How The Doner Kebab Was Born
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Usually served between bread, doner kebabs are made with seasoned meat shaved off a rotisserie. The doner is similar to the Arabic shawarma or the Greek gyro. Different people and cultures have claimed credit for the invention of the doner kebab. It is believed that the first doner kebab was created by a Turkish man named Kadir Nurman in Berlin, in 1972. 

26-year-old Nurman moved to Stuttgart from Turkey in 1960 as part of West Germany’s initiative to increase its labor force. Six years later, he came to Berlin to work in the printing business and discovered that German workers looking for lunch on the go didn’t have too many options. The doner was born when Nurman decided to make the traditional Turkish meal of meat skewers served with vegetables easy to carry⁠—he wrapped the meat and vegetables in a bread called durum.

This story is disputed because some people believe that the doner was invented in Turkey. Turkey has seen variations of the popular kebab wrap, though, which has been around in the Middle East for many years. Others who claim to have invented the doner include Nevzat Salim and Mehmet Aygün. Salim is a Turkish man who says he sold the first doner in Reutlingen in 1969, out of a stand that he used to run with his son. Aygün, a Berliner, claims to have created the first döner in 1971.

Some people believe that kebabs come from when Nomadic tribesmen grilled meat on their swords, using them like skewers are used today. Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi describes kebab as a horizontal stack of meat in his books from the 18th century. Iskender Efendi first thought of slicing meat off a vertical skewer and serving it in 1867. 

Despite its debated origins, the doner kebab is an important part of the food landscape in Turkey, Germany and even the UK. It satisfies late night cravings when people leave pubs, yearning for something substantial after alcohol has awakened their appetite.