Gad is definitely the place to go in Cairo for good Egyptian “street food”! But there are a few things you should know, or better yet prepare yourself for, before going. Like most daily activities of this bustling city, simple events become everyman-for-himself mad brawls.
The menu: It’s mostly in Arabic, although they do have enough pictures hanging up that you most likely can point at your desired selection. I suggest getting a dish that comes in the local pocket bread or hoagie style roll, for convenience sake. This is not the mad part. That comes next.
The ordering: It’s like everything else here, whose ever hand reaches the cashier’s hand first, even if your hand was there first, it still wasn’t IN the hand of the cashier, so you are still fair game to be (as we say) “cut”. When they see us foreigners in line, it somehow becomes more of a reason to cut. No use in getting bent out of shape, it doesn’t help, and you will be treated as the irrational one. Just assert yourself in line and in getting your money and order to the cashier-- you’re not cutting if you speak louder than the person who trying to cut you! A big favorite here is the “po-ta-tes”, which is the local flat bread stuffed with French fries, hummus and salad, very tasty (get two). Falafel is known as falafel, but better known by its local name, “ta-may-uh”. Once you’ve paid, you will be given a receipt and sent away, without being told where. I assure you, you will feel as though you are back in kindergarten on the recess yard for the first time!
The food prep/service is divided up between two to three counters, each clearly making a different type of selection. Do not hesitate to slap down your receipt on any of the counters. If you’re in the right place they will make you your food, if not, they will point you to where you need to go. The same cutting problem you might have become irritated with in the cashier’s line will carry over to the food counter-- Assert! Assert! Assert!
The eating: It’s simple, sit in or leave! When Gad is packed, it’s packed! And when it’s empty, well, it’s empty! You will only pay a pound or two extra to eat in; if you can’t see any seats immediately don’t bother, just eat it on a tall curb somewhere outside. Seating arrangements vary from table seating to cramped (ie, counter) seating, that is, depending on the area. Maadi, for example, will have table seating and Dokki and Downtown will have cramped seating.
The choice drink: In my opinion, this would be the “lemon auseer” or “ lemon juice”. This is a drink I try everywhere I go in Cairo, and I never have had it like I had it at Gad! I was with a friend, sitting in at the Maadi Road 9 location during its empty period. After we each ordered a glass of the brew, we watched him in the corner hand squeezing lemons and limes-- the man’s rough hands had no need for fancy squeezing and mixing devices. He then dumped everything into an empty water bottle, and began to shake vigorously: we stared in amazement, he smiled over at us, his arms on auto-shake. After pouring the foamy lemon-lime goodness into two glasses, he proceeded to pour in a diabetes- inducing dose of sugar (an optional feature of course, mid shake he came back to ask us how sweet we wanted our concoctions!) Once delivered on a not so silver platter, we had a taste test and put it to a vote whether this was the best “lemon juice” experience in Cairo. Two “yeas” to zero “nays”!
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