Awlad el Fallah

In Attarine, a group of peasants arrived from Meit Ghamr in the 1920s. They had no use for fancy dishes, nor the money for restaurants. They just about scraped enough money for carts, from which they sold kebda, liver. One of them, Mohamed Farid, set his cart up in Attarine, and his business was so good he eventually bought a shop in town in Abdel Moneim Street – the original Awlad el Fallah. The family went on using the place for generations, but expanded to open a series of branches in Bahari, near Gate 1, and Morsi Badr and Ramleh Station. El Fallah specializes in liver. Haj Wahid says this is what the family has always done, and he won’t alter the “menu”. Liver is cooked with thyme, cumin and chili, and is served with green pepper, lemons and watercress. This is the traditional kebda Iskandarani, ironically made famous by a group of non-Alexandrians. But that is the typical Alexandrian character, which is welcoming and which assimilates many influences, whether from the Mediterranean or from around Egypt.

Recently customers have been asking for tahini and babaghanouj with the liver, and many shops comply, but not Haj Wahid. These are never served with kebda, he insists. El Fallah still prepares and serves liver in the traditional way that it was offered from the cart almost a hundred years ago, without tahini.

They used to have a lot of clients, and people used to appreciate good food. Now, grumbles Haj Wahid, they just gobble up anything they get without noticing the difference. Famous actors still go to El Fallah, as it is part of the Alexandrian experience.

Haj Wahid recounts that customers sometimes try to cheat them. They would see someone paying 20 pounds, and claim that they were the ones who had paid the money and demand the change. So they would eat, and take some money as well! Haj Wahid laughs and says people still try and do that trick, but they don’t fall for it! However, his father once got into trouble because of it. A customer who hadn’t given him any money took his sandwiches and asked for his change, claiming to have paid a pound (which was a lot of money at the time). The man filed a complaint at the police station, and though Haj Mohamed insisted he hadn’t taken any money, he spent the night in the police station nevertheless!