The Murderous History of Qatar’s Most Common Dessert

Dip your spoon in to Om Ali—a golden, bread pudding-like dessert, lush and creamy with heat milk, and studded with golden raisins and pistachios—in any restaurant or cafe in Doha, Qatar, and also you may not prevent to assume some thing except this is in all likelihood one of the fine cakes in life. The recipe couldn’t be extra easy, nor greater perfect. Puff pastry, milk, sugar, cream, and a smattering of nuts and raisins and/or different dried end result are thrown into an oven and served golden brown.

Qatar, one of the smallest nations of the Gulf States, shares dessert traditions with the relaxation of the Arabic countries of the region. Even because the united states of Qatar rushes headlong into futuristic green strength architecture and making plans, this historic dessert hailing from decrease Egypt may be determined at cafes and fancy inns. Q-explorer Qatari manual Abdullah Mohammed told me “you can even eat it for breakfast.”

But, like many famous dishes, the theory of the recipe is hotly disputed—and uncovering the over-the-top proper crime detail of one of the 3 competing foundation memories is a actual thrill journey. All 3 stories refer again to the call of the dish—“mother” (om) of Ali, her son. (Thanks to the patriarchy, the woman who created the dessert by no means gets her full call written down inside the annals of history.)


One story follows a humble path of an old lady (who happens to have a son named Ali) in a negative village within the Nile Delta, wherein a sultan in the 13th century with apparent imperiousness requested for something to consume whilst he passed through this precise village while on a hunt. Scrambling for some thing worthy of a sultan, the old female combined together whatever she had reachable, and the sultan found it as melt-in-the-mouth scrumptious as the present day day variations, and made it famous upon his go back to the city—naming it after the mother of Ali.

Shajarat Al-Durr (a Syrian chronicler calls her “the maximum foxy ladies of her age”) started her course to energy first as a bonded slave who married a sultan after giving him a son, and whilst he died, she dominated in his stead. However, because of a totally complex political scenario, she ended up needing to remarry, and misplaced the authentic seat of strength because the powers that be could not be given a woman ruler. But she already had a taste for head-of-state topics, and was reputed to be pulling the strings in the back of the facade of her 2d husband.

When she allegedly murdered her second husband for taking any other wife, his first wife—the purported Om Ali of dessert reputation, who was thrown over at Al-Durr’s behest—allegedly bribed some maids to murder her inside the hammam by beating her to death with their shoes. (It’s doubtful whether the footwear had been a part of the commands or that become a spontaneous approach of murdering.)

Another account says that Al-Durr met an ignominious death by using being thrown off the pinnacle of the citadel by way of the primary wife, who had been awaiting her candy, sweet revenge. (When you play the Game of Thrones…)

Upon the jubilant news that her rival became dead, the first spouse demanded her chefs compete to create a dish celebrating her rival’s demise, and to be even greater more, she even served it in with a gold coin within the bowl.

It ought to be stated that this story indicates up handiest via gleeful testimonies around the dish and now not in authentic ancient money owed, which could be largely because of the reality many reputable records books had been stored by way of men—perhaps they did not care about the bread pudding-like dessert aspect.

Navigating lore and history receives a bit “turtles all of the way down,” however Al-Durr can also have been discredited inside the aftermath after she misplaced her energy as a sort of reputational smear marketing campaign that King Richard III additionally suffered.

Lastly, eliminated from political intrigue and homicide, is a story about an Irishwoman. Yes, indeed a dessert dish commonly served within the Middle East may want to possibly contain an Irish mistress. An Irish nurse with the family name O’Malley stuck the attention of the ruler, Khedive Ismail who turned into the Khedive of Egypt and Sudan from 1863 to 1879. Khedive Ismail had a dessert created in particular for her called O’Malley, which, some say, could have been bastardized into Om Ali via Arabic speakers.

There’s a purpose this recipe hasn’t been definitely modified considering that antiquity—though you may alternative croissants for puff pastry or the Egyptian flatbread called roaa, and in recent times we use extra whipped cream than the wealthy gamoussa (buffalo) milk, the fundamentals stay the identical. Fluffy milky concoction quick circuits the brain’s pride centers (however with any luck does no longer encourage murder).

Duane Simpson

Internet fan. Zombie aficionado. Infuriatingly humble problem solver. Alcohol enthusiast. Spent several months exporting UFOs in Jacksonville, FL. A real dynamo when it comes to exporting gravy in Tampa, FL. Spent 2001-2004 implementing saliva in Edison, NJ. Had moderate success getting my feet wet with junk food on Wall Street. Practiced in the art of building Virgin Mary figurines in Tampa, FL. Practiced in the art of marketing Roombas in Phoenix, AZ.

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