Babaghanouge/Muttabal (Eggplant dip with sesame sauce)

January 26th, 2008

3 large eggplant
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 fl oz tahina (sesame seed) paste
the juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon olive oil
garnish: 2 tablespoon parsley, chopped
              a few black olives
            powdered chili
Make 2 or 3 slits in each eggplant then cook over charcoal, under a hot grill or in a hot oven until the skins are black and the flesh feels soft when poked with a finger. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, scraping off and reserving any flesh which comes away with it. Put the flesh into a large bowl and mash with a fork. Add the garlic and salt and continue to mash or pound the mixture until it is reduced to a pulp. Add the tahina and lemon juice and stir thoroughly. Spoon the mixture onto a large plate and smooth it. Pour the olive oil over the top and garnish with the parsley, black olives and chili powder.


Mahlebieh (Rice Pudding)

January 26th, 2008

4 oz ground rice 

2 level tablespoons cornflour 

2 pints milk 

8 tablespoons sugar 

2 tablespoons orange blossom water or rosewater or a mixture of the two (optional) 

1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg 

4 oz ground almonds 

garnish: 2 tablespoons pistachio nuts, chopped 

In a large bowl, mix together the ground rice and cornflour. Add about 10 tablespoons of the cold milk and stir until you have a smooth paste. 

Bring the rest of the milk to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the sugar and stir until it is dissolved. Slowly pour the hot milk onto the rice paste, stirring constantly, watching out for lumps. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Stir in the orange blossom water (or rosewater) and the nutmeg and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the almonds. Pour into a serving bowl, leave to cool and then place in the refrigerator to chill. Before serving decorate with the pistachio nuts. 


January 25th, 2008

5 bundles of parsley; soaked, rinsed, and leaves removed from the stems and chopped
8 oz of burghul
1 tomato, chopped
small head white onion, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh (or dry) mint
salt, lemon, and olive oil to taste
Soak the burghul in cold water until it becomes soft. Drain and squeeze out any excess water. Put the tomato, onion, parsley and mint into the bowl and mix thoroughly with the burghul. Stir in the salt, lemon juice and olive oil to taste. Mix well together. Leave for 15 minutes and then taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Dead Sea: Is it really dead?

January 25th, 2008

Located in the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth (about 400 meters below sea level). While it is famous throughout the world for its various products (salt, curative and beauty products), the Dead Sea also attracts tourists for various leisure activities because it is impossible for one to sink in this sea, which is nine times saltier than the Mediterranean Sea (and because of this, fish that enter the Dead Sea through the Jordan River quickly die). However, the popularity of the sea is not something that has become popular with modern advertising. Over 2000 years ago, during the days of Herod, the sea was famous for its curative powers and has only become more famous as time goes by. Usually calm, the sea is the perfect location for tourists to relax. 

Aqaba: City of Underwater Rainbows

January 25th, 2008

Nestled on the coast of the Red Sea, this resort town has a “striking beauty and grace” that is undeniable. The Gulf itself is home to over 200 species of corral (which are centuries old) and over 1000 species of fish. Thus, scuba diving and snorkeling are popular activities (among various other water activities). Also, for those who do not like snorkeling, glass-bottomed tour boats are available. Since the temperature is relatively mild throughout the year, Aqaba is a wonderful destination for beach lovers. Along with the beauty of the sea, the area contains many historical sites. Because of its strategic location at the junction of continents, the area of Aqaba has been inhabited for over 5000 years. Ancient cities and forts have been excavated due to the rich history of the area, which has been ruled and conquered by various peoples since Roman times.  

Warning: Camel Crossing (A camel may deem it necessary to cross at any time…)

January 4th, 2008

 Camels. Most people don’t really seem too fond of them. In fact, they are a strange sight in the western world. And, unfortunately for me, when I mention to people that camels are my favorite animals, they give me rather strange looks. The other week, when I went to a play that actually marched a camel across the stage, everyone went crazy afterwards, running to see the camel. In the Middle East, they are a little more common. On my last trip to Jordan, I was thrilled to get the chance to go on a road trip from Amman to Aqaba. Once we got out of city limits, I took up my watch. A couple of hours went by and, much to my dismay, no camels. Then, when we seemed to literally be out in the middle of nowhere, I saw a road sign…that had a camel crossing the road. A CAMEL CROSSING SIGN?!? Yes. A camel crossing sign. Needless to say, I was thrilled! And then, we actually drove by some camels grazing. (The high point of my trip!) 

Amman: City of Contrast

January 4th, 2008

Amman is a city of contrast. While it is a bustling, modern city, it is also a city of history. Also, it happens to be one of my favorite cities. Unlike most cities in America, it is easy to explore and every new turn in the road brings something “new” into view. From the ancient Roman amphitheatres and open-air shops in the downtown area to the more modern feel of the outskirts of the city, Amman has much to offer. For those who love history, there are museums that take one through the country’s history. For those who love to shop, there are a variety of shops that cater to everyone’s interests. For those who just like to explore, the city is easy to navigate and the transportation system is easily accessible. Everyone who travels to Amman will not be disappointed in all it has to offer. 

So, where exactly is the Middle East?

November 16th, 2007

On our website we have been using the terms “Middle East” & the “Arab World” interchangeably although, technically, they mean two different groups of countries.

The term “Middle East” was made popular around 1900 in Britain, and has been criticized for its loose definition of boundaries. The modern definition of the region includes: Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

The “Arab World, on the other hand, stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the east, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to Central Africa and the Indian Ocean in the south. It consists of 23 countries:  Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Western Sahara, Yemen.
The Arabic language forms a unifying feature of the Arab World. Though different areas use local dialects of Arabic, they all share in the use of the standard classical written language.  The term “Arab” is generally dominant over origin. That is why, individuals with no direct ancestry from the Arabian Peninsula are still considered to be Arabs just by virtue of their mother tongue. 

So, since Alpha-Z is all about Arabic language & culture, please forgive us when we use “Middle East”, and just take to mean the “Arab World” :-)  

You can’t say NO to food

November 8th, 2007

Big Guy Food is huge in the Middle Eastern culture, and is one of the most important ways to express hospitality and generosity.  When you are invited to an Arab’s home, you will be served a variety of dishes & drinks.  If your host is generous, then expect the amount of food to be enough to feed a small army :-)  If at any point you stop eating, you will be offered more of everything that you had and a portion of the dish that you missed.  Even if you decline something, your host will offer it to you again & again until you accept (unless, of course, you give a health reason like diabetes OR you decline three consecutive times).