|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
4 - 10 October 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
The fuul on the hillInjy El-Kashef takes desperate measures
Living up on the hill means your life will be much calmer, healthier and saner. Leaving behind the hustle and madness of the city, the drive up that winding road amid the microbuses is the last contact one has with the outside world before being transported into the twilight zone where things are not what they are elsewhere. No traffic, no pollution, no aggression, no noise, no crowds -- it feels like the countryside.
Unfortunately, however, life is not only saner up on the Muqattam, but also duller. No malls, no cinemas, no Nile and no fast-food delivery. So if you have finished all your left-overs before making some more food, if a friend comes over and all your fridge has to showcase are a few stale loaves of bread and a couple of dry slices of processed cheese, if you rented a dumb movie and would like to munch on disgusting things, you are simply stuck.
There are several modest outlets, of the kind you can't trust with something as wildly valuable as your life, as well as a couple of reasonably respectable restaurants that will deliver. But there are seven days in a week, four weeks in a month and 12 months in a year -- and only two restaurants. So every once in a blue moon, when one is feeling extraordinarily adventurous and impulsive, one will actually make the conscious decision to try something out. The last new place I went to was Maxim, a former juice parlour on a very busy Muqattam street. It looked fairly clean; the staff was friendly and the bamboo tables and chairs set on the sidewalk were of impressive quality (and that's always a good sign).
I ordered some take-away and contemplated the place while the food was being cooked. It is really an amalgamation of several things: part of it certainly retains some of the old juice situation; then comes the qahwa side of the affair, with traditional TV set, shisha corner and warm beverages; last but not least is the Western fast- food look with overhead boards displaying available items.
I ordered four different sandwiches without the slightest intention of eating them all -- if I was going down, others were coming with me. One Alexandrian-style Livers, one Shish Tawouk, one Meat Shawerma and one Specialty; French fries; a couple of cans of Coke. I paid my LE20 bill and took off. Arrived at the office. Who wants some free yummy food? Half an hour later, once the sandwiches had been consumed, I started getting some dirty looks from colleagues. "My shawerma was AWFUL. It actually contained little chunks of grease that I had to remove." As for the livers, "they were spicy enough, but I have a feeling that was to conceal the real flavour -- which can't have been very nice, judging from the aftertaste." These people hate me now. In order to restore friendships on old tracks, I sacrificed myself and had the other two sandwiches. The Specialty and the Shish Tawouk tasted exactly the same, except that the former also included some melted mozzarella. Both are now confined to the deepest, darkest recesses of my memory.
Maxim, Al-Nasr Road, first right from Al- Muqattam Mosque, Muqattam.
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