- By Marya HannunMarya Hannun is a Ph.D. student in Arabic and Islamic studies at Georgetown University. Follow her on Twitter at: @mrhannun.
John Kerry may have met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the peace process on Thursday, but what’s really gotten commentators worked up is the contents of the shwarma he consumed during an impromptu snack in Ramallah. Reputable sources such as the Guardian, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times have reported that the secretary of state’s sandwich was stuffed with turkey. But for many with ties to or interest in the region (including myself), the news made absolutely no sense. It would be one thing if Kerry had gobbled down chicken or lamb. But whoever heard of turkey shwarma?
Saudi journalist Ahmed Al Omran expressed this very sentiment in his response to the bewilderment of FP‘s own David Kenner:
@davidkenner there is no such thing as turkey shawarma. Like the peace process, it is probably an illusion.
— Ahmed Al Omran (@ahmed) May 24, 2013
Others were downright outraged at the very notion of turkey in shwarma:
— Menna ????(@TheMiinz) May 24, 2013
The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg floated one theory about the confusion:
— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) May 24, 2013
Meanwhile The Angry Arab implored the world to get to the bottom of the nagging mystery:
Turkey Shawarma? Is that true? Can somebody verify it was turkey and not lamb or beef or chicken? nblo.gs/LwEbX
— The Angry Arab (@AngryArabNews) May 24, 2013
FP was happy to oblige. In the interest of putting the speculation to rest once and for all — so that we can all move on to more pressing matters — we called Samer restaurant, where Kerry ate his shwarma, to find out just what was in the secretary’s sandwich.
"Chicken," said Samer, the proprietor, who seemed rather amused about the whole situation.
Excited to have stumbled upon this piece of intel, I pressed Samer to confirm that the shwarma was not in fact turkey. "Oh, yes. It was turkey," he amended. "Not chicken?" I asked. "No, turkey. We have lamb and we have turkey. He ate the turkey and really enjoyed it."
According to Samer, turkey shwarma is not uncommon in the West Bank — though Palestinians often refer to it as chicken, which explains the confusion during our conversation. "There are people who use chicken and people who use turkey," he told me. "But people like turkey more."
John Kerry, it seems, agrees.