Egyptian Ful Medames {Recipe}

My book club met to discuss an Egyptian book, so I decided to make an Egyptian dish, ful medames.

 

Ful medames is a meal of cooked fava beans dating back to Ancient Egypt then exported to other parts of the Arab world, such as Djibouti, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

 

It seemed the perfect accompaniment to our lively discussion of banned book, War in the Land of Egypt by Yusuf Al Qa’id to commemorate Arab American Heritage Month.
The book was difficult to read at times due to it’s too close to home subject matter, but unanimously loved by everyone. Right away it was noted that, despite it being written about the eve of the 1973 October war, it was very timely due to our current politically nepotism.  It showcases a case of the privileges bestowed upon those with money and power.  From Amazon review:

This book tells the story of Masri (the only character with a name), a young Egyptian peasant who is sent into the Egyptian army on the eve of the 1973 Yom Kippur war in place of a rich man’s son. Al-Qa’id tells his tale from several different perspectives: that of the village headman (the Umda) whose son Masri will replace; the broker who finds Masri; the hapless young man’s father; his friend; his commanding officer; and finally, the investigator sent to look into the switch. The one character we do not hear from is Masri.

It soon becomes apparent why this book was banned in Egypt, as Al-Qa’id uses the events surrounding the war to indict the bureaucratic corruption and social inequality rife in his country. Each character represents a different facet of Egyptian society with Masri himself, by virtue of his name (which, in Arabic, translates as “Egyptian”), standing for Everyman. Political this novel doubtless is, but it is also a masterfully crafted piece of fiction and a genuine page-turner as well. –Alix Wilber

 

The ful medames was also a hit and everyone helped themselves to seconds, which to an Arab is the highest compliment.  I had never made ful before but had eaten it hundreds of times growing up. It was my father’s favorite meal and simple one he mastered When my mother was at school studying for her PhD, he would make it for us. All. The. Time.  I got so sick of it that I never ate it again once I left home for college.

 

But because it’s such a staple known Egyptian food, it would have been wrong to serve anything else with such an adumbrate political book.

 

Ingredients

Fava beans
Garlic
Cumin
Olive oil
Tomatoes (optional)
Boiled eggs (optional)
Feta cheese (optional)

 

Add the fava beans, cumin and garlic in a pot with a cup of water and let it boil. You can buy the beans whole or cheat and buy them canned (in which case, just use the water from the can).

Lower the temperature to simmer and let sit for two hours, stirring occasionally. The beans are cooked until very soft.  In ancient times, the ful was left simmering in large copper jars throughout the night, to be served from the next morning.

While the beans are cooking, chop up the tomatoes, boil the eggs and crumble the cheese. Place all in separate bowls with spoons to have available for toppings.

 

Once your ful is ready, Scoop it up in bowls, top with olive oil and pass on to family and friends to pick their own individualized toppings.

Enjoy with a side of couscous with grilled veggies.

 

We ended our evening with a healthy dessert of halwa and fig crackers.  Please stop by A Crafty Arab on Pinterest to see more recipes from the Arab world.

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Door Blessing Hamsa {Tutorial}

The hamsa is a palm shaped talisman, or amulet, thought to protect against the evil eye.  It can be found through out the Arab world that is in North Africa and the Middle East. Used as a sign of protection, it can be found on all the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, from Spain to Morocco.

 

I thought it might be something to bring up with my daughter to celebrate Arab American Heritage Month. I want her to learn about this symbol that is uniquely born of her Arab roots and has spread to other cultures.

 

The hamsa has been called a Khamsah, the Arabic word for “five”,  to sympbolise the five fingers of the hand.  The five fingers are occasionally used to symbolism the five pillars of Islam. It has also been referred to as the Hand of Fatima, after the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

 

A few years ago when I was on vacation, I saw this universal sign of protection in both Egypt and Turkey.  It can be found in souks, the Arabic word for markets, as well as in homes of Arab Christians, Jews and Muslims.  The hamsa’s path into Jewish culture can be traced through its use in Islam. The khamsa holds recognition as a bearer of good fortune among Christians in the region as well. Levantine Christians call it the hand of Mary.

 

Origins of the hamsa have been traced back to Tanit, an Amazigh goddess in Egypt but also to Carthage, which is the area that is now modern day Tunisia.

 

Due to it’s origins, there are many who believe that it is a pagan symbol and does not have a place in Islam.  They feel it’s magical or mystical and beyond the scope of the Quran.

 

I shared both views with my daughter as we made today’s craft.  Follow along the picture tutorial as we make a hamsa to help bless our home.

 

Supplies

Wire
Copper wire
Pencil
Wire cutters
Needle nose pliers
Chain
Wood beads
8.5 x 11 paper

My daughter traced out her hand with the pencil on the paper.

She learned how to use the needle nose pliers to bend the wire to trace her hand outline.

She then learned how to use the wire cutters to cut the wire off the spool.

She cut off two pieces of wire of equal lengths and turned them into two S shapes.

To attache the two shapes to each other, she cut off small pieces of the copper wire and twisted it around the middle two spots where they touch.

She then used more copper wire to attach the S shaped design to the wire hamsa.

To add some movement below, she attached a wood bead to the cooper wire and twisted the wire closed.  She then added more beads, alternating colors. Now our beads will hit the door when it’s open to create a windchime.

To attache the bead dangle to the hand, she added chain.  To attach the chain to the wire, she simply used the needle nose pliers to make a closed loop.

 

Our hamsa is ready for our front door. 

 

If you enjoyed this DIY tutorial and would like to learn more about the Arab world, please visit A Crafty Arab on Pinterst.

 

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Mauritania Flag Banner {Tutorial}

Arab American Heritage Month seems like a great time to continue our quest to learn about all the different countries in the Arab League. We settled on Mauritania, which became a member in 1973.

 

Mauritania (Arabic: موريتانيا) is located in the Maghreb region of Africa.  It is boarded  by Morocco/Western Sahara to the north, Algeria in the northeast, Mali in the east/southeast, Senegal to the southwest and the Atlantic Ocean in the west.

 

The capital is Nouakchott, right on the Atlantic Ocean, as the majority of the country is covered by the sand of the Sahara Desert.

 

The flag of Mauritania is very unusual because it only contains the colors gold and green and not the common flag colors in all other world flags: red, white or blue.  It was adopted on April 1, 1959 and consists of a green background with a central upward pointed crescent moon and star.

 

The gold symbolizes the sands of the Sahara Desert and the green is for Islam, while some consider that green symbolizes a bright future and growth. The crescent and star are also symbols of Islam and seen on other flags such as Turkey, Libya and Tunisia.

 

For this project, we recycled a Styrofoam tray that came with our meat from the grocery store. If you follow our lead, please soak it for a little bit in a mixture of water with a dash of soap/beach. I just added a few drops in a bucket and soaked it for a few minutes.   You can also buy them new, so I included the link below.

Supplies

Styrofoam tray
Xacto
Pencil
Scissors
Glue
Fabric paint
Ribbon
Felt cut into 2.5 x 4 inch pieces
Fabric glue
Printout of 2.5 x 4 inch Mauritania flag

I found a black and white outline of the Mauritania flag and made it the same size as our pre-cut felt pieces. My daughter cut out the flag.

She then cut out the moon and star from the inside of the flag.

She laid out the flag on the Syrofoam and outlined the whole flag first, then the moon and star on a differnet part of the tray.

She used the Xacto to cut out the main flag shape and also the moon and star.

Next she used the flag print out as a guide and glued the cut out moon and star Styrofoam pieces to the Styrofoam flag piece.  This will need to set, so she put it aside for half an hour or so.

Now the fun painting starts! She just squirted the fabric paint directly onto the moon and star.

She positioned the stamp directly over the felt flag, since they were the same size, and pushed down gently to get the paint to transform.  Every time she did a new flag, she added more paint. ( If a child messes up, you can flip it over to use the new side and place the banner against a wall. If your flag is going in a window, wait for the paint to dry, flip your flags over and do the over sides so both can be enjoyed. )

She let the paint dry and came back to used fabric glue to add a flag to the ribbon.  Our ribbons was nice and wide so she could flip it over to give the flag to make a nice trim.

She added the rest of her flags to the ribbon, leaving a few inches in between them. Let the fabric glue dry overnight. I put our banner between two heavy art books to make sure the ribbon stayed folded over the flags while it set.

The best part is now we have a stamp to use on another project later. Or buy more meat and create a whole new stamp to use.

If  you enjoyed making the stamp and would like to try your hand at another, try our Moon & Star Stamp {Tutorial}.

If you enjoyed learning about the Arab world, be sure to visit A Crafty Arab on Pinterst.