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(June 18, 2001) CAIRO -- McDonald's Corp. is taking on traditional sidewalk sandwich vendorswith its launch of a McFalafel in its 46 restaurants in Egypt.

The sandwich, called "ta'miya" locally, is a seasoned, deep-fried ground bean patty with tomato, lettuce and tahina sauce on a bun. The fast-food giant's Egypt Marketing Manager Caroline Greiss said the McFalafel has been well-accepted since it appeared on menus May 31.

"It's very Egyptian. We have been researching what would appeal to a majority of Egyptians and ta'miya is the product," Ms. Griess said. She says about 1 million have been sold already.

Ms. Griess wouldn't say how much will be spent to introduce the sandwich. A TV, radio and print campaign has been coordinated by DDB Egypt, which handles McDonald's local advertising in Egypt. It is a branch of Cairo-based Tarek Nour Communications. McDonald's spends about $800,000 to $900,000 a year on ads in Egypt.

Shaaban Abdel-Rahim, the Egyptian singer who became famous last year for his pop hit "I hate Israel," sings the TV jingles for McFalafel. McDonald's and other Western fast-food chains in Egypt lost about 20% of their business due to a boycott last fall of Western products that developed in support of the Palestinian uprising against Israel.

Ms. Griess said the singer doesn't appear in the commercial. "We're just using him on the soundtrack."

The new McFalafel is dubbed "Mu'allim," or "The Boss."

There are no plans to extend the McFalafel to other markets. A McFalafel combo, a sandwich with a medium soft drink, sells for about 78 cents. -- Susan Postlewaite.

Copyright June 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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