Category: Middle East

Hummus Recipe

St SophiaI first got to taste hummus during the Greek wedding reception of my very good friend, Nicolette.  I was one of her Best Ladies, there were about 10 of us sitting by one side of  the altar and another 10 of Best Men at the other side of a Greek Orthodox church, St Sophia Church,  in Moscow Road, Bayswater.  It was certainly a very interesting wedding ceremony, conducted in Greek by a  high priest, who kept disappearing into the doorway which I thought was the altar. He would remain for a few minutes out of sight. a few times.  He then walked around the kneeling couple three times, after the veil, chord, candles ceremonies had been done, and declared that Nicolette and hubby were married.

We then proceeded to a Greek restaurant were we had a sumptuous starter of all kinds of grilled meat,  flat breads with various  dipping, one of which was the hummus.  For the mains, I ordered lamb kleptiko which was the softest lamb dish ever – it melted in the mouth.  There were also rice in vine leaves, and lovely selection of Greek/Turkish desserts.

As it was a Greek wedding, there was the energetic Greek hopping, leaping, skipping sort of dancing.  And of course the ubiquitous plate throwing.  There was a very Filipino tradition, I thought, of pinning monies to the Bride’s dress and some to the groom as well, while having their first dance.  It was a very happy and full of fun affair.

Anyway I have developed a fondness for hummus and quite lucky that it is fairly easy to make.

Hummus is a classic Middle Eastern dish of pulped lentils with garlic, lemon and spices.  It can be served with bread sticks, warm flat breads such as pitta or crudités such as celery, carrots and cucumber.

HummusHummus Recipe

By Jill Dupleix


Preparation method

  1. Drain the chickpeas and rinse. Reserve a few whole chick peas for serving.
  2. Combine the chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, tahini, and water in a food processor, and blend to a creamy purée.
  3. Add more lemon juice, garlic, cumin or salt to taste. Turn out into a dinner plate, and make smooth with the back of a spoon. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and scatter with the reserved chickpeas.
  4. Sprinkle with paprika and serve with pita bread, warmed in a moderate oven for three minutes, and cut into quarters.

Camel Beauty Contest

This is a most unique beauty contest, which is the Camel Beauty pageant held during the Al Dhafra Festival.

Though we are used to watching women parade in their national costumes that get more bizarre each year and skimpy swimsuits, there is something really beautiful and graceful about the camels; they have a certain dignity about them.

And the prize is serious money. The winner can be bought for as much as £2Million ($3,291,800.00 US Dollar) But then again, the winner is seriously beautiful which is judged by its eyelashes, humps, height, colour, and good manners!

I want to go see this festival, I think I shall add it to my bucket list.

By Zein Ja’Far, Sky News Producer

It is one of the world’s most unique beauty pageants.

Every year people travel thousands of miles, from across the Gulf, to the Western Region of the United Arab Emirates to attend the prestigious event.

But you won’t find any designer dresses, tiaras or make-up artists here because they’ve come to seek out the region’s next top camel.

The Al Dhafra festival is in its seventh year and seeks to celebrate and promote culture.

The highlight is the camel beauty pageant which sees thousands of contestants strut their stuff in two competitions: one for the light-coloured Asayel breed and another for the dark-skinned Majahim.

Camel beauty pageant
The Al Dhafra festival is in its seventh year

They’re judged on a range of criteria from the size of the head, length of its neck and the shape of the hump. And big is most definitely considered beautiful.

But looks aren’t everything and points are also awarded for model behaviour with the very best camels sold for up to £2m.

Khamees Mohammad al Sharee, a camel owner who regularly attends the festival, explains how the winners are picked.

“There is a special committee, appointed by the authorities, which judges the competition. They place all the camels together in one pen and decide.”

For many people in this part of the Middle East the protection of pure-bred camels is integral to the preservation of their history and traditions.

Camel beauty pageant
The festival seeks to celebrate and promote Bedouin culture

These “desert ships”, as some refer to them, historically provided Bedouins with a source of milk and transportation. They’re also seen, more recently, as a potentially profitable business investment.

And it’s not just millions of pounds worth of cash prizes and cars that entice people to come. It’s a matter of national pride with camel-owning families from the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and other Gulf states all competing.

It’s also attracting interest from further afield. For South African, Danielle Tennant, it was her first experience of a camel beauty pageant.

“As we arrived we were ushered in and we were given a personal guide. We tried some amazing Arabian coffee and we’ve been taken around to the stalls.

“It’s been quite fascinating to think it’s another whole interest, a passion people have.”

As well as the beauty pageant the Al Dhafra festival, which runs for two weeks, also hosts camel races, saluki races, falconry competitions and a traditional Emirati market.


Absence of Job Fairs for Filipino Job Seekers

embassyAnother sorry tale from Filipino job seekers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  The Philippine Embassy have to back up their ideas as well as their initiative otherwise they are nothing but a redundant agency.  I thought with their reputation in tatters, they would have tried to salvage a bit of dignity and usefulness.

It seems not, I think it is about time that these people manning the embassy should be sent home back to the Philippines for  a replacement of a better, fresher manpower .  It is the only way that Filipinos already in the KSA and people in the know would have confidence with the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh once again.


                                                            Janice Becares Maputol


I posted this letter to serve as a wake-up call for embassy personnel based in the Kingdom of saudi arabia (KSA) as well as to the
Above mentioned officials/agencies.The kingdom extended its amnesty program toNovember3,2103 and this opportunity should be grabbed not only by those undocumented OFW but also by the embassy officials designated in KSA.

Last to weeks the embassies of Bangladesh,Pakistan,and India sponsored a JOB FAIR intended for their unemployed including the undocumented citizens(who maybe deported if not legally transferred)on separate dates.Officials from these embassies invited companies all around the kingdom to participate and it widely opened the window of opportunities for the expatriates. Skilled workers (laborers,cook,waiters,welders,steel fixers,drivers,electricians,pipe fitters,operators,etc)and professionals(secretaries,surveyors,engineers,chemist,medical professionals,administrative staff/clerks,accountants,etc)from the above mentioned countries took advantage on applying upon the presence of representatives and executives of various industries.

It sad to note during one of the job fair sponsored by the embassy of Pakistan,when i am assisting an OFW from other countries in processing their application to our company (which was able to hire more than a hundred foreign workers from Pakistan,Bangladesh,and India due to their embassy officials initiative in sponsoring a job fair and there were thousands also were hired by other participating industries)not a single Filipino was hired.You know why?The phil.embassy did not make any initiative similar to other embassies here in KSA.

Learning that i am from the Philippine,the representative from other companies who sat next to our table ask me if when the Philippine embassy will hold similar job fair,I said I did not know because no news were relayed from them. Some companies are looking for Filipino workers including the company where I am currently employed. An added injury to the insult (due to the sex for flight issue that had been published in the news that day) my ears turn red hot when I learned (as relayed to me by my co employee in the HR department because he was summoned by our HR Manager to inquire) that one of the phil. embassy employee was asked why there office did not partake in conducting a job fair wherein some embassies were doing it to assuage the transfer of their citizens who might be hired on the spot by the green status holder industries, the reason given by the phil.embassy employee shocked me for a while··········they don’t want to receive complaints from companies who might be able to hire ineffective workers.what an absurd reasoning? Does the personnel of the phil.embassy did not know the advantages of sponsoring a multi-industries job fair? It is in fact that if the phil.embassy sponsored such one like most of the embassies here in KSA have done,will lessen those Filipino OFW lining up in even camping at the embassy compound without proper protection from the scorching heat of the sun.Its very. unfortunate that our embassy have mindset like that.If I only have the authority, I will really sponsor activity relative to this.The interview and hiring are no longer the responsibility of the embassy but an employer’s duty to scrutinize applicants,it is not already the fault of the embassy if one company will be able to hire an incompetent one.The embassy’s rule is just to sponsor, invite companies, prepare a venue, inform the Filipino OFW’s and facilitate the JOB FAIR.Hiring is no longer a part of their job, it’s the employer.

The Companies ranging from construction,sales,hotels,and restaurant business,food manufacturing,It industries,etc.also took advantage in heeding the invitation since they too will save a lot of time and money in hiring new employees in JOB FAIRS.the participating companies will no longer take the burden of cost in tying up with the recruitment agencies and minus the expenses for a plane ticket since the OFW are already here in Saudi that is why they actively heed the invitation

Does the phil.embassy have no planning officer or any personnel who will take charge of this?what are their plans to the undocumented OFW’s aside from the impending repatriation?The issues of sex for flight must not affect the whole operation in the embassy since not all of them were involved,there are good employees to who are deserving of commendation due to their honest effort in working for the benefit of Filipino OFW.If the ambassador or others officials were accused of,it does not mean the whole embassy will stop of finding ways to re-employ Filipino OFW in saudi arabia.

Now that kingdom has extended the amnesty program of undocumented OFW to november 3,2013 the phil.embassy has a big change to sponsor a job fair or any activities that will alleviate or perhaps resolve the unemployment of undocumented Filipino OFW in Saudi Arabia within the extension period before they will be caught,deported or might be jailed after the amnesty dealine.invite all companies in Saudi Arabia and inform all Filipino OFW in the kingdom,include those who were undocumented and those who were employed under the red and yellow category since the workers of these categories or no longer required with a LETTER OF NO OBJECTION from their current employers.the expats can even choose to which industry might give them a better offer

I am posting this letter in the net and to various website and anticipating that it will be read by those concerned offices/agencies.If I will send a formal letter,it. might fall under the desk and to be covered by voluminous documents or by the time it will be read,the deadline of extended amnesty will be over.

wake up Phil.embassy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,please do an effort while there are still time.To our higher government officials,please instruct ASAP the Philippine Embassy Officials to facilitate a job fair similar to what other embassies have done last two weeks.

Lastly,I am very much thankful that King Abdullah showed his compassion to the flight of OFW by allowing the extension of the amnesty deadline since it gives more time to process the required papers to legalized more undocumented Filipino OFW.

sincerely yours,


Help me share this letter and post this to your FB wall,the more you help me share,the bigger it gets the change to be read by concerned authorities and to wake them up to do something while the amnesty was extended to November 3,2013.There are more Filipino who were not able to take the advantages of the job fair as what the other embassies did to their citizens.

10 Adopted Arabic Words

10 Adopted Arabic Words

  • The word cheque comes from the Arabic word saqq, and reflects the sophistication of finance in Arab countries in the early middle ages
  • The word algorithm is derived from the name of Abū Abdallah Muḥammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi whose name (al-Khwarizmi) is, in Latin, Algoritmi
  • Cipher comes from Arabic sifr, meaning “zero, naught, nothing”
  • The word for cotton derives from the Arabic qutn
  • Ghoul is an Arabic word for “a desert demon which can appear in different forms and shapes; an ogre or cannibal”
  • The English magazine is a word borrowed from the Arabic makhzan, meaning “storehouse”
  • Nadir has its origin in Arabic nazir, indicating “opposite, facing, parallel”
  • Tamarind refers to Arabic tamr hindi, literally meaning “Indian date”
  • The word safari has its root in the Arabic wordsafar, which means “journey”
  • Tariff comes from Arabic ta’rif, which means “notification” or “definition”

Coffee and qahwa by Arabic Mystics Now A Global Beverage

coffee 2

In todays hectic 24/7  life many of us charge up ourselves with various types of coffee, indeed I learned  below that Mocha is the name of a Yemeni    port exporting coffee for centuries! ed in Coffee dominates our modern social and work beverage we in the UK  imbibe around 70 million cups per day. Indeed in the UK the increasingly opening coffee bars may replace increasingly cash strapped over taxed  pubs that are sadly closing. Tea is still the nation’s favourite hot beverage, with around 165 million cups drunk each day!

Returning our coffee theme, here is an interesting article  by John McHugo, author about the origins of the hot foaming and steaming stuff 🙂

Coffee 1

The Arab world has given birth to many thinkers and many inventions – among them the three-course meal, alcohol and coffee.

coffee pot

The best coffee bean is still known as Arabica, but it’s come a long way from the Muslim mystics who treasured it centuries ago, to the chains that line our high streets.

Think coffee, and you probably think of an Italian espresso, a French cafe au lait, or an American double grande latte with cinnamon.

Perhaps you learned at school that the USA became a nation of coffee drinkers because of the excise duty King George placed on tea? Today ubiquitous chains like Starbucks, Cafe Nero and Costa grace every international airport, and follow the now much humbler Nescafe as symbols of globalisation.

Coffee is produced in hot climates like Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia, and you could be forgiven if you thought it is a product from the New World like tobacco and chocolate. After all, all three became popular in Europe at more or less the same time, in the 16th and 17th Centuries.

In fact, coffee comes from the highland areas of the countries at the southern end of the Red Sea – Yemen and Ethiopia.

Coffee merchants (1850)

Although a beverage made from the wild coffee plant seems to have been first drunk by a legendary shepherd on the Ethiopian plateau, the earliest cultivation of coffee was in Yemen and Yemenis gave it the Arabic name qahwa, from which our words coffee and cafe both derive.

Qahwa originally meant wine, and Sufi mystics in Yemen used coffee as an aid to concentration and even spiritual intoxication when they chanted the name of God.

Three courses, and alcohol

  • The Arabs invented the concept of the three-course meal, with soup followed by fish or meat, then fruit and nuts – the habit was brought across to Moorish Spain in the 9th Century from Iraq
  • Alcohol may have been distilled in c800AD by Jabir Ibn Hayyan from Kufa in Iraq, and our word “alcohol” derives from the Arabic “al kuhul”… many Arab countries, like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Morocco, make wines and beers, even though Islam does not permit the drinking of alcohol

By 1414, it was known in Mecca and in the early 1500s was spreading to Egypt from the Yemeni port of Mocha. It was still associated with Sufis, and a cluster of coffee houses grew up in Cairo around the religious university of the Azhar. They also opened in Syria, especially in the cosmopolitan city of Aleppo, and then in Istanbul, the capital of the vast Ottoman Turkish Empire, in 1554.

In Mecca, Cairo and Istanbul attempts were made to ban it by religious authorities. Learned shaykhs discussed whether the effects of coffee were similar to those of alcohol, and some remarked that passing round the coffee pot had something in common with the circulation of a pitcher of wine, a drink forbidden in Islam.

Inside a Turkish Coffee House, 1858

Inside a Turkish Coffee House, 1858

Coffee houses were a new institution in which men met together to talk, listen to poets and play games like chess and backgammon. They became a focus for intellectual life and could be seen as an implicit rival to the mosque as a meeting place.

Some scholars opined that the coffee house was “even worse than the wine room”, and the authorities noted how these places could easily become dens of sedition. However, all attempts at banning coffee failed, even though the death penalty was used during the reign of Murad IV (1623-40). The religious scholars eventually came to a sensible consensus that coffee was, in principle, permissible.

Coffee spread to Europe by two routes – from the Ottoman Empire, and by sea from the original coffee port of Mocha- photo below).


Both the economically dominant English & Dutch East India Companies were major purchasers at Mocha in the early 17th Century, and their cargoes were brought home via the Cape of Good Hope or exported to India and beyond. They seem, however, to have only taken a fraction of Yemeni coffee production – as the rest went north to the rest of the Middle East.

Waiter pouring coffee

The coffee which is native to the Gulf is bitter and sometimes flavoured with cardamom or other spices”

Coffee also arrived in Europe through trade across the Mediterranean and was carried by the Turkish armies as they marched up the Danube. As in the Middle East, the coffee house became a place for men to talk, read, share their opinions on the issues of the day and play games.

Another similarity was that they could harbour gatherings for subversive elements. Charles II denounced them in 1675 as “places where the disaffected met, and spread scandalous reports concerning the conduct of His Majesty and his Ministers”.

A century later Procope, the famous Parisian coffee house, had such habitues as Marat, Danton and Robespierre who conspired together there during the Revolution.

At first, coffee had been viewed with suspicion in Europe as a Muslim drink, but around 1600 Pope Clement VIII is reported to have so enjoyed a cup that he said it would be wrong to permit Muslims to monopolise it, and that it should therefore be baptised.

Austrian coffee drinking is said to have received a big boost when the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683 was broken, and the European victors captured huge coffee supplies from the vanquished.

Perhaps that is why, to this day, coffee is served in Vienna with a glass of water – just like the tiny cups of powerful Turkish coffee with its heavy sediment in Istanbul, Cyprus, Damascus or Cairo. Is this just a coincidence, or a long forgotten cultural borrowing?

Cafe Sperl in Vienna, Austria Viennese cafes serve it with a glass of water

The beverage we call “Turkish coffee” is actually a partial misnomer, as Turkey is just one of the countries where it is drunk. In Greece they call it “Greek coffee”, although Egyptians, Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, Jordanians and others do not seem to care overmuch about the name. There are other coffee drinking traditons in the Arab world with coffee native to the Gulf which is bitter and sometimes flavoured with cardamom or other spices


But there are other coffee drinking traditions in the Arab world. The coffee which is native to the Gulf is bitter and sometimes flavoured with cardamom or other spices.

It is often served a decent interval after a guest has arrived – to serve it too soon might be an impolite suggestion of haste – and then once again before departure.

Men drinking coffee in Turkey

Men drinking super strong coffee in Turkey

It often comes just before or after a small glass cup of black, sweet tea. The order in which the two beverages are served varies, and seems to have no significance. What is remarkable for a Western visitor is the idea that the two very different drinks should be offered in such quick succession.

Sadly, however, while coffee has gone truly global production has declined in Yemen, the victim of cheap imports and rival crops like the narcotic qat.

In 2011, Yemen exported a mere 2,500 tonnes although there are attempts to revive cultivation of the best coffee in its original home. Today, none of the Arab countries is listed among the world’s significant producers.

John McHugo is author of A Concise History of The Arabs

The Left Hand

Did you know?

left-hand-graphic-100-100-283x300August 13 is designated International left-handers Day by left-handers International. It was first observed on the 13th of August, in the year 1976. As the name suggests, it is meant to promote awareness of the inconveniences faced by left-handers in a predominantly right-handed world. (Wikipedia)


Traditionally the left hand must not touch the food at all cost.  This is practised in most Arab countries.  Apparently the reasoning behind this is the left hand is reserved for wiping the bottom after one has been to toilet. 😉


There was a study done by a couple of American psychologists that left-handed people have a 9 years shorter life span compared to the right-handed people.  Another psychologist have now debunked this finding as a myth.


Harissa is a Moroccan Chilli relish; it is hot and aromatic made from chillis, spices and herbs and is considered one of the best chilli sauces around. Harissa can be bought already cooked but home-made ones will taste twice better.

Harissa is a fantastic marinade for chicken to be barbecued.   Rub it into the chicken well and it will keep it moist and full of tasty goodness.  I dare say, you might even forget how delicious peri-peri chicken is and be more enamoured with harissa chicken.



100g medium-hot red chilies, halved and deseeded
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander leaves
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to seal.


Roughly chopped the chillies and garlic, put into a processor.

Dry-fry the coriander, cumin and caraway seeds over a moderate heat until they have turned a shade darker but not burnt. Cool then grind to a powder. (Using a heavy stone mortar and pestle for grinding   can be a satisfying affair) 😉

Add the ground powder to the processor together with the chopped coriander  leaves and salt. Whir until finely chopped.

Keep the blades moving as you add the olive oil.

Scrape this into a very clean jar and can be kept into the fridge for up to 2 months as long as it is always sealed with oil on top.

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