Friday, December 4, 2009

A More ...Intellectual Type of Hoummos!*

Writing about the social culture of Palestinian cities is a challenge.Proffessionally speaking,you need to be objective about it,that is you have to state facts,or report events  exactly as they are.But  writing about places like a hometown, or a city you've been living in for ages.....forget it .You are entitled to  some bias and personal perspective.A certain part of you has to be in the story, at least emotionally.You  also have the right to mold  humor or drama into  your story.

I have known (Z) since college days.We are both graduates of Bir-Zeit) University, then the leading Palestinian University.The flame of education, culture and even resistance.It was there and then that we learned our ABCs on political parties,democracy,elections-the many things our current politicians from all parties know nothing about-.

So (Z) was the sophisticated  more  "classical " type of person.Even as a college student of Political Science he had this air of dignity and wisdom about him.With hair  then startinfg to show some grey strands and large glasses,you could always see him smiling, discussing politics ,philosophers....sophisticated matters,but also everyman's concerns....from  a critical analytical point of view.

Last Ramadan(our fasting month as moslems),and after his work , (Z)walked his way through the beautiful arched narrow streets of the old city of Nablus.He and his friend - like thousands of the residents of the city-were on their  daily hunt for the best Hoummos (chic peas) ,an idispensible side dish at the Ramadan "Iftar" table(iftar is the evening meal that puts an end to the day"s fasting).Friends , who heard from other friends ,informed them that there was a certain man who makes the best Hoummos one could ever taste.

Driven by their hunger, and envisioning the  mouthwatering  "Iftar" table , hosting  among so many other things,the colorfull dish of Hoummos(topped with pickled cucumbers, sprinkled with designs of red papprika and yellow cummin and a thin line of virgin olive oil).,The two men pushed their way through hundreds of shoulders  filling up the very narrow streets of the old city.Pre-Iftar hours are  always crazy hours.It seems as if all the cars, people,carts and even  peddlers are on the streets at the same time!

But the goal was worth the fight,and the suffocation and the pushing and bumbping.After a long touristic search,walking into alleys,passages,going right,left,climbing flights of unsmoothed stone stairs,they(nearly short of breath for they both are above fourty), they reached their destination.Is that it???It was nothing like a place for  making or  selling Hoummos.There was no man in sight.Just a wide open wooden door with one step to go down .Stepping down and entering  into the unknown ,an old man was busy at a table doing something with some tools maybe with a screwdriver, a hammer, some nails.Not a single chick pea was in sight.

"Is this abu...'s shop?" they inquired."It certainly is," came the answer.

Not before long,people passing through the ever surprising  alleys of the old city ,could now see (Z) and his friend,sitting crosslegged  on the dusty floor of the shop.Each held his own bowl size pestle and mortar , hitting so hard to cruch those chick peas into Hoummos.Just over their heads was the old man, shop owner, solemnly giving instructions of making the best Hoummos one could ever taste .......but of course.... with a more sophisticated flair!


*Hoummos is a traditional "Levantian" cold dish.Something like a starter,side-dish.In the Middle-Est it is eaten with bread.It is made by first soaking chick-peas overnight,then cooking it untill very tender.At last it is crushed or ground to paste like consistency,then seasoned.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Religious Tolerance....Palestinian Style!

Sometimes you have to tell others about things that you consider ...amazing !It's nothing near to gossip.It ia actually something that is not expected...not in normal real life at least..I mean it could happen in a too good to be true film senario.

A couple of days ago,i was visiting some friends,...did i mention that they were christians????So together with other five lady friends,(it happened that we were all moslems),we sat in this beautiful Foyer-living room of a hundred years old Nablus house,with it's very high arched ceiling.

Our two hostesses with the typical hospitality and ultimate friendliness of most of the Palestinians,did their utmost to make us comfortable,entertained and above all....well fed(typical Palestinian gesture of hospitality ).
It was when the Isha Prayer (that is the evening prayer) was due and we heard the Athan(calling for prayer through the microphones of the mosques),that we were destined to witness such an unforgettable moment .My friend Muna who was with us too,would never miss praying at the exact prayer time...she would not postpone it for anything.Everyone of us-her friends and aquaintances knew this,she prays wherever she is(one time she did pray in a taxi).

All of a sudden Muna -with her beautifull blue eyes,blondish well-made hair and tres chic trouser suit-stood up and said gently:"I have to pray".And before we had time to ponder about her proclamation at the heart of a non-moslem house(I mean how are they supposed to help her),our christian hostess moved gracefully towards the end of the room snatched something from atop an armchair and handed a wrapped bundle of fabric to Muna saying:"Here are the prayng rug and the head cover".

I do not know about the others,but i sat with eyes wide open watching how Muna took (so normally) the bundle from our generous hostess....she was so used to this ....for they were her across the street neighbours for as long as she has lived.