Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Essential Egyptian Breakfast

Our cleaning lady, Manal, comes once week to our flat. Alhamdulillah we found someone we can actually trust and clean well and is a decent person at the same time.  Two things living in Egypt we cannot go without:  fuul (fava beans) and tama3a (falafel).  It can also be the most monotonous food if one isn't creative.  The tama3a (falafel) is made of green vegetables and sometimes hummus (chick peas) fried in oil and served with ayesh baladi (pita bread) alongside salata (salad consisting of fresh khiar (cucumbers), tomatoes, onions, garlic and a vinegar based dressing with lemon juice.

It was Friday morning and Manal arrived on time at 10 a.m.   As she was cleaning the kitchen, Mira was still sleeping and Hassan and I were watching TV wondering how we were going to make our way to the kitchen to make some fuul (fava beans).  Not ten minutes later, Manal walked in with a tray of food, without us even asking her to make us anything.

It was such a pleasant surprise to see breakfast right before out eyes. And it was delicious too. Fuul is never made the same way twice.  Most of the time I just make it with EVOO and salt and pepper, however, Manal made it with tomato paste, onions, garlic and cumin. It was very Mexican-like and very satisfying. Manal even made bittengen mekhelen (pickled eggplant).  It was delicious.  Hassan and I couldn't get enough of the food and wished she had made more.

Just as we were finished I smelled something sweet coming from the kitchen.  Manal was baking sweet potatoes. But not just any sweet potatoes -- Egyptian sweet potatoes.  These sweet potatoes need absolutely nothing but time to let them cool off enough to eat.



Saturday, November 14, 2009

An Egyptian Wedding

We attended our first wedding in Egypt the other night.  It was a Coptic wedding that began at a church with the reception downtown at a club along the Nile.  Hassan's friend's brother-in-law got married and we were invited to attend.  Since Ehab is such a good friend, how could we refuse?

The wedding ceremony took place in a church.  The priest chanted the prayers with bakhoor (incense) burning throughout the ceremony. I have a lot of bakhoor (incense) at home, but quite honestly it always smells better in a church. As the ceremony progressed he explained the most important part beforehand:  where the Holy Spirit descends upon the couple to bless them.  Then he said a recited a prayer that the priest being God's representative is the only one who can place the rings on the finger. And no human can remove them. Divorce is not allowed in the Coptic church.

Just as there are Stations of the Cross in the Catholic Church, there are what seems to be an equivalent to the life of Mary.  It starts on the far right (since Egyptians read from right to left) with the Annunication, followed by the birth of Jesus, the Holy Family on the move to Egypt, and ending with the descent of the Holy Spirit.

The work is hand-carved and quite extensive. I captured only four of the hand carvings that span the width of the church.

The reception then moved to a club along the Nile.  There was a lot of music, dancing by the bride and groom, and various actors portraying Egyptians throughout history. 

Mira all dressed up.