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The poor villages in Egypt


Travelling through Egypt
Claudia Roden Writer
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I decided the Prince Claus Fund of Holland financed the trip. Because they had given me an award for the Jewish Book and the Middle Eastern Book. And it was an award for culture. And they had said if there is anything that you want to do for Egypt, or about Egypt, we might fund it. But before I asked them anything, they asked me would I go and speak, give a talk at the Dutch Embassy about Egypt. And they had made a big thing of it. But when the Chefs Association heard, that's how they said, 'Will you come?' And so, I gave my talk at the embassy. But I gave myself a lot of time, because they offered to pay for two weeks to be there.

And then I paid for myself to be there for an extra two weeks. But they paid for me to travel through Egypt. Because I decided that for the chefs – they knew I was going to give the seminars for the chefs –that I should find out more that maybe I don't know, that is now, or that was there, that I missed, that could be turned into dishes that people can serve in a restaurant and hotels. Because it was the hotels that really wanted to know. And I realised that they were asking me... that's what they told me, because they were the organisers were there, the secretary was there... They said that now, before, tourists didn't really want to eat local food. But there came a time when they asked, 'Can we eat local food', and 'What is local food?' And they were saying kibbeh, baba Ghanouj, and then they were told, 'But that's Syria, that's Lebanese'. Everybody abroad knows that there is Lebanese anyway. And it is. It wasn't particularly Egyptian. And so they were wanting to do Egyptian food and to see what to do. And so, I started travelling along the Nile, not in those river boats, but I went by train and by taxi. And because I wanted to go to different places.

Claudia Roden (b. 1936) is an Egyptian-born British cookbook writer and cultural anthropologist of Sephardi/Mizrahi descent. She is best known as the author of Middle Eastern cookbooks including A Book of Middle Eastern Food, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food and The Book of Jewish Food.

Listeners: Nelly Wolman

Claudia Roden talking to her granddaughter Nelly Wolman about her life in food.

Tags: Egypt

Duration: 3 minutes, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023