Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Defender of the Flag: In Memory of Alia Ansari

Salaam, hi everyone. I got an email today and I wanted to share.

Whatever your faith or belief, this article is moving. It is not about religion, rather about an innocent women who was gunned down last week, apparently for no other reason than that she chose to wear a hijab, a headscarf worn by some Muslim women.

The article was written by a Muslim scholar in California. He talks about the life and family of Alia Ansari . You can read it here: http://www.zaidshakir.com/Articles/In_Memory_of_Alia_Ansari_1969_zn.pdf

Here are a few more articles about Alia Ansari:




Let us all try to be more tolerant, respect each other and not judge a group based on the extreme, sometimes horrendous actions of a few who claim to relgious, but are indeed so very far away from religion. We should all try to get along in this crazy world we live in, it would make things so much simpler really, we all have it hard enough as it is....

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A real good description of Cairo now

The article below is an awesome description of the time now here in Cairo....you really feel the holiday spirit everywhere. The little white "kahk" cookies, most peole buy them now, very, very few, maybe older generations, make them at home these days. Of course, I bought them from bakery...LOL...But my husbands sisters did make some at home. I helped them last year making them at home, it was fun, but so much work, as they make 100's but seemed like 1,000's of em!! I have a picture but still can't upload, will try again later!

Egypt's Muslims prepare for Eid al-Fitr feast

Cairo - Ahmed Abdel-Azim usually breaks his fast, in the last days of the holy month of Ramadan, in his house. A little later however you would find him roaming the streets of Cairo, children in toe, as the wife sits at home baking.

For an outsider, it might seem like a mystery that people - both buyers and sellers - in Egypt take extensively to the streets at the end of the holy month.

The streets of Cairo are usually beyond busy and it seems like a shopping season has begun.
It is no mystery if you are an Egyptian. It is simple: This is a 'wild time' as some say. It is the time of 'Eid'.

Shopping for clothes and accessories, shopping for sweets, and shopping for decorations for the Eid al-Fitr or Lesser Bairum festival which marks the end of Ramadan seem to be all Muslims do during the end days of Ramadan in Cairo.

'The clothes-hunt begins in the last days of Ramadan, where everybody else in this country seem to be also shopping,' says a smiling Ahmed, referring to a ritual, outlined by Islamic tradition, of wearing at least one piece of new clothing to celebrate the end of Ramadan and the three-day Eid feast that follows.

'It's hectic, but the children enjoy it. They love buying new clothes,' says the middle-aged father of three. 'So naturally, I'm happy that my children are happy.'

Like many other Egyptian Muslims, Ahmed takes on the routine in expectance of the Eid, where Muslims celebrate the conclusion of 30 days of piety, fasting and praying.

The men, and sometimes the women, have the sole duty of buying the new clothes for the family and especially the children. Shops stay open late, and Muslims usually arrive after the iftar fast-breaking meal to buy the best and the most colourful of clothes - those, at least, that they can afford.

It is generally a spending period.

Besides clothes, Muslims are also obliged to spend on alms - Zakat - to the poor during these days. Charity organizations use the donations they receive to buy new clothes and food for the orphaned and homeless so that they, too, may enjoy the Eid festivities.

As the Eid approaches, yet more family visits are expected as Muslims wrap up their spiritual and religious duties in Ramadan.

Between praying and reading the Koran, women cook meals, prepare dessert and bake the famous fattening Eid cookies (Kahk) which are served with sugar, dates, nuts and honey.
Some women make the baking and cooking a social event. They gather in a house and bake as they talk and engage in friendly gossip, exchanging tips on how to make the cookies crunchier, or softer, depending on taste.

They also decorate the cookies in different ways, and give them different shapes apart from the standard round-shape that the Egyptian Kahk is famous for. Some shape the Kahk like a crescent, with white crushed sugar on top, to resemble the symbol of Ramadan and Islam.
Often, the women will use a nearby baker's oven to heat their goodies, baking up to 30 tray loads of mouth-watering cookies, sweet biscuits and other oriental delicacies at once.

Other women - especially working women - choose to buy the famous dessert ready-made from local patisseries, where boxes of cookies are displayed on top of each other.

Bargaining takes place as the prices of tasty Kahks increase every year. In some affluent parts of town, a kilogramme of cookies are sold for up to 50 Egyptian pounds, while the same amount of homemade cookies would cost around five pounds.

Meanwhile, children and teens, who also receive monetary presents from their family, celebrate the coming of Eid with fireworks. Boys and girls meet after iftar and compete on who can fire the loudest and flashiest cracker. Despite the hazards and public media campaigns against it, the traditions is encouraged by some Egyptian parents.

As the Eid nears, people exchange calls and phone messages, and family visits are a must.
The Eid itself begins by a congregational ceremonial prayer that takes place right after dawn. People gather in this prayer to thank God for Ramadan - deemed a month of blessings and mercy - and ask that their good deeds be accepted.

As men, women and children walk or drive to the mosques, they usually chant prayers in unison - like pilgrims in Mecca often do.

After the prayer, the first breakfast, now during the day, is another family event often also including neighbours and relatives. People gather around the table and enjoy a morning meal - for a change, one that is light and small.

SOURCE http://news.monstersandcritics.com/middleeast/article_1213351.php/

Eid Delicacies

Eid delicacies

There so many distinctive customs and traditions that mark Eid Al Fitr celebrations in countries across Africa and Asia. The day begins with special Eid prayers at the mosque, and children are dressed in new clothes and receive cash gifts.

Later in the day, a festive lunch or dinner is spread out, usually at the house of a senior member of the family.

Have you ever wondered what fascinating celebratory spreads and festivities take place in various countries?

In Bahrain and the broader Gulf region, the family lunch consists of favourites such as biryani, a mixed rice dish of meat and spices, sago dishes, stuffed, savory and sweet pastries like sambouseh and other sweetmeats.

In Iraq, families delight in a breakfast of buffalo cream with honey and bread before having the family lunch together. Here, a lamb may be sacrificed for the occasion, and a special Eid sweetmeat called klaicha, a date-filled pastry, is made.

In Egypt, special doughy biscuits covered in powdered sugar (Called "kaack" and they are EVERYWHERE you go...no escaping these cookies drenched in white) are made or bought to give to family and friends on the day. While the men are at the Eid prayers, (women go to Eid prayers too, jeesh come on... ) women (or maybe a man or two) will start work on the fish (this is a smoked dried fish, i have not tried it, don't make it , but it will be everywhere tomorrow, LOL) to be served as the piece de resistance at the Eid lunch.

In Palestine, during family celebrations, a special sweetmeat, ka'ak al-tamar, is made to serve with traditional roasted coffee, after the Eid prayers have been performed.

In Somalia, the three-day celebrations are headed by a family lunch that includes rice mixed with meat and vegetables, and pasta accompanied by anjira, a thin bread prepared like chapatti. Halva, a cumin-flavoured custard, is also served, along with special fried or baked biscuits made of flour, sugar, oil, warm water and baking powder.

One of the special dishes enjoyed in India, Pakistan and Fiji is savayya, a dish of fine, toasted vermicelli noodles, served for the first breakfast after the fast.

In Indonesia, the family lunch consists of dishes made of chicken, lamb or beef, but never fish, an everyday staple easily found. The traditional holiday delicacy is lapis legit, a rich layered cake.

In Malaysia, festive dishes include ketupat, rice cooked in wrapped coconut leaves, and lemang, glutinous rice cooked in bamboo cane, served with beef rendang.

With such appetising dishes and specialties, you might be lured into trying something different this Eid. Eid Mubarak to you all!

Source : www.bbc.co.uk

Lemon-flavoured lamb

Lamb 450g (1 lb) diced into 1 inch cubes
225g (1/2 lb) finely chopped onion
50g (2 oz) crushed garlic
50g (2 oz) blanched almonds
50g (2oz) ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
40ml oil sunflower
Salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste

To garnish: Slices of lemon and lime , Almonds and other nuts

Step 1: Grind the onion, garlic, almonds and coriander in a food processor, and then stir in oil, lemon rind and salt.
Step 2: Dip the lamb pieces in this mixture and place in the fridge for one hour.
Step 3: In a heavy bottom, non-stick pan, put the lamb and the marinade mixture, and start cooking until all the liquid evaporates and the oil starts separating (around five minutes).
Step 4: Add just enough water to cook the lamb. Cover and simmer until tender.
Step 5: Add garam masala and lemon juice, and if required, add water to adjust the consistency of the sauce.
Step 6: Bring to a boil and then add a few slices of lemon, immediately covering the pan and removing it from the heat.
Step 7: Serve over a hot bed of rice, garnished with almonds and any other nuts you like, as well as lemon and lime slices.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

bloggin has resumed

Hey all, happy almost end of October and happy almost end of Ramadan too! The end of this wonderful month of fasting is almost over. Last day of Ramadan here in Cairo should be on Monday maybe, we will know Sunday night after Ishaa prayer depending on if they see the new moon. (Lunar based calendar is used in Islamic year)

My mom left this morning, boo hoo, and I miss her so already. I think she enjoyed it here, with all its craziness, Cairo, it is still one of the "top places people want to visit" list indeed. We did have fun, a jam-packed 20 days or so, tried to do something everyday.

I just tried to post some pics of some of our adventures while my Mom was visiting, didn't upload for some reason, I will try again tomorrow.

Oh I have new recipes and pics to post, woo hoo! Will do so real soon. I was trying to be creative in my cooking this Ramadan and will share some really good recipes with those of you who are interested. I am thinking too, of starting a food blog, just recipes and maybe some pics if I took, of some dishes I make. Interested, let me know and will update you if and when i create.

Just wanted to let you all know I am back and will be regular again. (LOL wish I didn't have to say that, "regular" now, but I do, oh well. Get it???)

Sunday, October 1, 2006

I know I know....

Hey all, Salaam, I know its been tooo long but I am still here! Its Ramadan here in Cairo and boy what a time indeed it is. You really feel the spirit of this month everywhere you go.

Like just today I walked to the store and saw a young guy sitting on the stairs reciting Quran in a high melodic voice, it was so beautiful! Like me, people were out buying foul (fava beans we eat before fasting for the day), yogurt, pita bread and cheeses and all kinds of sweets. Its so nice to see such an atmosphere of people sharing the same practises as you are.

When I was in the States, don't get me wrong, Ramadan too was nice, but you didn't "feel it" unless you gathered with Muslim friends or went to a mosque. Here its everywhere and what a nice feeling for me, i am really happy. I am wishing for peace in the world, clean water for those who do not have it, and peace within myself too.

We believe that this Holy Month has many blessings. We try to get closer to God by fasting, by offerinng extra prayers, by trying to give more to and help those less fortunate. Things we should do all year long of course, but especially pronounced in this Holy Month.

A few facts about Ramadan, in case ya want to know.....

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. The Month of Ramadan is also when it is believed the Holy Quran "was sent down from heaven, a guidance unto men, a declaration of direction, and a means of Salvation"

It is during this month that Muslims fast. It is called the Fast of Ramadan and lasts the entire month. Ramadan is a time when Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives. It is a time of worship and contemplation

During the Fast of Ramadan strict restraints are placed on the daily lives of Muslims. They are not allowed to eat or drink during the daylight hours. Smoking and sexual relations are also forbidden during fasting. At the end of the day the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called the iftar. In the evening following the iftar it is customary for Muslims to go out visiting family and friends. The fast is resumed the next morning.

It is common for Muslims to go to the Masjid (Mosque) and spend several hours praying and studying the Quran. In addition to the five daily prayers, during Ramadan Muslims recite a special prayer called the Taraweeh prayer (Night Prayer). The length of this prayer is usually 2-3 times as long as the daily prayers.

Some Muslims spend the entire night in prayer on the evening of the 27th day of the month, Muslims celebrate the Laylat-al-Qadr (the Night of Power). It is believed that on this night Muhammad first received the revelation of the Holy Quran. And according to the Quran, this is when God determines the course of the world for the following year.

When the fast ends (the first day of the month of Shawwal) it is celebrated for three days in a holiday called Id-al-Fitr (the Feast of Fast Breaking). Gifts are exchanged. Friends and family gather to pray in congregation and for large meals. In some cities fairs are held to celebrate the end of the Fast of Ramadan.

I promise to try to stay in touch more often....but it will be less during this month....Hope all is well for all you. I do have some new and tested recipes though and will post soon....xoxoxoxo