In Nasr city, Cairo, stands Mama Mahrousa; an Egyptian restaurant of a special nature.
The boutique restaurant takes pride in staff that partially consists of employees with ‘special abilities’ and can accommodate guests of the same nature.
“I loved cooking since I was a young child. I learnt cooking from TV, reading books, and asking chefs working in the culinary field,” Mahrousa Salem, co-owner of Mama Mahrousa, told Ahram Online.
Mahrousa Salem, co-owner of Mama Mahrousa restaurant. Photo courtesy of Mahrousa Salem
Salem has been in the culinary field for five years now. Salem mastered her culinary crafts despite being crippled and confined to a wheelchair. The 40-year-old is married to a husband who cannot work due to his severe illness and is a mother to a daughter and son.
She started her own food catering business from home. Every day she would go to the market to purchase goods and fresh vegetables. “I would take orders by phone, return home to prepare and cook the food, and then drive my tricycle to deliver the hot food hot on time to the customers,” she explains.
It was a matter of time before she became popular among her neighbours and friends with her delicious homemade recipes.
Salem and a group of partners then invested their money in a restaurant. “I contribute with my time and efforts. I had one condition before starting the business: a small share of the annual profit is to be dedicated to providing job vacancies for disabled people in the restaurant,” she says.
One of the dishes severed which contain a number of traditional Egyptian/Middleast food .Photo courtesy of Mahrousa Salem
Salem takes part in the whole process: loading and unloading materials on a truck, transporting goods from one place to another on her Tricycle. “No meal eaten is better than the meal you eat from your own,” she adds.
Mahmoud Younis, director of Mama Mahrousa, describes the place as entirely made of wood. “It is a natural substance. It gives a distinctive look and rich beauty. It is a small establishment with a capacity for 50 people,” he says.
“The restaurant opened three months ago with the aim of creating job opportunities for disabled people to help them be self-dependent and earn money,” he comments.
“The staff has employees with disabilities, including chefs, order takers, waiters, and kitchen staff. It helps guests with disabilities feel comfortable,” Younis adds.
The restaurant is fully equipped and accessible for both abled or disabled customers, with easy access to the entrance and exit and no steps or stairs. The floor is firm and non-slippery, there is enough space between tables and chairs for smoother movement, the tables are adjusted with the right height for wheelchairs users, and In the bathroom, some of the hand washing basins and toilets are adjusted to accommodate people with disabilities.
Outside of Mama Mahrousa; an Egyptian restaurant. Photo courtesy of Mahrousa Salem
“I am 29 years-old. I worked in several jobs, but this is the first time to acquire a job in the food industry,” says Ahmed Said, a waiter in Mama Mahrousa.
Said also suffers from leg impairment and is a wheelchair user. He is a student in high school that is working and studying at the same time. “I want to save money to pay all tuition fees so I can enter the faculty of commerce next year,” he says.
Said says that acquiring a job is a challenge. “It is not so easy to find a job. Business owners refuse to hire employees with disabilities,” he adds.
The restaurant specialises in oriental Egyptian cuisine. “People miss the unique taste and flavours of Egyptian oriental food in the countryside and the smells of grandma’s cooking,” Salem says.
“I created the menu. The items are unique in taste, flavour, and presentation. The menu includes soups, appetizers, main courses, salads, desserts, and drinks,” Khames Nour El-Din, executive chef of Mama Mahrousa, told Ahramonline.
Nour El-din takes pride in his 13 years of experience as a chef specialised in Italian, international, and oriental food.
“I am working with high standards of food hygiene and safety, plus good personal hygiene, safe storage, sanitation, hand washing, and changing gloves and masks,” he confirms.
“In our kitchen, we use healthy preparation and cooking methods,” he adds.
“I am so glad to work with [disabled people]. They are passionate and have an eagerness to learn,” Nour El-Din says.
“I share my experience as a chef and teach them the basics of cooking, hygiene safety, and culinary arts,” he adds.
“On a personal level, they inspire me to never give up. Disability never stops them from achieving great things,” Nour El-Din concludes.