By Yvanna Abena, bird Story Agency

The first thing you notice when you walk down the Briqueterie neighbourhood in downtown Yaounde is the mouthwatering aroma of spicy grilled meat.

The community has other competing attractions; crisscrossing alleys leading to either tiny houses or the nearest psychic’s shop and colourful textile stores stocked with every pattern and fabric. Jutting above the rusty roofs are minarets on mosques constructed in diverse shapes signifying the Islamic culture of the residents. But the hot and spicy meat zone is Briqueterie’s signature welcome.

Briqueterie, which takes its name after the ‘nouvelle Briqueterie’, a post-German occupation factory built in 1917, is currently home to 15,000 residents. The meat zone, which stands opposite the “mosqué du milieu”, one of the community’s religious pillars, is the most frequented street in the neighbourhood.

Here, you walk up to a stall, order or grab ready-made grilled meat, and start eating! There are different spices for you to dip the grilled meat in. Each stick costs 50 francs, and because of that, the meat street is commonly known as 50/50.

One of the people driving Briqueterie’s vibrant “meat-eating culture” is Dahirou Ali, a 40-year-old emigrant from Chad who settled in Cameroon 15 years ago. He says meat is a lifestyle for the region’s people, descended from the Sahel nomads who traded in livestock– and were avid consumers of spicy and tasty meat. A tradition that has stood the test of time.

He personally greets and seats every customer that comes to his smoke-filled outlet. Ali’s spot is popular with patrons- for his relatively cheap meat skewers and quick service.

Ordering your pre-cooked meat entails spelling out your preferred seasonings, and once done, the requested meat, whether it be chicken, beef, mutton, or other organs like the heart or liver, is first chopped and measured by those in the ‘butchery section’ before being given to the ‘prep’ team. This second team grills the meat, seasoning it with salt, pepper, and a popular local delicacy called Kankan.

The 50/50, a 24-hour economy and attracts all cadres of people. The place is not just for eating but also a socialising joint where the lines of status disappear in the noisy, smoke-filled and loud setting.

Fatima, a frequent patron of 50/50, agrees that the street is close to the hearts of meat lovers.

“I don’t really have the correct words to explain my feelings, but I can assure you this place is special. People like Ali are joyful, always laughing…and the meat here is delicious. It definitely makes the 50/50 a thing to visit in Yaoundé,” she said right before she bit another chunk of meat at Ali’s.

“My only wish is that they make this place more modern and less smoky one day so that people stop believing that it’s a road for thieves, but instead for good meat.” Fatima added.

This smoke has affected Ali. Since 2010, he has faced health challenges due to the smoke generated by the cooking process and the rudimentary ovens.

“Smoke is not the friend of all, it carries delicious spices for sure, but it’s undoubtedly what almost caused my death several times. I’m still not out of danger, my lungs do endure this misery a lot . But I am happy because my existence serves to retransmit my culture and the cooking secrets that my uncle passed down to me. As long as I give a smile, I can keep doing that job. Allah will help me,” he said.

If you ever find yourself in Yaounde, make it a point to visit 50/50 in Briqueterie, where the meat feast never stops.

This story was republished with the permission of bird, a story agency under Africa No Filter.

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