Al Omda (The Mayor) Restaurant in Cairo, Egypt
by Heba Fatteen Bizzari
When local Egyptians want good Egyptian fare, where do they go? To visit Al Omda (The Mayor), which is one of the most popular Oriental restaurants in Egypt. Omda is a word with significance in the Egyptian culture. Al Omda is the village headman. Traditionally, Al Omda performed the functions of a local government or local security agency in the villages. This means that he was allowed to make decisions without reverting back to the central government.
Al Omda was thought to be a man of wisdom and knowledge who was respected by his people. They went to him for justice when they had troubles and accepted his opinions. Today the image of the Al Omda remains. He is the huge man wearing a galabiya and an ema with a large mustache that symbolizes his manhood. Today, Al Omda is the Egyptian version of Colonel Sanders.
In Mohandesseen, the Al Omda restaurant offers very good, popular Oriental dishes in huge portions at very reasonable prices. They serve Egyptian dishes such as kofta and grilled chicken and a selection of salads, usually green salad, hoummos, baba ghanough (aubergine mashed up with tahina), torshi (pickles) and bread.
Al Omda strives to provide the largest list of sandwiches that match all tastes. They offer Fuul (mashed beans) and taameya (fried bean patties) which are the traditional working-class Egyptian dishes usually served on aish shami, the local equivalent of pita bread. They also have baba ghanough, mashed potatoes, fried eggs, and anything you can possibly think of.
The restaurant is usually filled with foreigners who love the Oriental taste they offer and the friendly surroundings and service, said Ahmed Momen, a 21 year-old student of law. I dont recall a day that I came and I didnt find foreigners eating here.
Al Omda's inventive dishes are always the best. Not only is Koshary served, but the Koshary here is specially tailored for the dinner. You can have Koshary with shawerma (meat, or chicken); you can also have it with small pieces of grilled liver, or just about any other ingredient.
Fiteer is Al Omda's specialty. Egyptians often translate it as "Egyptian pizzas," though it is not much like that found in the west. Fiteer can be eaten sweet or savory, and the dish is made right in front of you. You are the one who orders your Fiteer and you get to choose what you want to put on it from the ingredients in the bowls right here in the work area, said the Fiteer man.
Al Omda also offers amazing deserts. The list includes Om Ali which consists of pieces of soft pastry in a mix of milk, sugar, ghee, nuts, and raisins as well as Mahalabiya (vanilla pudding), and finally the rice pudding.
A shisha (water pipe) is also one of Al Omdas musts. Its flavors vary from fruits to coffee to the original miassel. They have apple, apricot, peach, cantaloupe, cherry, orange, cocktail, and cappuccino tobaccos. I regularly visit Al Omda for many reasons; one of them is for their fantastic shisha. You can find just about any flavor. They are always fresh and the service is great, said Momen.
Though foreigners frequent this restaurant, it remains an Egyptian experience, unlike most of the normal tourist spots, and well worth a visit. However, note that no alcohol is served. Al Omda is located in Mohandesseen at 6 El-Gazayer St., behind the Atlas Hotel off Gameat El Dowal Street in Cairo, Egypt. They can be reached at +20-2-346-2701. Their hours are from noon until 2:00 am. Takeaway and delivery are available.