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Swimming And Snacking On Egypt's North Coast

Sep 1, 2012
Originally published on September 1, 2012 3:31 pm

In the summer, many middle- and upper-class Egyptians flee the sweltering heat and humidity of Cairo to a string of private beach communities that hug the Mediterranean coast. Here, the weather is cooler and the breeze off the sea carries the shouts of snack sellers. Those vendors make it possible for beachgoers to purchase snacks without leaving the shade of their umbrellas.

Up and down the lengths of the white sand beaches, Yasser Yunis, 35, carries a large box on his back, leveraged across one shoulder. He shouts, "Freska!" — the name of the sweets that are visible through the clear windows on the bright green box. He says that in the summer, he sells these treats at the resort from morning until sunset.

Freska are small, sweet treats — thin, crispy wafers sandwiching patties of sesame, peanuts or coconut, often held together by honey or sugar. There are also larger ones — bigger than your hand — that just have a thin smear of sticky honey holding them together.

For about a quarter each, you can buy enough freska to share with your family as you relax on the beach, enjoying the view of the turquoise-blue water.

Another beachfront favorite is gandoufly steamed clams. "I do love them, and I can't get them anywhere else but here," says Dalia Ezz el-Din, 32, an e-marketing account manager in Cairo.

She makes the 2 1/2-hour trek up from the city each weekend with her family, and she sits on her blanket with eight aluminum foil containers of the clams, cooked with spices and peppers. The family plans to chow down after a dip in the sea.

"We were waiting, actually, for the gandoufly guy," Ezz el-Din says. "When the kids saw him today, they were so happy. They were like, 'Call him, please!' "

One of those gandoufly guys is Amr Abd Elaal, 29, who shuffles his bare feet through the warm sand while carefully balancing a tray of clams and foil-wrapped half lemons.

"It's fresh from the sea," he says. "I got it and cooked it this morning. If I leave it for two or three hours it will all go bad."

He has to sell his supply quickly, but takes a moment to describe their preparation. The clams are washed and then boiled on the cooker. "We add some onions and pepper in addition to some tomato paste, then some spices and cumin," he explains.

At about 30 Egyptian pounds, or $5 each, gandoufly is much more expensive than the freska — but it's a delicious, light snack, just right for a day at the beach.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

For the next installment of our Taste of Summer series, we go to a beach along Egypt's Mediterranean coast. Kimberly Adams takes us where you can get your food without leaving the shade of your umbrella.

KIMBERLY ADAMS, BYLINE: Up and down the lengths of white sand beaches along Egypt's North Coast, 35-year-old Yasser Yunis carries a large box on his back balanced across one shoulder. He shouts the name of the sweets that are visible through the clear windows on the bright green box.

YASSER YUNIS: (through Translator) I sell freska in the summer here in this resort from the morning till the sunset.

ADAMS: Thin, crispy wafers sandwich small patties of sesame, peanuts or coconut, often held together by honey or sugar. There are also larger ones, bigger than your hand, that just have a thin smear of sticky honey holding them together.

(SOUNDBITE OF BAG SHUFFLING)

ADAMS: At about a quarter each, you can buy enough freska to share with a big family relaxing on the beach, enjoying the view of the turquoise-blue water. In the summer, many middle- and upper-class Egyptians flee the sweltering heat and humidity of Cairo to a string of private beach communities that hug the Mediterranean Coast. Here, the weather is cooler and the breeze off the sea carries the shouts of snack sellers, including the vendors of Dalia Ezz el-Din's favorite - and that of her sons, cavorting behind her in the sand - gandoufly, steamed clams.

DALIA EZZ EL-DIN: I do love them, and I can't get them anywhere else but here.

ADAMS: Ezz El-Din is 32 years old and an e-marketing account manager in Cairo. She makes the two-and-a-half hour trek up from the city each weekend with her family, and she sits on her blanket with eight aluminum foil containers of the clams, cooked with spices and peppers. The family plans to chow down after a dip in the sea.

EL-DIN: We're waiting, actually, for the gandoufly guy, yeah. When the kids saw him today, they were, like, cheering. They were so happy. They were, like, call him, please.

(LAUGHTER)

ADAMS: One of those gandoufly guys is 29 year-old Amr Abd Elaal, who shuffles his bare feet through the warm sand while carefully balancing a tray of gandoufly, foil-wrapped half lemons poised atop the containers.

AMR ABD ELAAL: (through Translator) It's fresh from the sea. I got it and cooked it this morning. If I leave it for two or three hours, it will all go bad.

ADAMS: He has to sell his supply quickly, but takes a moment to explain the preparations.

ELAAL: (through Translator) It's washed it well to release the sand and boiled on the cooker. Then we add some onions and pepper as well as some tomato paste, then some spices and cumin.

ADAMS: Gandoufly is much more expensive than the freska at about 30 Egyptian pounds or $5 each. But it's a delicious, light snack, just right for a day at the beach. For NPR News, I'm Kimberly Adams in the town of El-Zahor on Egypt's Mediterranean coast.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: For pictures of Egyptian beach food, plus other stories from our Taste of Summer series, go to npr.org. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.