Sallat: Hot Stone Barbeque from the Eastern Desert

Learn more about how this unique meat is prepared and enjoyed by the Bishareen and Abdaba tribes in the Easter Desert of the Red Sea coast.

By Nawaya

Nawaya Egypt

Sallat - hot stones used to cook meat (2019-03-20) by NawayaNawaya

What is Sallat?

Sallat is meat grilled on hot stones. Sallat is very popular and recently small restaurants have started serving this meat dish to locals and visitors.  

Sallat - hot stones used to cook meat (2019-03-20) by NawayaNawaya

Only for special occasions

Sallaat is traditionally prepared on special occasions, and is often connected to distribution on the saints days (kamteet sleelt) as a Saddaqqa/ charity for the camels, or to ask for rain. It is also prepared on some religious holidays, such as the day of ‘ashoura, the tenth day of Moharram, the first months of the Islamic lunar calendar.  

Man grazing goats in Gebal Elba (mount elba) (2019-03-20) by NawayaNawaya

The best meat for Sallaat

Although the Ababda and Bishareen live a more sedentary life, grazing their animals continues within the perimeters of the national park. While camels can be left to roam freely, goats and sheep are grazed and kept under close watch. Their meat is tender and its high fat content makes it the choice for sallat, a grilled meat dish that uses as a base stones from the surrounding mountains. 

Sallat - hot stones used to cook meat (2019-03-20) by NawayaNawaya

How to make Sallaat?

Sallaat is prepared by first placing black basalt stones on hot fire, till it absorbs the heat. The stones collected are round and high enough to keep the meat away from dust. 

Dividing up the sallat meat (2016-11-15) by NawayaNawaya

After cleaning the stones, parts of the slaughtered animal are deboned and salt is sprinkled on the meat. The fire is made using the dried branches of acacia trees which are widely available in Elba nature preserve. 

Sallat is eaten with bread (2016-11-15) by NawayaNawaya

Bread cooked in hot sand

To accompany the meat, the men also prepare bread that is baked under the sand. The hot coals in the sand steam the bread, and once it rises and hardens, it is dug out and the sand is dusted off. 

Sharing Sallaat and bread

The distribution of the cooked meat happens in a particular order. Hospitality and tribal generosity dictates that the guests receive the best parts of the meat, the other good parts are given to the “owners” of the land where the animals grazed, to acknowledge their “ownership”, then the remaining Sallaat meat is offered to the rest of the group.

Camel riders in gebel elba (2019-03-20) by NawayaNawaya

The origins and authentic Sallat cook

The Ababda and Bishareen tribes are nomadic people from the Eastern Desert along the Red Sea coast in Egypt. Historically, they have also been the custodians of the camel trade from Sudan to Egypt, walking and watering them from the borders to be sold in markets as far away as Cairo. Living in such close connection to the surrounding lands, they are renowned warriors and still have the custom to display their strength and pride in a traditional sword dance. 

Camels in gebel elba (2019-03-20) by NawayaNawaya

A unique location

The area in which they reside along the Red Sea has a high mountain range which creates lush valleys that sustain a large variety of species and wildlife. Towering above these valleys is Elba Mountain. Elba is the second highest mountain in Egypt, after Saint Katherine in Sinai. 

Gebel elba mountains (2019-03-20) by NawayaNawaya

Due to its unique and fragile ecosystems, Elba National Park was established in 1986. Elba park’s hosts a wide range of ecosystems from marches, coastal plains, mangroves and coral reefs to mountain highlands, sand dunes and valleys. It is the largest national reserve in the country stretching over 50 square kilometers north of Shalateen, all the way south to the Egypt-Sudanese border. 

Camel herding (2016-11-15) by NawayaNawaya

Moving through the wadis between the Nile and the coast,  they would rely on good rains for the husbandry of goats and sheep. Their way of life made them cover vast ranges of territory and upkeep a network of water wells.  

Credits: Story

Writers: Dalia Bassiouny & Laura Tabet
Research: Ali Dorra, Hashim Morsy
Photography: Ali Dorra, Hashim Morsy

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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