Tires rumble over the cobblestones in the 6000 block of Germantown Ave. A siren screams — perhaps a fire, police chase or another victim of gun violence in a neighborhood that has grown weary of crime.
But step into the Nile Café at 6008 Germantown Ave. and you enter an oasis of calm filled with earthy scents, purified water and home-cooked food.
Here, you can also purchase colorful African garb, spiritual books, paintings, hand-made jewelry, all-natural lotions and soaps and drums from as far away as Ghana.
More than sales
You might even get to hear Maakheru Menmetu, the overseer of the shop, playing his drum.
“This is one of those places people just wander into and they may say, ‘Something just told me to come in here’,” said Menmetu as his hands slapped the skin of the conga drum he held between his legs. “Some people can’t believe we’ve been here 17 years because they pass this place and never notice it. But, once they come in, they love it.”
Menmetu has a collection of drums, all shapes and sizes, for sale. “Different skins on the drums, such as goat skin and cow skin, make different sounds,” he said.
A retreat for many residents
“I come in for the peaceful atmosphere,” said Ramen Akhi as he poured himself a glass of purified water.
The café has a water aquifer where it purifies tap water through a five-stage process. The aquifer can produce up to 4,000 gallons of water a day. The store sells the water for 70 cents a gallon.
In the evening, the café hosts meditation classes based on an ancient Egyptian belief system known as Ausar Auset, which views the universe as energy and divine spirit as man’s true self.
The teachings come from Shekhem ur Shekhem, leader of the Ausar Auset Society International, which provides Afrocentric spiritual training to people of African descent.
Suan Khiani noted that she comes in for the meditation classes, but “I also teach Qi Gong, an ancient Chinese practice for balancing life force energy.” The Qi Gong class uses a system of postures, breathing and healing sounds to help people improve resistance, vitality and longevity.
Ausar Auset also promotes vegan meals, which is why the Nile only serves vegan cuisine.
As you wander into the café side of the store, there are little tables, each with fresh cut flowers.
The menu features dishes like vegan barbecue chicken, roast duck, and spicy fish. You can also order anything from tofu to wheat pastas to veggie wraps. There’s even homemade apple bread, banana bread, and vegan soy-based ice cream. All meat substitutes are made from a soy base as well.
Whether you’re vegan or not, whether you’re a believer in Ausar Auset or not, the Nile Café may be the place to go if you are looking for a relaxing retreat from the problems of the world and the stresses of daily life.
Katie Blessing and Kerri Corrado are La Salle University students who write for Germantown Beat, a local student-produced news site. NewsWorks features articles from GermantownBeat on its Northwest Philadelphia community sites and contributes multimedia journalism training to the program.