Abdu Hafid

My friend, Phil Murphy, filmed this video of Abdu Hafid, the man who made svinj (Moroccan donuts) just outside of Phil’s house in the Fez Medina. Abdu Hafid explains that he recites verses from the Quran while making his svinj because he hopes to bestow blessings upon anyone who eats them.

Phil is getting his PhD in Ethnomusicology from UCSB, and spent a year in Fez on a Fulbright scholarship, learning Moroccan Arabic as well as traditional Moroccan music. He has a great blog as well, full of beautiful photography and music. Check it out: http://philinfez.tumblr.com/

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Pomegranates

The streets of the Middle East and North Africa are abound with stalls selling fresh juice of all sorts.  You can stop for a moment, pay a few cents, and enjoy a glass of fresh-pressed-just-about-anything.  There is something a little extra regal about pomegranate juice, though, and whenever I see it available, I always stop for a glass.

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The pomegranate, which originated in Persia, is now abundant throughout the Middle East.  It is a nutrient dense, and antioxidant-rich fruit, which carries much symbolism in Egyptian, Greek, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic cultures.  Throughout history, it has symbolized prosperity, ambition, abundance, fertility, resurrection, and good luck.  It is often offered as a wedding or a housewarming gift, and is featured prominently throughout art history.

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Persephone

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Boticelli’s “Madonna of the Pomegranate”

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Bouguereau’s “Girl with a Pomegranate”

Pomegranates are also quite versatile in the kitchen.  Try this recipe with pomegranate seeds and pomegranate molasses: Pan-fried heloumi with figs and pomegranate!

Mint Lemonade and Mint Tea

Mint, an herb long cultivated across the Middle East and North Africa, is renowned for its cooling and healing properties.  Its modern name came from an ancient Greek myth.  Persephone, the jealous wife of Pluto, transformed the object of her husband’s lust, the lovely young nymph, Minthe into a plant so all could trample her.  Unable to reverse the spell, Pluto instead gave Minthe a pleasant scent that intensified when she was tread on.  The name Minthe eventually evolved into Mint.  The versatile plant was used by the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans in aromatic baths, as a salve for sports injuries, and as an appetite stimulant.  In Rome, Pliny the Elder advised his students to wear wreaths of mint to sharpen their minds, and senators wore mint sprigs in the hope of enhancing their oratory skills and suppressing their tempers.  It has long been known to serve as a digestive aid, as an antiemetic, and as a cough suppressant.  It is refreshing when served cold and soothing when served warm.

Historically, mint is a symbol of hospitality.  The Greeks and Romans would rub mint on banquet tables to greet their guests,  and today, Moroccans are quick to offer a glass of mint tea as a gesture of friendship.

Both mint lemonade and mint tea are widely drunk throughout the Middle East and North Africa.  They are both easy to make, healthy (as long as you are much more conservative with the sugar than they are in the Middle East), and de-licious!

Moroccan Mint Tea:

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Mint Lemonade:

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