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Om Ali (Bread Pudding): A Delicious Dessert Resulting from Tragedy!

posted on: Sep 7, 2016

BY: Noura Anwar/Ambassador Blogger

No dessert can beat the deliciousness of Om Ali, the Egyptian sweet that originally comes from Lower Egypt “Falaheen” (peasants). Yet, not many people know the tragic story behind the popular dish.

This story took place during the Egyptian Mameluke era in approximately 1517, before the Ottomans rule of Egypt. Assalih Ayyub, the Sultan of Egypt, purchased Shajarat Al-Durr as a bondmaid before he became Sultan. Shortly after, Shajarat Al-Durr gave birth to a son named Khalil, and Assalih Ayyub made her a Sultana. They lived in Al Mansoura in Egypt’s Nile Delta.

Shajarat Al-Durr. Image credit: Alchetron

At that time, Egypt was under attack by the crusaders when the Sultan died. Shajarat Al-Durr decided to conceal his death and led the country and army and together with Turanshah, the Commander in Chief, and defeated the crusader forces. Shajarat Al-Durr gained power among the Mamelukes who supported her as a Sultana and, in order to remain powerful, they conspired to assassinate Tarunshah to appoint Ezz Al-Din Aybak as a Commander in Chief.

When the Abbassi Caliph turned down her request to be the leader of Egypt, refusing feminine leadership since it was against the customs and traditions, she decided to marry Ezz Al-Din Aybak and assign him as the Sultan. However, Ezz Al-Din Aybak was married to Om Ali whom Shajarat Al-Durr asked him to divorce. They got married and he became the Sultan, thus creating his power base.

But the marriage was quickly marred by dispute and suspicions became part of their relationship, and Ezz Al-Din Aybak was searching for supremacy by allying with a strong Amir to protect himself from the threats of the Mamluks and his wife’s strength. In order to expand his power, he decided to marry the daughter of Badr Al-Din Lo’alo’a, the Ayyubi Amir of Al-Mousel. Shajarat Al-Durr was very jealous and she order her husband to be killed by one of her loyal servants. The newly widowed Shajarat Al-Durr claimed it was a sudden death, but Ezz Al-Din Aybak’s first wife, Om Ali, did not believe that and decided to avenge the death of her former husband and father of her child.

Om Ali, the first wife, ordered her bondmaids to kill Shajarat Al-Durr in revenge for stealing her husband and killing him. Shajarat Al-Durr was beaten with Qubqab (wooden made slippers) to death in the bathtub. In celebration, Om Ali ordered her cook to create a new and delicious dessert and distribute it to everyone. She announced that the dessert was a celebration for the death of Shajart Al-Durr and ordered everyone to receive a Shajarat Al-Durr gold coin with his or her dessert.

At that time, Lower Egypt people were used to baking bread and milking cows daily. The products they used in cooking were pottery made, so the easiest recipe to use for the celebration was cracked bread, milk, and nuts oven-cooked in a pot.

All the people were happy with the delicious dessert, the gold coin, and the reign of their new sultan and his mother, Om Ali. They were chanting her name in thanks and called the dessert after her. Later on, the desert became a famous treat served during Ramadan and many other celebrations. Om Ali has since exceeded the boundaries of Egypt to be a well-known desert all over the Arab world.

Recipe for Om Ali

1 package of baked to crunch puff pastry sheets (1.75 ounce) or ½ Phyllo dough package

2 cups of chopped nuts (almond, hazelnut, walnut, raisin and coconut)

 4 cups of milk

1 cup of white Sugar

½ cup heavy cream

½ spoon of cinnamon

In a pot, combine all chopped nuts and 1/4 cup sugar. Break cooked pastry into pieces and stir into nut mixture. Spread mixture evenly. Bring milk and 1/2 cup sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Pour over nut mixture. Beat the heavy cream with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread evenly over nut mixture. Place dessert under oven broiler until top is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Serve hot.


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Noura Anwar is a professional in education development and likes reading in history. She has publications in different fields and an award research winner of UNDP-EEC in corporate social responsibility.