Friday, June 11, 2010

Syria: Food

We ate delicious, fresh, well prepared food. Fresh fruits, whether made into fabulous juice drinks or offered at the end of most meals in Damascus, were abundant.

Fruit and vegetable market in Homs
The owner of the Noria Hotel in Hama advised us to stay away from parsley and mint as they frequently carry ecoli. Since parsley is in tabouli (delicious) and mint in refreshing lemonade drinks, this proved difficult.

Dinner at Layali Salihiyya, Damascus.

On only two occasions, in Homs, did we eat non-Middle Eastern food, both Italian. The first,at the Safir Hotel (not our style), was not memorable and the hotel was filled with busloads of various Europeans. The restaurant itself was located around a pool with palms overhead, bougainvillea in abundance, and lots of local businessmen. The other Italian meal in Homs, at Matrix, was excellent: food, people watching (the bags! the shoes! Sex and the City Redux!), ambiance.

In Aleppo (see descriptions/list in the Lonely Planet), as in any city of three + million people, there are restaurants at every social and price point. Even the most expensive meals we had were very cheap. We ate at Cordoba (in upscale neighbourhood), Beit Sissi (beautiful old home in Jdaideh, aka the Christian Quarter) , Al Qommeh (upstairs on fifth floor, mostly locals, live oud). One of the delights of dining in Syria arrives in the English spellings on the menus given to tourists. Fortunately, our son could read the Arabic. Eggplant is usually referred to by its French name 'aubergine', and one of our favourite menu items was 'stuffed aborigines'...this kept us going for days. Also on the menu were 'lamp chips' (lamb chops).

According to the prophet, one's fast is always broken by eating seven dates to keep ones system operating properly. After that, breakfast usually consisted of olives (black and green), hummus, yogurt (dry and wet), flat bread and often croissants and/or rolls, several types of cheese, hard boiled eggs (sometimes also beautifully thin omlettes) fruit, juices, tea, and both Syrian coffee and Nescafe.
Here is breakfast at the Talisman Hotel:

Alcohol is served in very few restaurants and then all that is found is Syrian wine (terrible) and Lebanese wine (OK) and various beers from Egypt, Europe, Russia. Beer, wine, and spirits can be purchased in the Christian Quarters of cities, a few non-Christian neighbourhoods in the larger cities. Most restaurants serve fruit-based drinks, tea, and coffee. The juice bars in all cities make fabulous fresh squeezed fruit drinks and smoothies (banana and milk based).

And desserts! Ice cream!
Here is the packed ice cream parlour in the souk in Damascus:


Jennifer said...

what wonderful descriptions - I wish I had gone!

Anonymous said...

last photo at ice cream parlor does not flatter your son:)

Anonymous said...

come to think of it, you have a very similar expression on your face:)

Hazel said...

we had our mouths full of ice cream!