Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Random Eid traditions

After a long weekend of just waiting I'm finally back and really satisfied that we've managed to finish up a lot yesterday, the weekends were boring and we just sat around - mom refused to go out in the frenzy of shoppers shopping for the christmas holidays so we had to wait.

My sisters gifts are pretty much done, one we've got and it was on SALE, the other is coming through the mail (there should be about 8 business days until Eid) and the last I managed to find on a classifieds site, it is a collectible item and thankfully I was able to bid for it at the very last moment, following a payment through paypal it is now mine and I'm arranging for pickup ASAP or mailing.

We've only got very few things left, and it doesn't seem we're going to do any Henna this Eid. Henna is traditionally done around celebrations and festive occassions like Eid, weddings and the like. Many arabic women wear it all the time or keep renewing the designs however in todays society especially in the west it's not so common and I've always remembered Eid as being the time we had to sit still and let the muddy substance dry up until we could wash our hands.

When we were younger my mom being very artistic used to do our henna, later on I did it for my sisters but to me it was awefully time consuming especially if the result didn't come out perfect or dark enough. Spending hours and hours making lovely designs and then having it look too light was very common, my sisters skins vary so on one of them it would turn out very dark and beautiful however on the others it's very faded, I quit doing any henna for myself a long long time ago as my skin type would not tolerate keeping any colour on it, and it would turn out between a yellow and orange colour.
I like the black look, so I prefer to use non toxic marker or kohl and draw designs on my hand that would at least last for a bit.

If you think you've got the secret, well feel free to drop me a comment.
So far I've tried lemon juice, sugar, mahlab (eucalyptus oil that africans and sudanese use to darken henna, they actually swear by it!)
I've tried different hennas, I've talked to tons of people from morocco, emirates, yemen, egypt, india, pakistan and still nothing.
In Yemen they told me they didn't use henna, rather it was another "toxic" stubstance that gave these really dark black impressions on their skin, I forgot the name but I don't plan on using anything toxic with chemicals.

Here is a lovely photo, I think the Abayah complements the Henna which is done nice and simple:

Eid is coming up pretty quickly, there is still the baking to take care of. Each Eid my mom bakes a lot of cookies, my grandma, aunt and uncles and all relatives here pretty much rely on her supply of delights around the Eid because they don't bake any of their own. In Iraq traditions were very different, the ones I've been used to as a child were that every family bakes cookies like Klaycha and ma'mool (a date filled pastry) and other varities, they also buy baklawa and other prepared sweets and exchange or present them to visiting neighbours relatives or friends.

We also make the egyptian dessert Atayif which is a lightly grilled yeast pancake stuffed with either a creamy mixture or nuts and then fried and dipped into a sugary syrup afterwards, some people eat them right before the frying stage and they're called Atayif Niya or Niyi (as the lebanese and shamis pronounce it)
Basbousa or hareesa is another yummy delight and one of my favourites, it's a dense cake made of samolina which is decorated with almonds and submerged in the sugary syrup until it all absorbs, mom made some yesterday to test out how it would bake in our new oven, it turned out so prefect and evenly browned all over the bottom, so delicious!

Enough of sweets now, this year I plan to make Eid dinner on my own, I haven't decided what to make yet but I'm thinking maybe something from my big book of Iraqi recipes (Delights from the garden of Eden: Nawal Nasrullah) - it's a great book with almost all the traditional kurdish and iraqi recipes I remember being cooked by my grandma and having sampled throughout the years. A traditional Kurdish meal on the holidays that was commmonly prepared was "Alu-Alu" which is turkey - I know your thinking big stuffed roasted turkey - but no, it's actually a boiled free range turkey that is so skinny and once boilied it looks pretty much like boiled chicken, except the meat is darker and slightly tougher. Just like any other old day the "timan wa mara" (rice and sauce/stew of any kind) is essential - an apricot sauce "qaysi" is also prepared using dried apricots, and it is eaten with the turkey and rice, along with a white bean stew which is one of the most popular forms of "marag" or "margat fasolya abyadh"The rice is decorated with browned cooked angel-hair pasta and fried raisins and almonds.
It's a delicious meal for sure!

I'm actually not too familiar with other middle easterners prepare for Eid except that I've heard that Moroccans generally cook and eat liver on the morning of Eid al Adhaa and then families prepare traditional meals along with the "Adha" or sheep.

*Feel free to write to me about your middle eastern cultural traditions on Eid, I'm always happy to learn whatever I can.

More on Eid to come in the following two weeks leading up to Eid al Adhaa which will fall on either the 31st of Dec. or New Year's day!

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