If your knowledge of Arabic sweets is confined to baklava, then you have to make the Middle East your next trip. Arabs excel at sensual pleasures, and a well-crafted dessert is considered high art.
I saw more types of sweets than savoury dishes. It’s an intimidating constellation. Here are a few of my favourites and where to find the best of each.
We asked to spend a few hours with a Bedouin family near Palmyra, a city in the Syrian desert. None of them spoke English.
It could have gotten awkward. But language barriers are irrelevant when you’re around children. They are fluent in the universal language: fun.
If Syria is a rogue nation of terror crusaders, then I want to be one, too. In none of my travels have I seen such massive mismatch between a nation’s character and how the Western media portrays it.
Syria if a nation of kindness. Hospitality is a sacred duty. If a visitor does not feel welcome, it’s seen as a collective failure. It’s impossible to feel lost, confused, or ignored in Syria; a willing helper is always the closest person.
See full post for a Flickr slideshow.
In Syria, Facebook and Youtube are blocked. But everyone knows how to get around it.
The word “proxy” is common knowledge. Most Internet cafés have proxies – servers that rout Internet traffic through other countries – already configured into the web browser. Some have anonymous surfing tools like Hotspot Shield installed.
Which all seems to beg the question: if the Syrian people flout the restrictions so openly, why does the government bother having them at all?
For the first time in my life, I really wanted a time machine. Not for minor things, like correcting regretful memories or killing Hitler, but to see what life was like in these incredible castles peppered all over Syria.
As a strategic point between Europe and Asia, Syria was a sought-after domain for Western merchants and other invaders. It was also a handy base for Arabs to swoop down on Crusaders strongholds in the Holy Land.
The result is a ton of awesome, well-preserved fortresses.
If Las Vegas dealt in baklavas instead of money, it would look like Jasmatiyah Street in Damascus.
Everything is big and flashy. Nut-filled pastries are stack higher than people. Rolls of pistachios in vermicelli dough thicker than a forearm beckon stares of disbelief.
In one of many shops, bakers in ethnic headdress prepare halawat with ashta cream. A giant LCD screen above him plays a making-of-sweets promotional reel.
When we told our Couchsurfing host in Damascus that in Canada it’s customary to bring your own drink, and sometimes even food, to a party of barbecue, he looked shocked.
“What would you do in this situation,” I asked him.
After a hearty chuckle, he responded,” I would thank the invitation, but I’d stay far away from that party.”