Distasteful dining in Egypt's new prison-themed restaurant

Distasteful dining in Egypt's new prison-themed restaurant
A prison-themed restaurant in Egypt? It might seem distasteful in a country where thousands of people are languishing in jail...
3 min read
28 November, 2017
The name of the restaurant literally translates to 'food crime' [AP]
With totalitarianism being carried out in full force in Egypt as thousands are imprisoned, a businessman in the country has sparked controversy by becoming the owner of a famous restaurant mimicking a prison.

The restaurant called Jaremat al-Akl, which literally translates to “food crime,” opened in the coastal city of Mansoura and it looks to be thriving with success.

According to customers, it is doing well because of its novelty. Props like handcuffs, inmate number plaques, a prisoners' cage and even an electric chair are served up as welcome selfie-fodder.

"It's a catchy idea and I did not want to do something that is traditional," said the restaurant's owner, Waleed Naeem.

But in a country where nearly 60,000 political prisoners are currently held in prisons, and where mass arbitrary arrests are carried out to suppress demonstrations and dissent, with the detaining of journalists, human rights defenders and protesters, one can argue Naeem's choice in theme is quite distasteful.

Props like handcuffs are served up as welcome selfie-fodder [AP]

Naeem, however, is irked by anyone who tries to link the restaurant's theme to the large-scale crackdown on dissent.

"The people of Mansoura really like this restaurant and think it's a great idea. But others are making a huge deal out of this on social media," said Naeem, who has refused to give media interviews to news outlets that want him to speak about what his eatery symbolises.

Translation: Why is there a restaurant called "Food Crime" and why are people eating handcuffed?

Translation: Food Crime is an actual restaurant modelled after a prison in Egypt and the meals are called "execution" and "life". I personally am against this idea because it is unoriginal and doesn't show any form of solidarity to prisoners.

My restaurant is not political... I don't think it has anything to do with real prisons and those inside them

"My restaurant is not political," said Naeem, who maintains that the idea of "food crime" was inspired by similar establishments in South Korea, China and Italy. 

"I don't think it has anything to do with real prisons and those inside them."

The restaurant's unusual decor attracts many in Mansoura, like Yasmeen Khouly.

"The idea is crazy, but it's all about trying something new and seeing what's out there, she said after eating there with a friend.

"Obviously seeing handcuffs and an electric chair is strange."

The restaurant's unusual decor attracts many in Mansoura [AP]

Engineer Ahmed Atef, however, said the environment reminded him of his days in the army, and "the prisons I used to see when I served."

The motif has even drawn in policemen like Amr El Gohary, who said he was impressed by features of the "amazing decor," like the handcuffs and a metal cage that allowed him to engage in some role reversal.

"Obviously it made me love this place. The experience of eating in the cage was interesting because being a policeman, I'm the one who puts people in handcuffs and prisons."