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.