Although the streets of Cario's northern suburb of Shubra are strewn with rubbish where laundry lines hang from shabby apartment blocks, the tantalizing smell of grilled kebabs lures patrons from across Egypt's capital city.
Kaber Subhi is one famous eatery that has become a hit across the vast metropolis despite their decrepit surroundings. It specializes in spicy sausage sandwiches that even go by the name Zizo Natana, the second word meaning 'fetid' in Arabic. These restaurants are appealing not only to residents of Cairo's poorer neighborhoods but also drawing well-to-do clients who travel across town.
AdvertisementAt Kaber Subhi, you may see patrons arriving in expensive cars but they sit at tables in an alleyway shooing away tenacious stray cats.
Nurridin Gevara, a pharmaceutical student who traveled to Kaber Subhi from an affluent Cairo suburb, says, "The cleanliness of the surroundings are not important. The important thing is the meals are good and clean, and taste great."
As midnight approaches more customers arrive at the restaurant, some of them families who stand patiently in the alley waiting for an empty table.
Evita Adib, a 30-year-old doctor, who traveled from the affluent Heliopolis neighborhood for Kaber Subhi's molokhiya, said, "We could have had dinner anywhere close to home but this place tastes different. Here you feel the real pulse and spirit of life. Kaber Subhi's molokhiya is even better than my mother's version,. My mother was famous all her life for her cooking."
Not far from Kaber Subhi, there is another restaurant that specializes in a dish known as tagen. Bibo cooks its meat and vegetable casseroles in small clay containers.
Pots of mutton, rice and liver fill up the tables at Bibo, along with thin plastic cups serving a drink with dressing of lemon, vinegar and cumin that customers sip. Hossam Marei said, "It's hard for me to ask my family to cook this, no one cooks these tagens at home."
The restaurant spreads onto the street, where wooden tables and chairs compete for room on the road with cars and pick-up trucks.
Outside the remains of Old Cairo's Fatimid-era wall, restaurant Zizo Natana serves the city's most famous sausage sandwiches at tables on the street. Hajj Zizo, the owner, has come to terms with his restaurant being known by its malodorous epithet, conceived by the legendary comedian and actor Adel Imam.
In his 2003 film "The Danish Experience", Imam, who plays a government minister, asks his snooty sons where they want to go for dinner, proposing one foul-sounding restaurant after another. Ahmed Hisham said, "You can have sandwiches anywhere of course. But here you get good food in a historic place."