|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
24 - 30 January 2002
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Inn and outInjy El-Kashef throws a fit
We all adore this chaotic city; whatever we might suffer in the course of daily life, when confronted with a question about our sentiments towards the city, the almost unanimous reaction is in Cairo's favour. Every once in a while, however, it is imperative to find one's way somewhere beyond the city limits if one is to retain any semblance of sanity. That is why the other day, when we saw that the sun had finally started to make its grand appearance, we headed to Fayoum with the premeditated intention of lunching at L'Auberge du Lac.
Everybody has heard of "Al-Oberj," but many have never seen it -- and they do not know what they are missing. We had been driving around all day, going from Lake Qarun and Fayoum to Wadi Al-Rayan Lake and the waterfalls, then through many small villages where the largest means of transportation allowed should be a bicycle, judging from the roads. We were tired; we were famished; we even needed some cool shade to take refuge from the incredible heat of the sun. And we had seen many newish "resorts" that looked quite interesting, with lake views, domes, mashrabiyas and the rest of it, but we had only one thing in mind: the Auberge.
Strangely enough, the Auberge is not very visible from the road. It is a flat structure that tries to be discreet, with a small driveway leading to an entrance covered in climbing plants. We had to ask a few times before we finally reached the famous Oberoi-managed resort. It is a jewel. It is grand and beautiful, classy and old, with the walls breathing of a past that has witnessed thousands of people enjoying the time of their life. Hunting, relaxing, drinking, playing, dancing, dining: they did it all, those people of past decades. They knew how to live. And it is all there in the air, at the wonderful Auberge.
We walked beneath the huge iron chandeliers, across the red carpets and past the panelled walls into the bright Restaurant des Rois where the chairs are white, the floors are blue and the light is strong. A gush of freshness took over our tired bodies. With appetites like lions we ordered only a Baba Ghannoug to start with, guessing that the bread would be so fresh and tasty that having as much of it as possible would be the cleverest thing to do. The aubergine dip was a delight (of course, I added a little salt, but that's only because I was a goat in a past life and still retain a special bond with salt that no health warning can affect).
Of course, it would have been smart to try the regional specialties: duck from the air and fish from the lake, but we are not freshwater fish people and the duck might have been too fat, so we indulged in beef. I relished a Piccata with Mushroom Sauce, which was great even though I prefer mushroom sauce without tomatoes. I forgave them because the tomato situation is serious in Fayoum; there are tomatoes right, left and centre and if they know what's good for them, the Fayoumis should produce their own ketchup starting tomorrow. My meat was more tender than my friend's, who was enjoying a Mixed Grill platter with a quarter chicken, kofta and kebab. When I tried a bite of the grilled kebab I had to chew on it for a few minutes, a problem I did not face with the three pieces of veal in my piccata.
With a bottle of water, our bill came to LE77, small fare considering the wonderful surroundings, the good and abundant food, and the reputation of the Auberge. Would do it again, and again, and again.
Auberge du Lac, Fayoum.
Tel: 084-700 002
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