Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Muslim New Year

Hope is what kept us going through all the changes, all the difficulties in life. Hope is like the driving force for a better future. Hope and determination are the two things that would make our dreams come true.

Happy Muslim New Year to all and may peace be upon human beings

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Iraqi Food

On the occasion of Eid Al-Adha I decided to write this post about Iraqi food. It is not about what families are cooking during Eid, but this post is an illustration of the different food and menus Iraqis are famous with.

Wish all Eid Mubarak and may all wishes come true, most importantly health, happiness and peace.

Iraqi food is so strongly influenced by its neighboring countries, Turkey and Iran, in addition to a limited influence by Indian food – thanks to British occupation in the early 20'th Century. In spite of that, Iraqis has adopted these “foreign cuisines” to their taste, as a result, Iraqi kitchen gained some sort of uniqueness.

I start with one of the most famous Iraqi dishes, Masgouf. It is a whole-skewered fish barbecued on an outdoor grill. It is known mainly by Baghdadis in Abu Nuas street, where restaurants and cafe’s stretching along the bench of river Tigris.

By the way, most of these restaurants used to open after sunset time. You see the workers prepare everything, from cleaning tables, washing the marbled floor with a water hose in one hand and a broom or a sweeper with the other. Slowly the sun goes down and the night is lit with the stars, with the colored bulbs and neon lights of these restaurants. Gradually the music of Um Kalthoum and other classic Arabic music harmonizes the atmosphere, nothing but to make this night, like any other night, something not to forget for the guest.

Did I mention that Araq and Beer is part of this?




Some people’s passion for Masgouf prompted them to try this at home, as in the below picture.


P.S. I like his Pyjama.

Ok, lets move on…

The second in this list is Lahm b ’ajeena … The olive on top as shown in the picture below is optional, of course.


With some little modification to the recipe, the way it is made in different middle eastern countries, the name also follow suits. In Syria, its called “Safiha”, in Holland it became known as “turkse Pizza”, in other countries its known as ”Lamejun” , or Armenian Pizza. However, in Iraq its called Lahm b’ ajeena, literally means meat on bread.

The way Lahm b’ ajeena is made by making baked circles of dough topped with cooked tiny-chopped meat and onion.


Many Iraqi families, including mine used to consider Lahm b ‘ajeena as an appetizer. The view of the pile of steaming baked pastries on a plate, along the tea pot and cups, all put on a big tray carried by my beloved aunt, who happens to be the best in my opinion who make Lahm b ‘ajeena was one of my all tune favorite experiences ever.


By the way, Lahm b ‘ajeena is not by any means can be compared to pizza. It is like saying that orange and mandarin are the same.


This afternoon I was invited for Dolma, and was so delicious. A lot of people know and realize that Dolma dish came originally from the Ottoman empire times, which like anything imported to a culture it has been adapted to the way the people of that culture make their food. That’s why Dolma in Iraq is not the same Dolma in Syria or Turkey – read somewhere that Dolma is also known in Lybia!

Dolma is made of stuffed vegetables with meat and served warm. The vegetables used varies, such as tomatoes, green or red pepper, or aborigine, or with the use of Onion, which is one of my favorites and one of the most used for dolma in addition to the wide use of grape leafs.



Next… its Kleecha!

I found astonishing watching the energy when our mothers, sisters or aunts indulging themselves in a a consistent task of making Kleecha, especially a couple of days before the Eid?

There are two types of Kleecha I know of which used to be baked back then when I was in Iraq: one stuffed with dates, another is stuffed with sugar and walnut.


I have never ever seen anyone have been served Kleeche being satisfied with one piece only. Two and more is the name of the game. In addition, Kleeche won’t be complete or considered tasty, in my opinion, until it is served with hot tea, not coffee or anything else. Don’t you agree?


OK, lets turn to something else...

I still did not figure out why it is called “Kubbat Hamidh”, maybe because of Citric put with the soup? Who cares, it is just another delicious Iraqi meal.


As the picture above shows, it is a kind of soup, with rounded meat balls, mixed with cooked vegetables and other stuff, such as grain, onion…etc

There are families/ restaurants who make Kubbat Hamidh differently as in the picture below.


Lets get back to sweets, and the one I am talking about is a real dessert, it is Zarda. I am not referring to the sexy Greek power princess from Marvel comics. The ingredients are rice, almonds, oil, sugar, some add raisins, saffron and food coloring to the recipe too.

Zarda has never been one of my favorites, but many families adore it because of the combination and taste of it.


P.S. Its not my handwriting on the picture above

This means that my name is not Abbas

By the way, anyone feel like Tikka?


Focus on the grilled tomatoes…

Ask any former soldier in Iraq about them: “Bagilla Bil Dihin”, “Shalgam”, and “Lebleby” . All of these are linked to “remote food serving”. I made up this name. I am referring to hucksters or Peddlers (if this is the right term for people pushing carts and selling food and drinks in public places such as public garages and markets. The picture below is an example on how these carts look like.


Speaking of public places and peddlers, they also used to serve desserts, such as “Datly” – see picture below.


Bureg, not Chris de Bureg, is one an extremely oily food. It is is a type of baked or fried filled pastry. There are some families who prefer to make Bureg stuffed with vegetables, and other families find the most common, stuffed with meat more tasty… anyone noticed how Iraqis favor meat in most of their dishes?

bureg n1589494927_30085042_1213216

Ask any Iraqi “what is Yabsa w Timmen”? The answer will be imminent, with a “of course, are you kidding?" It is nothing but white beans in tomato soup and chopped meat. It is one of the most famous and considered by many as the most bombastic meal in Iraqi Kitchen.

After having Yabsa w Timmen, the best way to digest the food is to have an afternoon nap, otherwise the situation will be critical. I think Semolina soup is the only closest thing to the gravity Yabsa w Timmen can generate.


How many of you would be craving for Tishreeb? In other countries they are called Chickpea Casserole or Tishreeb Hummus. There are two types of Tishreeb known in Iraq: Tishreeb Laham, which made of a lot of very well cooked onion, saffron, chick-pea, what else? ah, big chops of lamb meat with bones, and beneath this whole chaotically-organized-food-making infrastructure we have small pieces of bread soaked in lamb soup.


The second type of Tishreeb is “Tishreeb Dijaj”, which includes the same bombastic ingredients but substitute lamb meat with chicken.

I know one way to eat this thing: pull up your shirt arms – its going to be a mess, believe me, dive in your fingers (all of them) into the soup-soaked-bread plate, and cut a piece with your fingers nails and tip of your fingers on that thin bread. some of them would go for a wild round-like-move with the fingers and with the bread plug in a little from everything, and hop it quickly into the final destination - your mouth and stomach. For those not familiar with the rituals of eating Tishreeb, don’t wait too long or try to mud down that oily piece of bread… if you do that you won’t be able to catch up with the rest.

Anyway, that’s called: eating with bare hands, if no one noticed.

Anyone dare to say eeeeuwwwww or baahhh????

Speaking of Iraqi bread, that’s how people in villages and public places and even bakeries not long time ago bread was made


I know that Pizza is Italian, but I want here to tell about the first time I went to a restaurant specialized in serving Pizza. That small restaurant was located at Antar roundabout in Baghdad. That was in the late 1980’s, if I remember correctly. It consisted of just four or five small tables by the window where I used to watch the gradually building up of number of young men during noon, because girls from Al Hareery secondary school for girls has just ended their school day. The pizza I ordered was exactly the same as in the picture below.


OK, that's enough for today

I hope that this post won’t cause some stomachache or move someone’s appetite, especially for those on diet.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ismail Alfarwachi Concert

Ismail Alfarwachi is one of the best artists in Iraq in the late 1980's. A fabulous singer and a musician who put his mark with his style among many stars in that period such as Raed George and Adel Ogla.

Alfarwachi is a graduate from the fine art academy in Iraq and started his musical career with Raed George band as the lead singer. His raise to stardom came in 1990 with the release of his album "doos ala galbak", which branded his style with the use of synthesizers mixed with traditional Arabic maqam (scale). In 1991, during the Gulf War, Ismail Alfarwachi lost his right leg in the war but that did not prevent him from resuming his career with more and greater success, and recorded a lot of albums, such as "yal Habeebe" and "Khamra Al Hob". My personal favorite was "habeebty inti w bes". Remember, his fame came after recording a live album and not a studio album, so that was a motivation to record more live albums during his musical career. One to remember was "Hayra" - I still remember some of my friends while I was in Baghdad used to play that album loud in their cars' stereos and enjoy every song.

In late 1990's, I think, Alfarwachi left Iraq and re-located in North America, and his concerts in Canada and the United States were a source of envy of many Iraqis not living in that continents to have the chance to see that great artist live. However, Alfarwachi determination to be with his fans had no limits, he toured in the past years many other countries in the world, such as Australia, Jordan, New Zealand and the Netherlands. His appearance and touring was and still bringing happiness for many Iraqis living abroad who still remember and listen to music from the old days when real good and professional music used to be made.

Last year, Alfarwachi recorded and filmed the song "Inte Iraqi", a song that describe the feeling of an ordinary Iraqi who loves and proud of his country. The song became one of the most seen and listened songs on the internet by Iraqis for some time.

Now... this is the chance for those living in the United States, especially in Phoenix, Arizona to meet the prominent artist because he is advertising for his live concert on October 10. Click on the image to get full details on how to book your ticket and more info.

It would be great if anyone can record or film the concert. Drop me an email if anyone do that.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Which Is Better? Shiite, Sunni, or Muslim?

The two parts video below are from a debate between an Iraqi political analyst, Sabah Il Khuzaey and a Mohammed Al Qizwini, a religious scholar from Iran. It is part of a coverage of the anniversary of the death of Fatima Al Zahra, the daughter of the Prophet Mohammed, and the wife of Imam Ali.

The video begins with a question by Sabah Al Khuzay asking the Iranian Cleric's permission to ask questions about the Shiite faith. The latter declined and saying something like "pleae address all your questions to my office in Tehran (the voice is not that clear). The Iraqi man appealed "... Can I talk to you, please, from a Shiite to a Shiite"? The Iranian cleric answer came quickly and with confidence "I don't consider you as Shiite. I saw you on TV last night and you said that you are neither a Sunni or a Shiite, so I don't consider you as Shiite".

Sabah Al Khuzaey was not intimated by this answer, with eyes rolling, trying to focus to understand the voice on the other side due to its bad telephone communication, he asked back:
- Are you... are you Shiite or Sunni?
- I am Shiite (with more confidence and pride in the cleric voice)
- and I am Shiite too

Al Qizuiny replied calmly
- no! you are not Shiite...

But before the cleric finished his sentence Al Khuzay extended his hand to the camera as a gesture of questionning the last remark of the Iranian cleric and said:

"is it for you to decided?"... "are you in the right position to decide if I can be sunni or Shiite"?

The Iranian man replied with the same tone "yesterday you came on TV and said that you are neither Sunni or Shiite, you said that you are just a Muslim".

That reply was the trigger that marked the end of the Iraqi man's tolerance. The influence of provocation was clear, so he said "but (if I say that) do you think of it as blasphemy?"

"which one is better in your opinion? to be referred to as Sunni or Shiite? or is it better to be identified as Muslim who believe in no god but the one god and Mohammed is the prophet of God? Which one is better in your opinion?"

The Iranian cleric said " "Yes, anyone believe in that is a Muslim, but I still don't consider you Shiite, because non of what you said yesterday and today on TV is coming from a Shiite person"

At the question by Al Khuzay, it looks like the Iranian has dropped the line, but that did not prevent the Iraqi political analyst from having the urge to say his mind. He made emphasize on a number of facts, most importantly that the common Shiites in Iraq are different in their believes and mentality from their counterparts in Iran. That Iran with its interference and their fraud in writing history of Islam hundreds of years ago did ruin the beautiful principles and basics of this believes.

After that broadcast, Al Khuzay became the target of many who didn't agree with his opinion on Shiism and various internet sites and discussion forums either put him as the rightous Shiite, or the infidel Shiite - depending where to look.

One of the attempts to undermine Al Khuaey own theory of tolerance among different sects in Islam was from a Shiite who called him on phone, recorded his conversation, and uploaded it on YouTube as 7 to 8 parts, under the title "The Truth About Sabah Al Khzaey". The interviwer named himself Abu Ali. This Abu Ali is claiming in the info of his voice video that all what Al Khuzaey is doing by coming on TV and bash clerics from Iran like Al Qiuiny was only an attempt from the Iraqi to win the affection of the Wahabies", especially that he is only appearing on Al Mustakillah satellite TV and he sits with other Saudi religious figures on debate shows.

By the way, I am not a fan of Al Khuzaey, and the only reason is his compassion for Saddam as a former leader of Iraq and his praise for Saddam's achievements. Clear enough to say that his support for the ressistence is unconditional in fighting the US occupation. But which ressistence he is refering to? Interuptation does not need a lot to know which ressistence in question!

However, I like his concept of never to differentiate between one Shiite and a Sunni and his strong opposition to accepting such a concept as blasphemy?

I agree with him when say "it is the most shameful thing to call this man a Shiite or that man a Sunni".

He identify the current Iraqi Regime as "sectarian".

He also identify Shiites rituals as imported to Iraq, such rituals as slapping the face, hitting the head with an axe on the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussain, or saying bad things about the three Caliphates Abu Bakr, Omar and Othman..etc

From all what I have said about this man above, my conclusion is simple, Al Khuzaey is an example of how Iraqi people became divided, or is it that the comparison between now and then made many feel sorry for the days when Saddam used to rule the country, forgetting that one Saddam in power has been substituted with 10, carrying the same methods on every aspect and every way one can imagine.

Part One

Part Two

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More from Iraq’s Old Days

I don’t want to give the impression that I am pro-monarch person regarding the political system in Iraq because of the many occasions where I put pictures of that period on my blog.

I am not anti-monarch either

I am only trying to reflect different aspects of the history of this beautiful country and its beautiful people

Click on each image to get larger view

I will start with Al Khadmiyah, Baghdad, in 1919


For those wondering how the first king ruled Iraq after the country creation looked like, This King Faisal, in traditional customs


And below is another picture of the late king wearing western suit.


Below is a picture of the first leader of the Republic of Iraq.


King Faisal II, the last king of Iraq before it became a republic


Look carefully, for Baghdadis, look close, do you recognize the structure?

This is an aerial shot Abu Hanifa Mosque in Al Adhamiyah


According to the picture, this is Al Rasheed street in Baghdad, 1950, during some flood


When I saw the picture below, I started to think, these are red double decker buses for public transport, which was used in Iraq till the fall of former regime. The picture below is like bus schedule of the lines these buses was taken around Baghdad.

No difference from these I see in bus / tram stops here in the Netherlands

Ironic… no, sad, because Iraq in late 1950 used to be no difference from any civilized country around the world


This is a picture of a reception at the ministry of foreign affairs in Baghdad during monarch period.



Look at the way Iraqi Prime Minister, Noory Saeed bowing in front of the lady, the prestige in the way the head of the Iraqi government at that time is greeting a lady.

According to the source where I found the picture it is “Nuri Pasha Al Said. Probably in Pakistan. Ayoub Khan President of Pakistan in Background. Not sure if the lady is Mrs Ayoub Khan. Also to be seen in the photo, Burhan addin Bash'ayan and Fadhil Jamali”


King Feisal's 2nd birthday. According to the source: “I have tagged the children I recognise.
In this photo: Muna Al Farisi, Salwan Baban, Anisa Sadoun, Aysar Sulaiman, Lamis Al Daftari, Nasser Al Haideri, salwa sati' Alhuseri, muhsin Suleiman”


This picture is taken during the inauguration of King Faisal II.

Notice the guard drinking water!

Also… anyone noticed the similarities in the uniform those guards are wearing?


This is from an evening with Um Kalthom. The source of the picture says that the people in the picture are: Jamal Baban, Najib Al Rawi, Mumtaz Al Omari, Fazila Daghistani, Suad Al Omari, Nimat Yasin Al Hashimi, Nuri Al Said, Salima Daghistani, Tawfiq Al Sweidi, Tahsin Qadry, Obeyd Al Mathaifi


I liked the comments from which I took the photos from and I will quote it here:

“All the models were Iraqi ladies from prominent families. Can anyone imagine this kind of event taking place in Iraq today????”


The below picture of a fancy dress party where Iraqi Prime Miniter Noori Saeed, his wife Naima standing to the left of Photo. Their son Sabah and Ghazi Al Daghistani in Daghistani costume seated.


Another picture of a reception party at the embassy in Tehran where King Faisal II is seen with other distinguished guests such as queen Shahinaz


Royal hunting where King Faisal II is seen in the light jacket


King Feisal's Birthday Al Rihab Palace . May 2nd 1946. Um Kalthum sang at this occasion


The below picture is from the Baghdad Pact session in 1955


Iraqi Prime Minister, Noory Saeed (left) with Turkish politician Adnan Menderes at the airport.


It has been said that the only statue remained untouched after the 2003 war was of Al Sadoon in central Baghdad.

The picture below is from the unveiling ceremony of Abdul Muhsin Al Sadoun's statue. Baghdad May 20th 1933


Abdel Kareem Qasim in one of his visits


This is an illustration of how Al Khayyam cinema theater