I have to say, I am very lucky. I have wonderful friends who I can stay with all over the world and just recently, I’ve been in Tehran, staying with my lovely friend, Nasrine Faghih. I didn’t expect Tehran to be an easy city but thanks to Nasrine and a charming young friend of hers, Ali who was my guide while I was there, I actually had a great time. Ali took me to lots of different places, including the big bazaar which I didn’t actually like much. It is nowhere near as magical as the souks of Aleppo and I much preferred Tajrish, the small bazaar near Nasrine’s home, which was way more exciting. Still the big bazaar was fun, and definitely worth visiting if only for people watching.
But what was far more interesting was the little cook-shop (called tabbakhi in Persian) just outside the main entrance to the bazaar, on the other side of the street, specializing in lamb’s heads and tripe. Some of you may know that I can’t resist offal ( I did after all write The Fifth Quarter) and as soon as I spotted the heads soaking in a large tub of broth, I dragged Ali inside.
I tend to have an obsessive personality. If I like a shirt, I will buy half a dozen and not necessarily in different colours! If I enjoy a new dish, I will eat it again and again until I get bored with it. And if I want to taste something that is not so commonly available, I will think about it again and again until I find a way to try it.
Recently, I was invited to a feast in Al Ain, near Abu Dhabi. As is the custom here, I was relegated to the women’s quarters. I didn’t mind this. The host’s wife was gorgeous and totally charming; and I enjoyed talking to her about how she and her mother prepare various Emirati dishes. And when the time came for us to have lunch, I was thrilled to finally try camel meat cooked their way — as you know from a previous post, I have only had it minced and grilled on the street in Syria. Later, when all the male guests at the feast left, I joined the men of the house and as we talked about the feast, I realised that us women had been deprived of the camel hump. This was understandable. The choice cut is always served to the guest of honour and that day, this guest was sadly not me.