William Sitwell dreams of ancient Egypt, but instead ends up eating a very cheesy pizza in Dubai's ancient Egypt-themed Wafi pyramid.
There's an ancient Egyptian tomb, near Luxor, the town formally known as Thebes, that I long to visit. It's on a dusty hill called Sheikh Abd el-Qurna and its small inauspicious entrance overlooks the Nile. But inside are beautiful and detailed paintings that depict, for example, the baking of ancient Egyptian bread.
On viewing the tomb – the funerary resting place of a well-connected woman called Senet – the Egyptologist Thierry Bendritter wrote: 'We are in the presence of the exceptional representations of actual cooking in the Middle Kingdom.' The image of bread-making is thus the earliest known recipe.
I was pondering on this while in Dubai this week, wondering when I might find an excuse to travel to Egypt to see this amazing tomb, its paintings and to get a whiff of cooking inspiration from 1958 BC. Instead, I hopped into a cab and went to the Wafi pyramids, inside which there are no ancient tombs but there is quite a nice Italian restaurant called Medzo.
While many of the ancient Egyptian pyramids were constructed some 2000 years BC, the Wafi ones (pictured left) were built 2000 years AD; 2007 to be precise. The Wafi complex houses a hotel in a pyramid and the tombs, guarded by large ancient Egyptian figures, house a shopping mall and a handful of restaurants.
Medzo is quite a pleasant one, its terrace over looking a swimming pool and in earshot of an outdoor cinema. This meant that while I ate my delicious starter of soft and tender octopus with potato salad we were able to try to guess the film from the bursts of soundtrack we heard during the loud bits. The money seemed to be on Skyfall during the starters, although it shifted to The Bodyguard as the main courses arrived, thanks to that interminable song.
The music was as saccharine sweet as the cheese was thick and sticky on my pizza. I always screw up when ordering pizza because I am so greedy. I know, deep down, that the best pizzas are the simplest ones, where fresh dough is baked to perfection, the edges just a step or two away from crisp, and where then sweet tomato base can marry with some perfect mozzarella. The perfect pizza showing off the best and simplest ingredients. But I do things like go into Pizza East at the top of Portobello Road and order pizzas with belly pork on top, which is always a mistake.
So now being a vegetarian and thus being forbidden to order one with salami or bresaola on I went for the four cheeses. Then asked them to put anchovies in it. I would have thought in retrospect that one cheese would have been enough. I certainly couldn't identify that there were three cheeses, there could have been two, or eight. So I chomped through pizza, heavy with cheese, salted with anchovy and sort of enjoying myself.
Then shots were fired and Kevin Costner rescued Whitney Houston and that song played again.
Baker and Spice
I had a lunch a couple of days later at Baker and Spice, which you access through the Souk al Bahar, the terraces of which overlook the marina and the wonderful Burj Khalifa, in all its thrusting, tall, mind-boggling magnificence. Here my pumpkin ravioli, which was tasty and well made itself but came swimming in a pool of cheese sauce — they must have seen me coming — was interrupted by the fountain display in the water.
It starts up every fifteen minutes and is very impressive. Water shoots up hundreds of feet into the air and sways like an exotic dancer. Music blares from speakers, so you yell things like 'wow, that's amazing, it's almost sexy.' Then it's back to the ravioli, which I was health-ing up with a rocket salad with olive oil and pomegranate sauce.
I'm starting to love Dubai. There were even specks of rain this week. But just specks, lasting about twelve seconds, which is just about the right amount.
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