Shawarmah In The New York Times

The New York Times recently ran an article in its travel section on food in Amman, painting it as the “stable center” of the Middle East. After reading it once over, I picked a few things that annoyed me but I brushed them aside. More recently, someone else who read the piece brought it to my attention again and ever since, its been, eating away at me, for lack of a better term.

When detailing Reem Cafateria on the first circle, the article read:

Six men in curiously neat, pressed red jackets and matching baseball caps stand shoulder to shoulder in an assembly line making Reem’s only dish: warm roast beef sandwiches.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that shawarmah is NOT roast beef. I mean, not even close.

Ok. Sorry. Had to get that off my chest.


  • These parts were hilarious 😀

    As an enterprise, Reem is legendary. “The owner makes a few million a year,” said one of the young cuff links. But the sandwiches are only the equivalent of 45 cents I told him. “You see?” he said. “That’s many, many sandwiches.”

    Every country in the region claims falafel as its own, but according to Mr. Turk it was invented in Jordan, more specifically in his kitchen.

  • Funny story, this past trip to Jordan I was standing in line at Reem, and a guy came from the back, looked at the menu and wondered with a dissatisfied tone “there’s no chicken shawerma?” and left.

    Everybody in line gave him the evil eye and someone said “el shab sheklo jdeed 3al balad.”


  • Hell no, Shawerma is nothing close to warm roast beef sandwich!
    you’re not wrong…

    looooool @ “Every country in the region claims falafel as its own, but according to Mr. Turk it was invented in Jordan, more specifically in his kitchen.” .. Talking about Jordanian exaggeration 😉
    i agree w Hamzeh N.,this part is extremely hilarious!

  • just read the article now… the roast beef thing is sooo aggravating… i can’t believe the nyt didn’t correct it!! it makes the author look soo ignorant.

    btw, i kind of got the impression he’s a vegetarian (but the kind that eats fish still). in which case, maybe he wasn’t the best choice to write the article though i did enjoy his humorous writing style.

    of course, he does get his vegetables wrong too — in the slideshow he identifies hindbeh as spinach!! 😛

  • Shawerma where I live is either beef or turkey, so I see where the writer is coming from!
    I want sa7en 3arabi RIGHT NOW :S

  • A friend of mine sent me this article when it came out. I sent him a reply along these lines:

    The dude writing this has a questionable taste in food, that’s the least I can say. Why is everyone crazy about Cafeteria Reem? Their shawerma is crap and I don’t care how many people hate me for saying this. It’s heavy, greasy, and icky.

    Fakhr El Deen is an OUTRAGEOUSLY priced, lousy, elitest restaurant. I’ve been to it for dinner once and I’ll never go again. I have had far better meals in other Jordanian and Lebanese-style restaurants in town, and they charged 75% less.

    Al Quds is a kewl old traditional restaurant. The place’s food is finger-licking great, prices are affordable, and it breathes of old Amman. This is the only place mentioned in the article that I think is reasonable, oh and Hashem too.

    I’m just wondering who showed this guy around Amman. They should’ve taken him to Reem el bawadi, Al Qahera (downtown) or something, better than Fakhr el Deen.

  • I think that the problem with why we view this NYTimes article, it’s content, intentions, our assumptions of it’s intent, and our reactions to it, so critically is part of the problem itself.

    Imagine this….Arab writers, journalists, creative writers, novelists, reporters, media people, citizen journalists, etc understand the importance of owning and reflecting the image that is us in context and accuracy. Also imagine this….These Arab voices strive to achieve challenging goals, they aim to get published and heard and seen in effective places, they raise the bar with constant commitment and continuity. And imagine this too…. they communicate effectively, they inspire, they attract attention, they contribute to better understanding and accurate representation. And even imagine this… they are proactive more than they are reactive. (I know, I know.. too much to ask the system to imagine – might shock it!)

    It’s so easy to be critical of what we see, hear and read about us when we are not part of that making.

    Who cares about this stupid article?! I got the link, started to read it and didn’t get past ‘mansaf’, shrugged it off thinking ‘oh please, another orientalist view on what is assumed to be’ and moved on. I laugh at the ignorance of foreign media who aim to know about life inside Arabia. And in that same breath, I remind myself about the need to keep creating.

    For all those so bothered by the inaccurate article…go out and write something great. Get published to be seen. Correct the misrepresentation that disturbs you. Be aggressive and loud and as bullish as need be, if you feel you can do a better job. But for the love of life, please stop victimizing yourselves and blaming it on some foreigner who’s only doing a job, finding words to fill a space within a deadline to earn a living.

    Did any of the expert critics of this NYTimes piece write back the author, correcting facts if you know better? Did you drop an email to the editor? Did anyone write an accurate piece and contribute it for consideration?

    We know better. So go crazy and show the world that which makes you proud! Don’t allow yourself to be a victim of someone else’s shallowness! The tables will turn, but there needs to be an incredible, amazing and massive force on this end for them to budge, so let’s realign our energy and do this. Screw the NYTimes piece! Write something better and beat the silly stuff to a pulp!

  • Beef or lamb is hardly a factual error .. the point is I’m glas that there’s coverage of Jordan and the middleeast beyond the daily killing that takes place .. and I do agree with Monkey (sorry!) about being proactive.

    Worse thing that could happen is that foreign reporters realise that they don’t live in a bubble of their own making!


Your Two Piasters: