerve between cars and vehicles evade camels. The city is hectic: 25 per cent of Egypt’s population live here and they're always on the move. At a superfluous traffic light, children in the back of a trailer photograph us on their mobile phones. We retaliate with our cameras and they fall down in fits of laughter before we lose them in the post-prayer traffic.
We finally arrive at Khan el-Khalili bazaar. Once the centre of the spice trade during the Ottoman Empire, tourists and locals alike now shovel electric blue indigo and canary yellow turmeric into plastic bags. The air is perfumed so intensely with spices one can't help but cough. Down an alley, koshary is dished out from silver vats with a slop of spicy tomato sauce, a collaboration of carbohydrates designed to keep working men full until dinner.
The sun sets and we drive past silhouetted pyramids to Andrea restaurant. Clouds of smoke billow from wooden rotisserie barbecues, where men in galabeyas turn whole chickens. We carefully step over a puppy on the doormat before taking our seat. We eat earthy dips, fat vine leaves and seared skewers before sampling hamam; rice-stuffed pigeon with hints of cinnamon and cardamom. For dessert we order om ali rice pudding enveloped in flaky pastry and punctuated with plump raisins.
As we roll into our taxi, we feel much like the stuffed pigeon. The humming static of prayer echoes through speakers around the dusty city, competing with the incessant honking of a thousand of cars. Cairo may not sleep tonight, but we certainly will.

Tags: #2012writing, cairo, egypt, food, travel writing scholarship, travel writing scholarship 2012, travelwriting



Great travel story. I've never been to Cairo but I can now really imagine what it's like! Nice photos too...

  DJRaby Aug 28, 2012 2:00 AM

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