Fasahet Sumaya: Homemade food in Downtown Cairo

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Homemade food has become a hit in Egypt, says Sumaya El-Adiouty. (Photo/Supplied)
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Homemade food has become a hit in Egypt, says Sumaya El-Adiouty. (Photo/Supplied)
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Homemade food has become a hit in Egypt, says Sumaya El-Adiouty. (Photo/Supplied)
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Homemade food has become a hit in Egypt, says Sumaya El-Adiouty. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 24 September 2019

Fasahet Sumaya: Homemade food in Downtown Cairo

  • She dreams of expanding her business still further

CAIRO: For almost a year, Sumaya El-Adiouty, the owner of a small restaurant that serves homemade food, has been promising her customers a surprise. And a few weeks ago she revealed she was opening a larger restaurant on Huda Shaarawy Street in the heart of Cairo. 

El-Adiouty took a quick break from work to sit down with Arab News and relate the story of her business, Fasahet Sumaya (Sumaya’s Yard).

“(It all began) in Downtown. I was working in Merette Publishing House. My job didn’t give me enough time to cook at home, so I used to eat in restaurants,” she explained. 

“However, this cost me a lot of money. So, I thought about cooking myself. When my co-workers tasted my food, they encouraged me to cook more. They even encouraged me to quit my job in the publishing house and start my own business.

“I actually had a small downtown place called El-Fasaha or The Yard. For those who don’t know, El-Fasaha is the small area in a house where the family members gather. Since mine was small too, I decided to call it El-Fasaha. As time passed and I had more customers, they called it Fasahet Sumaya.”

El-Adiouty started her business six years ago, and — around 18 months ago —  decided it was time for it to grow. 

“I moved to a larger place but with the same name. Even though  the larger place negates the meaning of El-Fasaha — a small place — I couldn’t change it,” she said with a laugh.

I decide what I will cook on a daily basis. I announce the dishes I will cook on my Facebook page the day before.

Sumaya El-Adiouty, Restaurant owner

“I decide what I will cook on a daily basis. I announce the dishes I will cook on my Facebook page the day before. This is a tradition that I still follow in my new place. I cook a few dishes, but in small quantities in comparison to other restaurants.”

El-Fasaha differs from most of Cairo’s restaurants in that it usually opens for only three to four hours a day, around lunchtime. Once the prepared food is gone, El-Adiouty calls it a day.

“Homemade food has become a hit in Egypt,” El-Adiouty said. 

“The restaurants that offer this type of food have become very famous, as they (offer an alternative to) fast food.” 

She added: “Many Egyptians from various social classes spend the whole day at work so they need to eat during the day. That’s why these restaurants are successful.” 

El-Adiouty believes the location of her restaurant has played a significant role in its success. “Downtown is a place I know well. It is close to many markets, hosts many governmental and nongovernmental institutions, and is full of takeaway restaurants. These are the reasons why I succeeded,” she said. 

El-Adiouty says there is no difference between men and women when it comes to work. 

“I am strong by nature and the 2011 revolution made me stronger. Therefore, there is absolutely no problem that I am a woman running my own business, as long as I work within the law that regulates such matters.” 

She dreams of expanding her business still further. As a child, she never imagined that she would be a successful business owner. She says she treats her customers “the way a mother would,” not a business owner who is focused solely on profits.


‘It Must Be Heaven’: Elia Suleiman’s sardonic take on the world

Suleiman, who plays the lead role as himself, explores identity, nationality and belonging. (Supplied)
Updated 23 October 2019

‘It Must Be Heaven’: Elia Suleiman’s sardonic take on the world

MUMBAI: Elia Suleiman’s “It Must Be Heaven,” which was screened at the Mumbai Film Festival, is pure cinema. Like his earlier works, here too the Palestinian director uses wit, sarcasm and minimalism, this time to present a series of vignettes that are funny but also a powerful lambast of the world we live in. Suleiman, who plays the lead role as himself, explores identity, nationality and belonging.

He says people worldwide now live in fear amid global geopolitical tensions. Today, checkpoints are just about everywhere: In airports, shopping malls, cinemas, highways — the list is endless.

“It Must Be Heaven” was screened at the Mumbai Film Festival. (Supplied) 

Suleiman’s earlier features, such as “Chronicle of a Disappearance” and “Divine Intervention,” showed us everyday life in the occupied Palestinian territories. This time, it is Paris and New York. 

The first scene is hilarious, with a bishop trying to enter a church with his followers. The gatekeeper on the other side of the heavy wooden door is probably too intoxicated and refuses to let the priest in, leading to a comical situation. Suleiman’s life in Nazareth is filled with such incidents — snippets that have been strung together to tell us of tension in society. Neighbors turn out to be selfish, and only generous when they know they are being watched. 

The Palestinian director uses wit, sarcasm and minimalism, to present a series of vignettes that are funny but also a powerful lambast of the world we live in. (Supplied)

In Paris, the cafes along the grand boulevards, and the young women who pass by, are typical of France’s capital. But a cut to Bastille Day, with tanks rolling by in a show of strength, jolts us back to harsh reality. In New York, Suleiman’s cab driver is excited at driving a Palestinian. 

The film has an interesting way of storytelling. The scenes begin as observational shots, but the camera quickly changes positions to show Suleiman watching from the other side of the room or a street. The camera then returns to where it first stood, and this back-and-forth movement is delightfully engaging.

The framing is so perfect, and the colors so bright and beautiful, that each scene looks magical. And as the director looks on at all this with his usual deadpan expression, a sardonic twitch at the corner of his mouth, we know all this is but illusion. There is bitter truth ahead!