Naim Sharab, known as Abu Salah, is a 44-year-old cook from Gaza.
Abu Salah learned how to cook from his parents, who learned cooking from their parents. In other words, for the Sharab family, cooking traditional Palestinian dishes is a family business.
Though he mastered many Palestinian traditional foods, such as Maftul (couscous), Mansaf and Maqlubah, Abu Salah is the master of Qidreh.
Qidreh is a popular Palestinian rice dish made in special clay pots and often prepared with lamb – sometimes chicken – and many spices.
The origins of the popular dish, usually associated with special occasions and holidays, is believed to have originated from the Palestinian city of Al-Khalil (Hebron).
But Abu Salah’s signature dish is made in the Al-Zaytoun neighborhood, east of Gaza City. His clients swear that his Qidreh is the best anywhere.
When the Palestine Chronicle asked Abu Salah if he agreed, he shyly smiled.
For Abu Salah, making Qidreh is not just a job. It is a tradition.
For him, cooking is an act of preserving the authentic folklore of Palestinian Levantine food, as this profession has been inherited in his family throughout several generations.
When we asked him if he wants his children to inherit his work as well, he said that his goal in life is to give his kids the best education he can. The rest is their choice.
This is Abu Salah, the Qidreh master, at work.
(All Photos: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)