Editorial: Aladdin’s deserves a more secure home

When the new PUB opens in the winter, there will be no room for Aladdin's and will have to rely on yearly contracts to stay in Tawanka

The Easterner

By The Easterner, Editorial Board

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For Alaa-Eldin (Aladdin) Aamer, what started as a student project in 1984 to raise relief funds for people in Afghanistan, quickly flourished into a lifelong passion of food vending.

Over 30 years later, on any given day of the week, Aamer can be seen joking with customers as he and his wife serve fresh, authentic, Egyptian gyros. Since Aamer’s time as a student at EWU, Aladdin’s Egyptian Food has enhanced the food options on campus, adding to an already inclusive campus culture, and should be here to stay.

Aamer, who loves working with students and is always very cheerful, has no intention to leave.

“I want to stay and work here until I die,” Aamer said.

The ethnic food options that Aladdin’s offers on campus is unmatched. It not only allows foreign exchange students to have a dish that is similar to that of their homeland, but also gives us Americans the chance to experience a new culture.

Haidar Abukhamsin, an EWU student from Saudi Arabia, is thankful Aladdin’s is on campus because he misses food from home.

“I go there like three or four times a week. The food that they provide, like the falafel, that just reminds me of back home,” Abukhamsin said. “They provide Middle Eastern food, and I really miss that, especially in the Spokane area, there is like no Middle Eastern cuisine.”

“This is really what I want, it’s not just because it’s a Middle Eastern restaurant,” Abukhamsin continued. “It’s also because I really appreciate diversity. I really love to try foods from different cultures and this is the only place at EWU that provides this.”

Born in Egypt, Alaa-Eldin graduated from Cairo University in 1975 with a degree in sociology and came to EWU to pursue a second degree in photography. During his time at CU, Aamer excelled in track and field, making it possible for him to travel and compete in other countries including Libya and Nigeria. He was also the CU student union president from 1973-1974. Aamer graduated from EWU in 1985.

In 1984, when the PUB began to allow private vendors to sell goods and services, Aamer saw an opportunity to raise relief funds for people in Afghanistan, capitalizing on his knowledge and experience preparing Egyptian food.

“Americans like to experiment with different kinds of food,” Aamer said during an Easterner interview in 1986.

At the time, he never intended to continue his business following graduation, but after being encouraged by both students and faculty, Aamer decided to make EWU home. Since then he has served generations of students and faculty.

Many of whom have written letters of recommendation, commending his service and quality of food.

Until 2016, when the PUB renovations began and private vendors were notified that alternative spaces would be offered, Aladdin’s had been in the same space for over 30 years.

At that time, students were unsure whether or not Aladdin’s was going to still be offered on campus. Creating a petition, students, with the help of the Black Student Union, acquired over 1,100 signatures asking the university to allow Alladin’s to stay on campus.

While this wasn’t the only reason Aladdin’s was offered a contract to relocate in Tawanka, it most certainly showed EWU how important Aladdin’s is for the students.

Currently, Aladdin’s contract is set to end June 14, 2019, with the ability to renew it another year.

As the new PUB comes to a finish, it will not include a space for Aladdin’s to return to its original location. During the design phase of the remodel in 2016, EWU asked what students would prefer to be inside the PUB and there was a major emphasis on the Multicultural Center.

“The university designed the PUB around what the students asked for and so there was not room set aside in the PUB for any outside vendors,” Associate Vice President for Civil Rights Annika Scharosch, J.D. said in a phone interview. “So everything that is going to be in the PUB is a university operation and any outside vendors we’re having in alternative locations.”

Included in the new PUB will be a global cafe and Panda Express, but The Easterner assures you, those options will come nowhere near Aladdin’s Egyptian Food.

Serving the EWU campus since 1984, like all classic restaurants and food vendors, the magic is in the simplicity of the menu. Only offering two different styles of gyros, meat and vegetarian, they are able to put all the TLC necessary for a delicious, yet healthy meal.

The meat gyro includes seasoned beef and lamb, hummus, tzatziki sauce, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, shredded carrots, onions and custom made spices. The vegetarian option has all the same great ingredients, but includes falafel instead of meat.

Aladdin’s also has baklavas as a dessert option.

Regardless of its location on campus, Aladdin’s amazing service will continue, but to not offer a location for them to return to the PUB is disrespectful at least and egregious at most. The PUB is the most popular spot for students to hang out and Aladdin’s business will be drastically affected.

With no other source of income, and over 30 years of dedication to serving EWU, it’s time we start to take care of our alumnus.

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