News & Politics

UPDATED: Mama Ayesha’s Won’t Add Trump to Its Presidential Mural Just Yet

"Our official position is that it is not in the budget," a family member says.

The Mama Ayesha's presidential mural. All photographs by Evy Mages

UPDATE, 12/30: In an email to Washingtonian, Amir Abu-El-Hawa writes that Trump will be added to the mural when the restaurant can afford to make the update.

“While there remains room for two additional presidents to be added, we currently do not have the budget for this addition,” Abu-El-Hawa writes. “President-elect Trump has yet to take office and will occupy the oval office for the next four years, when the funds are available and the budget allows for it Mr. Trump will join the rest of the presidents on our wall.”

He adds that there is no partisan reason why Trump isn’t going on the wall just yet—it’s just business. “This decision is strictly a financial one and not in any way political, as both Republicans and Democrats alike are featured on our mural,” Abu-El-Hawa writes. “Additionally, it is important to note all the presidents featured were added at the same time.”

Since 2009, Mama Ayesha’s restaurant in Adams Morgan has featured every US president from Eisenhower to Obama on a large mural on the side of the restaurant. President-elect Donald Trump won’t be joining them: “Our official position is that it is not in the budget,” says Amir Abu-El-Hawa, whose family owns the restaurant.

Mama Ayesha’s has been at the same location since it opened its doors as the Calvert Cafe in 1960. The mural depicts founder “Mama” Ayesha Abraham with the US leaders. “This is Mama welcoming the presidents to DC,” says Abu-El-Hawa, who is her great-nephew. “She was the American dream. For a Muslim and Arab woman immigrant from Palestine to come here on her own and build this business, is a remarkable legacy.”

Abraham left the restaurant to Abu-El-Hawa’s father and his uncle when she passed away in 1993. The artist Karla “Karlisima” Rodas began painting the mural, which was supported in part by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, in 2007 and finished it in 2009. In 2015 the mural was vandalized and everyone on it except Mama was hit by paintballs. The family raised money through donations from neighbors and supporters to repair the painting.