I am in the land of belly dancing, for a whole month! So, I hope that this time I will be able to go somewhere to watch one of the country’s famous belly dancers live. Until then, I offer you my choice for this month, a cute vintage belly dancer, Zeinat Olwi, who is not so much sexy as like a 1940′s athlete with a gorgeous muscly body which she moves beautifully. I also love the beginning of the clip en silhouette, both her in three different windows then the musicians, with each tableau looking like a woodcut from the 20′s or 30′s. A delightful scene. And for those who don’t speak Arabic, the woman’s voice you hear halfway through is asking her silly companion to build her a swimming pool which he should fill with champagne rather than water. Perhaps I should consider doing this in Sicily although I am not sure who I would do it for! Oh, and the beautiful lady who makes a worried entrance at the end is one of Egypt’s greatest actresses, Faten Hamama, who was once married to Omar Sharif.
I can’t say I particularly like Soheir Zaki but I am very amused by her. In fact, I am amused by the whole clip from a 1972 film, the time of my youth when I thought that all belly dance and dancers were incredibly vulgar. She kind of justifies my erroneous youthful stand. She is definitely not classy, nor beautiful, being rather too plump for my taste but she dances well. And I love her 70′s orchestra, not to mention the scene itself with the bored ladies and the overexcited gentleman trying to get close to her. A real blast from my past even if I never went to night clubs like the one featured, nor watched films like this one then! Anyhow, I hope you will be as amused by her as I am!
I don’t know if mehyawa (or mahyawa), a fermented fish sauce that has its origins in Iran and is used widely as a spread in the Arabian Gulf, will ever become a global ingredient but it deserves to be. Eaten on its own with bread (usually regag or tannur) or with other ingredients like the fried egg in the picture above, it could be considered an ‘umami bomb’. I can’t remember where I first tasted it but I am pretty sure it was at my wonderful friend, Maryam Abdallah. Maryam is a wonderful cook and the first ever Qatari TV chef. She is married to a Bahraini and gets her mehyawa from Bahrain. According to her and other friends, Bahrain is the place for mehyawa but I got mine from my wonderful friend, Sheikha Bodour al Qasimi, who has been (still is) my saviour whenever I needed to learn about Emirati cuisine. Also when I wrote my piece on camel hump for Lucky Peach when she gave me a whole baby camel! Anyhow, I was having an exchange with her sister Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi about mehyawa on Instagram where I rued the fact that I didn’t bring back any with me from Qatar (Maryam had offered to give me some but I worried about having a bottle of it in my luggage) and Hoor said she would arrange to send me some. Not long after Bodour’s driver was at my door with two huge jars of excellent home-made mehyawa.
I wonder if I will miss London once I leave. I will certainly miss bumping into friends, and sometimes friends I haven’t seen for years as happened the other day when I saw Paul on my way to Joel, my wonderful hairdresser who I like to describe as a hair sculptor. Paul and I met on a press trip to Sao Paolo where I had played truant, missing almost all that was on the program. To be fair I had been before. It was a nice surprise to see him again and we stopped to chat before Paul suggested I go with him to the rare tea lady where he was heading. Joel had called to say he was running late as he often does, so, I went. And I am glad I did. Not only did I bump into more friends there but I also discovered a new passion, dried almond blossom. Henrietta, who I knew virtually, showed us the incredibly beautiful dried blossom saying she was getting them from a new Spanish supplier and then offered to infuse some for us to taste. Flower teas are not new. We have z’hurat (a mixture of dried flowers) in Lebanon and Syria where we also infuse individual flowers, the Chinese have chrysanthemum and other flower teas and the Japanese have sakura but I had never seen dried almond blossom. My plan now is to grow my own almond trees in Sicily (hoping I can on my mountain!) to have my own supply, and to supply Henrietta, making a little money from the land. They are expensive but totally worth it and you will be able to order the dried blossom as of September (I think) from the Rare Tea Company.