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January 17 2022 9:56 PM ˚
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How Shawerma Reem became a Jordanian institution

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Customers and employees are pictured at Shawerma Reem on Sunday, August 29, 2021. The shop has been in business since 1975, but its original location has stayed the same in an effort to keep to its roots. (Photos: Zaina Zinati/JNews)
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AMMAN — Traffic around the 2nd circle is bumper to bumper as cars enter and exit the hectic roundabout on a late Sunday morning. The influx is concentrated precisely on the corner of the circle, where a visible crimson banner decorates a shop so small that if you blink, you could miss it altogether. اضافة اعلان

The line of cars parked along the road is usually so long that you have to park some 200 meters down and walk back until the words “Shawerma Reem” come into focus. 

Shawerma Reem has been in operation since 1975 and has become a recognized name from Irbid to Amman and now to Petra and Aqaba. The sandwich shop is nearly never without a queue of keen customers, making many ruminate over what it is about Reem that is so different than the hundreds if not thousands of other shawerma restaurants in and around Amman.

"Firstly, we worked on something specific, and till now, we have not changed it.

From 1975, we had only one item, and it hasn't changed. It's the same taste, it's the same quality, it's even the same salad mixture,” said Nedal Khalid, the manager at Shawerma Reem's original location. “The customers know this and come because that is what they want. There is a specific quality to Shawerma Reem."  

The hole-in-the-wall only has one sandwich listed on the menu: meat shawerma. Specializing only on one item has helped the restaurant maintain consistency and quality 46 years after their first sale. 

"For example, our older customers that tried Shawerma Reem in the beginning, 75, 76, they come eat a sandwich today, and they say 'Mashallah it hasn't even changed.' We haven't changed any recipes, we don't change any mixtures, it's consistent," Khalid told Jordan News the manager of 22 years.

Even expanding the original store is out of the question in order to stay true to the store's roots.

Employee are pictured at Shawerma Reem on Sunday, August 29, 2021. The shop has been in business since 1975, but its original location has stayed the same in an effort to keep to its roots. (Photos: Zaina Zinati/JNews)

The notoriety is key to its longevity but a basic, yet crucial detail in the sandwich is that Shawerma Reem uses beef as their base and adds fat from mutton. 

Beef is not the traditionally preferred meat in Jordanian cuisine, as most Jordanian dishes consist of lamb for red meat. This variation is what encourages Abu Zaid, a long-time Reem customer, to make the long trip for his shawerma. "Reem is known.

I come all the way from East Amman just to eat Shawerma Reem, The meat is different. The taste is different, but also it's clean and consistent." 

The emphasis on clean meat is imperative as food poisoning is not uncommon concerning shawerma. In 2020, a shawerma restaurant in Balqa Governorate was shut down after a child died and more than 800 people were hospitalized with food poisoning. 

Saleh Hamdan, another customer at the head of the line said that "there's an obvious difference between the shawerma here, and any other shawerma anywhere around, because above all, it's very clean. I've been coming here for years.”

Mohammad Subhi is a partner in the company, and the owner of the new Fuheis location that opened earlier this summer. His late father was one of the original partners who created the spice recipe and the tahini recipe that is still used today. 

“We only put salad but nothing else. It's simple. But also, we take extra care of our meat, and ensure of course that its quality and that above anything it is clean." Subhi said in an interview with Jordan News.

He believes that simplicity is what people want and that "people consider shawerma a traditional local dish. It's inexpensive, anyone can purchase a sandwich, and it's a good sandwich at that."

The brand has built a reputation in which customers don't have to sacrifice cleanliness or taste. "We have some customers that have Shawerma Reem for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When you see the same customer two to three times a day, of course this means that we are different." Said Khalid, who has also been the manager at the original location for 22 years.

"Alhamdulillah, it's all thanks to god. Summer or winter, the business doesn't change."

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