The secret of Ka’ak Al Quds

All breads are created equal, but some breads are better than other breads. When in Jerusalem not eating Ka’ak is not an option. There is nothing better than sinking your teeth into fresh, still warm Ka’ak.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Afif Amireh

Four o’clock in the morning. Not a soul is walking the cobbled, meandering alleys of the Old City of Jerusalem. There is a chill in the air. Spring is near, but not yet. A cold wind caresses my face. And while I breathe in the early morning air, the warm scent of fresh Ka’ak enters my nose. “Whoever visits Jerusalem and doesn’t taste Ka’ak Al Quds (Sesame Ring Bread) has not truly experienced the Holy City,” says Abu Loai Razem the moment I step into his bakery. 

Sesame-studded

All Palestinians agree that the sesame-studded Ka’ak bread made in Jerusalem tastes better than those made anywhere else in the country or even the world. That may be a myth or a fact, but there is no doubt that the taste of this bread made here is unique. 

I ask Abu Loai, the owner of the old wood bakery in the Christian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, about this specific taste. He explains it with a broad and happy smile. “This city was demolished and built up again seven times. Jerusalem is the city of both war and peace. Our houses and stores are ancient and very small, we can’t expand or renovate our places. 

Wood fire

My family has operated my bakery for the past hundred and fifty years. Like most of the bakeries in the Old City, we use traditional wood-fired ovens: they are old but completely original. We still make the dough for the Ka’ak with our own hands, without machinery. 

By doing so, we feel we carry the history and legends of this city into the future. The Ka’ak absorbs these stories combined with the wood fire’s smell and taste. That’s the secret.”

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