Picture this: You’re drinking fresh hibiscus juice in a restaurant overlooking the water while jerk chicken sizzles on the grill and a reggae track plays. You feel like you’re in Jamaica, but you’re not. You’re in Aswan, Egypt, dining alongside the Nile River.
King Jamaica Restaurant serves a fusion of Nubian and Jamaican cuisine. Nubians, an indigenous population in Southern Egypt, are descendants of one of the world’s oldest civilizations, and their food is a historic art. Even so, Nubians hold a close connection to the African diaspora, and cross-community migration influences the region’s food and culture.
Notably, Rastafarianism and reggae, popularized by Bob Marley in the late ’60s and ’70s, motivated a generation of Nubians to connect with Jamaican culture. Today, in Aswan, it’s common to see Jamaican flags flying at half mast on boats traveling down the Nile. Marley’s music continues to reverberate throughout the city, and restaurants merging Jamaican and Nubian flavors have become a marker of cultural continuity.
King Jamaica, owned and operated by Aymen Jamaica, is a premiere example of this cross-cultural collaboration. Aymen’s grandfather lived in Jamaica and brought back recipes and stories about his time there. Aymen, a Nubian chef who lived in Australia, returned home to open up a restaurant true to his grandfather’s vision. Today, King Jamaica is both a restaurant and a community center, where artists from across the African diaspora perform, mingle, and eat. The menu includes camel-meat tagine, a Nubian delicacy paired with jerk chicken off the grill, as well as stuffed pigeon and fresh hibiscus and mango juices made with locally grown fruit.