My husband and I just recently returned from a 3-day, 4-night trip to Luxor, Egypt. It’s my second trip to Egypt. He was in Cairo many years ago and in 2007, he surprised me with a 25th anniversary trip to Alexandria. Since then, I’ve wanted to return to Egypt but not to Cairo. As exciting as seeing the pyramids would be, I was more drawn to Luxor, ancient city of Thebes.
This year, Atiq surprised me again with a trip to Luxor. We went on flydubai’s inaugural flight to Luxor. There were 12 passengers including us! We arrived early, before the sun rose.
After a few hours of sleep, we went down to have breakfast and it was the usual buffet one would find in a 5-star hotel – continental, European and Middle Eastern, including and omelet station and a vast array of breads. There was also the condiments (onion, parsley, chili, cumin, garlic) for making foul (pronounced “fool”) a mashed Fava bean dish that is widely found throughout Egypt and the Middle East. I love this dish and spooned some into a bowl. I looked around for Arabic (pita) bread and to my surprise there wasn’t any to be found. Atiq said he would ask while I found a table. He came back with his omelet and a plate with what looked like 4 very large baking soda biscuits! I took one bite and I was in heaven!!! It brought back memories of when we lived in Denver and our Palestinian friend, Salah took over the kitchen and made his bread. Since then, I have been on a quest to find a bread that could, even slightly resemble the taste of Salah’s bread. This particular morning in May, looking at the Nile while having breakfast and letting the fact that I was really in Luxor sink in, I realized that I could have been eating Salah’s bread!! I grabbed my husband’s arm and practically force-fed him a piece of this wonderful bread! It was soft, chewy, still-warm from the oven, that luscious light brown mocha color and pale, off white, holey texture on the inside. I was so thrilled at discovering this bread that I didn’t even try the foul!
When the manager made it to our table I just gushed on about the bread and we were told that there was a lady that made the bread for the restaurant. We got directions and after breakfast we took the short walk to see her and give her our compliments.
Um Mohammed – means “the mother of Mohammed” literally means that her oldest/only son is named Mohammed – was happy to see us and even happier when Atiq explained why I was so happy about the bread. It helped that I have my own personal translator! She told Atiq that she would be happier if she was more busy. I’m not sure what she meant by that – maybe there weren’t enough people asking for Egyptian bread?
This the “kitchen” and the oven where the bread is baked. I believe it’s made out of bricks, cement, sand and clay.
That’s the dough in the metal bowl. It’s a very soft dough. She takes enough to fit into the palm of her hand a shapes it by pulling up the sides doing a twisty motion then places onto long boards that have a thin layer of coarse flour on the bottom. She leaves the mini loaves to rest.
When the loaves have rested enough, she flattens them out and shapes them into rounds, all by hand. No rolling pin is used in the making of these breads! And every bread is the same size and shape! She uses a long-handled spatula to place them in and out of the oven, but to move them around inside the oven she uses what looks like a long handled small hoe. The bread is placed on the hot stone, turned and when it’s done, it’s removed and placed in a basket then taken into the hotel kitchen. Um Mohammed is definitely a professional bread maker!
During our entire stay we made it a point to ask for Egyptian bread even if it wasn’t on the menu, and we got it!
Ask and ye shall receive…