|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
12 - 18 November 1998
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Till the cows come home
I'd heard a lot about Abu Rami, the famous hati, or kofta and kebab grill, in the Madbah Zeinhom slaughterhouse district. I'd read reviews in glossy publications, and listened as glossy friends described the mouth-watering food. Being a veteran of this type of "down-home" culinary tourism, I formed a mental image of a dark and dingy alleyway, and utterly delicious food eaten in somewhat shoddy surroundings.
This image stuck in my mind for months before I actually went to the place. Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw the line of dozens of shiny cars parked in quite orderly style in front of the restaurant. I'm talking 50 or more cars that might as well have been parked in front of the World Trade Centre. Nearly every table was filled with families, couples on dates, businessmen speaking furtively into mobile phones. The place was, to say the least, raging, extremely well-lit and hardly shoddy at all.
We found a table and within a minute were being asked what we would have. Since we were with someone who'd been there before, it was decided quite quickly that we would have one kilo of kofta and one kilo of kebab. Just writing these words now brings back amazing memories of the food, which I will get into in a second, after I salivate for a while.
As several plates of salads came down (the greens were rejected in favour of the pickles and tahina since everyone seemed just a little nervous about unwashed vegetables), I asked our experienced friend whether the main dishes would also arrive as quickly. He said, "You'll never believe how fast it is." It seems like he had just finished the sentence when two large trays were placed on the table.
It's hard to describe great food without sounding cliché, so I'll just leave it to your imagination. If you're a kofta and kebab fan, let me offer an understatement: you won't be disappointed. If you're not a fan, this place will make you one.
Just one warning: don't make the mistake I made and eat too much. I couldn't help it, really, since the taste was so irresistible. I ate twice as much as I should have and suffered for the next 24 hours.
I later heard from friends that the minbar (stuffed intestines) and moza at Abu Rami are even better than the kofta and kebab, but of course I was in no condition that night to try them. I'll take their word for it and maybe order a little less next time so as to sample these other delicacies. This meal, at any rate, cost LE120, including shisha and soft drinks.
By the way, the famous slaughterhouse that gave the district its name no longer exists, so you can no longer claim that the food you're eating was recently milling around just a few feet away from your table. It's been cleared away as part of the greater Cairo beautification scheme. After you're done eating you can have a shisha and some soda pop to help the digestive process along, and wonder what they're going to do with the large empty space that used to be the slaughterhouse. Will it become a garden, a bowling alley, or a mall? All are viable options these days, it seems.
Abu Rami, Madbah Zeinhom (off Salah Salem, near the Aqueduct: take a right and ask, you can't miss it)