Old Ramallah, Deir Alroum Street
“Sukhneh el-timriyyeh! Tazah el-timriyyeh!” Hot timriyyeh! Fresh timriyyeh!” These were the calls with which street vendors gave Jerusalem summer afternoons their special flavour. Timriyyeh, which is mille-feuille-like dough wrapped in a square shape around specially prepared semolina pudding and fried in sesame oil, is inscribed in the memory of every Jerusalemite. Those days are long gone, though, so what a surprise it was to run into a rather old-fashioned elegant pastry store in Ramallah dedicated to old-fashioned sweets, namely timriyyeh and hulbe. Ali Mahmoud al-Mtour warmly welcomes his clients in his cosy 1960s stylised sweets saloon, before withdrawing into the kitchen to prepare each individual timriyyeh.
Ali has inherited the art of timriyyeh-making from his father who used to be a street vendor in Jaffa before the Nakba. Unlike the ones we knew in our childhood, stacked on a round tray in the shape of a spiralling tower, Ali’s timriyyeh is freshly served from the frying pan. The taste is scrumptious; crisp on the outside with the soft, juicy, not-too-sweet semolina pudding on the inside. Unlike other Arab sweets, timriyyeh is not doused with honey (ater), rather it is mildly sprinkled with powdered sugar and makes a wonderful late-afternoon snack.
Ali’s late grandfather used to sell ka’kaban (candied apples) and timriyyeh in Lod. After 1948 his grandfather paid JD 5 to a man who used to smuggle goods between Israel and Jordan to smuggle back the moulds that he had left behind in the rushed escape from Lod. With these moulds for candied apples, he resumed his profession as a street vendor for both timriyyeh and candied apples. “This is how my grandfather made the capital with which he could open this shop.”
“The Jaffa refugees were our first timriyyeh customers, but its taste soon won over the locals. Now it is a Ramallah favourite among the older generation. It is celebrated as a breakfast treat in family gatherings. But we are open all day long.”
Elkhayyam specialises in home-style Arabic sweets. After three timriyyehs I sampled the best hulbe, a winter special made of hilbeh seed, semolina, and olive oil doused in honey.
In fact, Ali can - upon order - prepare all the sweets reminiscent of our grandmothers’ delicacies.
Submitted by Dr. Ali Qleibo