The location is great, because people are always coming in and out of the mosque, Um Araby explained as she chose an ice-cream cone from a large stack.
She examined five or six cones, and said with a wide smile that she was looking for a “sweet biscuit.
Finally, having decided on an acceptable cone, Um Araby topped it off with a large scoop of mango ice cream. Bright orange in color, the ice cream was sweet and had a strong mango flavor. Costing just LE 1, it is the perfect snack for a hot summer day in Cairo.
Um Araby has been selling ice cream outside the Sayyeda Zeinab Mosque for over 20 years with her husband, Abu Araby. Born in Cairo, they have been a fixture of the neighborhood for decades.
Their “store is a large box stationed on top of an oversized tricycle. The cart, festively painted with pictures of ice cream cones and flowers, is named “Abu Araby. Baskets piled high with green mangos are placed next to the ice cream cones.
The cart is named after their 13-year-old son, Araby.
While never in the same exact location twice, Um Araby and her husband are usually found on Youssif El-Sebaay Street. To the right is Sayyeda Zeinab Square, where large crowds gather around the entrance of the historic mosque.
A magnificent Mamluk-style structure, the mosque contains the shrine of the Prophet Mohamed’s granddaughter Sayyeda. The original mosque was built in the 12th century, however the current structure dates from the 18th century. To the left is a large market, where fruits and vegetables are sold side by side with household appliances.
Um Araby explained that most of their customers are Egyptians visiting the mosque or the market. Few tourists visit Sayyeda Zeinab, however they encounter the occasional foreigner.
They work long hours every day, usually from 10 in the morning until 10 at night. “We have the most business in the summer, she said, unsurprising given the strong Cairo heat.
Um Araby clearly delights in her work, occasionally breaking into a singsong voice: “Mango, natural mango, sweet ice cream.
She spoke eagerly about life on Youssif El-Sebaay Street, making frequent scooping gestures. Her husband was much more reserved, watching as his wife spoke.
Um Araby seemed genuinely sorry to see her customers go. “Comeback on Sunday, and you can meet Araby, she said.