Whether enjoying a Bedouin coffee or dining out in Amman, delicious food has always been a crucial ingredient in Jordan’s charm. We grabbed a moment with Ibrahim Mouasher, creator of drinking and dining concepts that celebrate Middle Eastern culinary roots and heritage, like his hip Amman cafe Majnoon Qahwa. Here we chatted to him about Jordan’s coffee culture, his favourite dishes, and how meals bring people together.
What inspired you to become a restauranteur?
I’ve always had a love for food and creating environments that can provide people with an experience that is special, memorable and enriching. As a company we saw a real deficit of homegrown brands from the Middle East. We want to cater for our own region and also share our culinary stories with the rest of the world.
How does Jordan inspire you and your work?
Jordan is a country that is rich in heritage and culture, and I am inspired by its values that were instilled in myself and in many other Jordanians – those of hospitality, generosity, tradition and family. I consider restaurants to be the last bastion for bringing families together today – a place to gather around for a meal is important in an ever-growing alienated world. So much of what we do is at the end of the day all about bringing people together, with the hope of giving them a memory or two to cherish.
Tell about Jordan’s foodie scene.
Jordan has a growing restaurant and café scene, with many small businesses opening up with lots of new independent and creative concepts. It’s very important to encourage local innovation and talent, and I am happy to see this trend. There are many others who want to share our stories with the world – we share a lot of pride in our culture.
What is your favourite Jordanian dish?
Shakrieh – my death row meal. Slow cooked leg of lamb, in lamb broth and tangy Jordanian yoghurt topped with sizzling garlic, olive oil and dried mint, served over vermicelli rice. The definition of comfort food.
Does Jordan’s have a coffee culture?
Coffee is an especially important part of our culture. It was originally invented by Arabs in Yemen hundreds of years ago, they were the first to roast and brew coffee beans into the drink we know today. So many of our cultural traditions revolve around drinking coffee. Visiting someone’s office always includes coffee, asking for a woman’s hand in marriage ends with drinking coffee, funeral arrangements include coffee, morning and afternoon gatherings always revolve around coffee.
What can people expect when they buy a coffee in your cafe?
What we are doing essentially is bringing the coffee shop culture back to our roots. We don’t serve pumpkin spiced lattes for example, instead we have Bedouin coffee with cardamom and Arabic coffee with Yemeni beans. We also roast our coffee twice a week to bring out the inherent flavors of the beans themselves, rather than mask them in artificial flavors, sugars and cream.
You seem in tune with Jordan’s culture, what is it that makes Jordan such a unique place to visit?
Jordan is a small country that is rich in so many ways, guests who come to visit me in Jordan always describe their experience as a pleasant surprise and very special. We are home to Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, we have the Dead Sea, amazing coral reef diving in Aqaba on the Red Sea, Wadi Rum – the red dessert filmed in the Martian, and Lawrence of Arabia, beautiful nature reserves, forests in the north, mountains and valleys. Our people are rooted in hospitality and kindness, and Amman our capital city is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world with Roman ruins everywhere. We also have a beautiful spring season, with rare flowers strewn across olive trees and wheat fields, with stunning weather.
It’s a challenge to summarize what is special about Jordan in one paragraph; you have to come see for yourself.
Do you have a favourite spot?
The desert of Wadi Rum, its solace and beauty is unmatched by anything I’ve ever seen, if ever there was ever a place to feel inspired, this is it.
Finally, if you could sum up your daily life in one sentence, how would you describe it?
At war in the pursuit of perfection.