Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Damascus, Street Eats and Singing Underwear - eating my way through Syria - Part 1

It saddens me to see what is happening in Syria at the moment.  My heart goes out to a nation that is living amid a war, unthinkable acts against the people, a government regime that is destroying the country and faith in humanity!  I won't even try to talk politics or try to justify it, yes it needs to stop, but whose job is that?  Who should get involved?  What outcome could that possibly lead to?
So while this is going on I want to share my happy, amazing, wonderful trip that I took to Syria back in 2009, when the streets were safe(r) and freedom was a little easier.  I never really excepted to much from Syria.  I was more eager to discover Jordan, but like a few countries with low expectations when I visited have actually been the best! I did discover was a country that was amazingly friendly, full of culture, history, wonderful landscapes and fantastic food! (and I preferred it over Jordan)
It was winter in Dubai (okay still a balmy 25+ degrees) but winter nonetheless.  I had just hosted an Orphan's Christmas Brunch in Dubai, overindulging on good food and sparkles (as one does in Dubai).  Bleary eyed and slightly worst for wear we fly to Syria (I still make promises to myself I will stop flying hungover). 
Bulky, woolly warm coats and beanies in hand (buying them in Dubai was not easy), we arrived in Damascus to cold, blustery weather with a hint of snow in the air.  After a long hot summer, cool weather was welcomed (and a novelty).  Even though geographically, Syria is only a hop, skip and a jump away from Dubai, the weather couldn't be more different. 
The weather does not stop us hitting the streets of one of the oldest and longest continually inhabited city in the world.  I was immediately drawn into this old, walled city.  The hustle and bustle of  Al-Hamidiyah Souq does not disappoint.  Lane ways of clothes shops, spices, sweets, household items and singing underwear (yes you heard me correctly and more on that later). 
We came upon our first sweet shop, full to the brim with neatly packed towers of baklava, znood es-sett (pastry cigars filled with cheese),  halva (a sesame paste with fruit and nuts) and kenafeh (lace pastry with white cheese, nuts and oozing with syrup) to name only a few.  But its all nuts, fruit, sweet sticky syrup laden pastry heaven.  You can purchase by the piece, by the bag and even by the kilo!
towers of sticky, sweet heaven

nuts about pastries


My eyes light up like a kid in a candy store, literally.  It's a lolly shop, but having a savoury tooth I was actually more interested in the chips, which turned out to be pasta!  Not sure why this combination of sales was chosen but it certainly makes you stop and browse!

lollies and pasta shop

A spice shop selling frying pans full of 'wax'.  I think something may have gotten lost in translation as the male shopkeeper tried to explain using body gestures that it was for waxing - but I think it may have solidified fat and used more for cooking purposes than spreading over ones body! (but then again singing underwear and all who knows!)


a giant coffee pot - I couldn't fit this into my bag!

mint and lemon juice

The middle east use lots of dried flowers in their cuisine, particularly in sweets.  The most famous would be rose and orange blossom.  Everywhere you look you can bottle bottles of heady scented rose water and orange blossom water.

dried rose buds, petals and other flowers
There is a line 3 people deep at this little stall and we need sustenance.  They were selling kibbeh (which is typically bulgar wheat, lamb mince, pine nuts,onions and spices and shaped into torpedos and fried).  You can also have it slab baked.  However these little balls looked very different. The casing was actually made from wheat (similar to bread).  Inside they were steaming hot flavourful mince and pine nuts.  Perfect finger food in cold weather while wandering the markets.


 This is a typical lane way in the old market.  Spices galore
Al-Hamidiyah Souq
I was very tempted to purchase Arabic scrabble and Monopoly but didn't.  If you are learning Arabic scrabble is the best way to practice!

fancy a game of scrabble or monopoly in Arabic
And as for that singing underwear?
singing underwear - be discreet , it's kept under the counter or in the back!
Syria has an exotic little secret - singing underwear.  There is a whole lane way dedicated to the sexy, lacy, satin, frilly undergarment and sales are booming.  Inside the intimates are little hidden electronic devices playing different tunes, some vibrate, some have fairy lights and flash and some have remote controls to fall off the body at the push of a button.  It's doesn't stop at knickers either bra and knicker sets and sheer lacy babydolls too.  Definitely something to spice of the honeymoon and bedroom.
...............and fyi I did buy a pair of singing knickers that vibrate! (and still sitting in my drawer never worn!)

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