Diet Secret of the Middle East Revealed

Raj’s Arabic class went on a field trip today and I tagged along. We met in Swéfiéh, about a five-minute drive from our house (if we didn’t get lost). According to Wikipedia, this area is  “…notorious for its night-life and shopping culture…” And even more interesting, “It is estimated that Swéfiéh has more Strip clubs, Gentlemen’s Clubs, Sex Shops, Bars, Nightclubs and Adult Entertainment Venues than the rest of the city combined, making Swéfiéh an unofficial red-light district among the residents.” In the Middle East? Did Raj know this?

Back to the ‘G’ rated field trip…We met outside of a bakery and our first stop on the tour was into a spice store. Raj’s teacher showed us around, pointing out different spices, letting us taste and smell things, some were familiar to me, others were not. There was a tea section in the rear of the store that held all sorts of Middle Eastern homeopathic remedies. This is where things got interesting. There were herbs and concoctions for kidney problems, weight issues, anxiety, any ailment you’ve got, they have something for you to steep in hot water. My favorite was the ‘natural glue.’ It looked like rock candy, all crystalline in structure and in many different colors. You steep it, like everything else here and drink it–but DON’T eat it (it looks like what I’d imagine crack looks like). We had a few minutes to shop and guess where we headed? Back to the tea section. We picked up the miracle tea to “control satiety,” otherwise known as “Fitness Tea.” I’ll let you know how much weight I’ve lost next week.

Next stop, a deli. We congregated in the front of the store by the preserves. There were all sorts of interesting looking preserves, whole fruits, vegetable medleys, and syrup. The writing was all in Arabic, but the teacher told us what each one was and how it’s used. She said that these were all “hand-made” in Syria, known for very sweet fruits and the best preserves in the region.We picked up some pomegranate syrup to splash in our vodka tonics.

Next door to the deli was the butcher. I’m not squeamish, but I prefer to go to the butcher only when it’s absolutely necessary. I avoid butchered body parts and blood and prefer my meat clean and sanitarily prepared (how I miss Whole Foods). I saw the hanging carcasses in the window, checked out the chicken parts, and then headed out to wait for the group. As you can see, felines are welcome into the store. What’s wrong with cats roaming through the butcher shop?

Last stop, the bakery. The intoxicating smell of sugar and yeast had been wafting through the air since the moment we stepped out of the car. The bakery was overwhelming with an amazing array of sweets, chocolates, breads, pizzas (not pizzas, but something that looks like them), pita, croissants, bread sticks, everything you can imagine. We bought a selection of desserts to try along with a small selection of chocolate croissants and other extremely healthy snacks.

Best of all, now that we’ve got the fitness tea, we can eat all of the sweets we want and not worry about a thing. Let me know if you want me to send any your way.

Here’s our loot. The best deal was at the bakery–about $5 JDs for all of the fat-free treats; the syrup was $4 and the tea was $5.

23 thoughts on “Diet Secret of the Middle East Revealed

  1. I guess you’ve found a new Buzz!! Can Raj get his almond croissants and red velvet cupcakes there? Everything looks delicious! Good thing there’s the tea for after the sweets, ship some this way. Will you be going back to the spice shop for all your spices?

    1. It’s definitely no Buzz. No chairs, no tables, no COOL people and NO CUPCAKES. But don’t fear, there’s a cupcake bakery on the list of places to go SOON called Sugar Daddy. We’ll see how they stack up against Buzz. You don’t get any tea b/c you already drink Skinny Girl products. We have to ration this.

  2. Did you meet with the Mistress of Spices? Did she hear the spices telling her that you needed the fitness tea? I like how it is clearly labeled in English and I like how the model is moving in a fit way. The question is, if you go back to the bakery, will you be able to ask for the treats by name and say the number desired in Arabic, or will you just point and raise the correct amount of fingers? Nothing excited me more but stressed me out than ordering from bakeries in Italy because you don’t face the counter but the cashier when ordering, I didn’t know what most things were called and I was confusing my Spanish numbers and the Italian ones. When do I place my spice and jam order?

    1. The mistress of spices doesn’t work in this country. Only her husband. Some of the gals get to sit on the sidewalk outside of the stores selling bags of okra and such. I have to buy jars, but by the time I get them shipped here, the bounty will have disappeared. I only took a picture of the English side. There is an Arabic side too. They make a Pantene shampoo here that is for” less hair falling.” Would you like an order of that too? If we go back, Raj is the interface man. I just point.

      1. Must be nice to have “an Interface” man. I don’t think that I would trust the Pantene. It might be the Fantene made in China fake brand and if it’s mixed with plastics etc. there might be “more hair falling”. I would buy some okra from those ladies. I have only had it in gumbo. That is a vegetable that you should experiment with. Some people love it and some loathe it. Let’s see what camp you fall into.

        1. Raj’s mom makes it all the time. My interface man loves okra and claims it’s his favorite dish. It’s not on the approved list, so I don’t make it. However, with a side of fitness tea, it might be okay.

  3. I was looking for the apple fritters, do they have any there? It lookis like a great side trip for a red light district. with pastry supplies. Would you feel comfortable visiting there without Raj ?

    1. No, the question to you would be, “Do you feel comfortable letting her visit there without Raj? She’ll get brave. By the third week in Rome, the kids and I were venturing out on our own.

  4. Jen, I saw the comment to drop mom off and let her fend for herself. Not nice!
    I would like some of the desserts with slim tea afterwards. Do these spices remind you of Penseys? When we were in Athens there was an enormous long hall like stall that had many dead carcasses hanging from the ceiling. The smell was very fowl. I could barely walk into the stall. It’s a different world than what we are accustomed too.

    1. It wasn’t stinky and the area is actually quite nice, which is why I thought the part about the red light district was funny. There’s nothing sketchy about the area except the driving and the 30 minute parking. We got a “warning ticket,” but who would know because the signs and the warning were in Arabic.

  5. Is that my dad or my mom posing as my dad? I am a little confused. Those spices don’t remind me of Penzey’s, they remind me of this great movie I told you about, The Mistress of Spices.

  6. I don’t know why Ann comes up with my name, it must be sun spots causing this but we will try to get Annie her own comment section.

    1. Thank you dad for the clarification. Get mom her own account. She might get you falsely blamed for inappropriate comments. Just kidding:)

  7. Hi Jen, I posted a comment to your blog earlier, but I forgot to mention an online store called Have you heard of them? You probably have, but if you haven’t, they ship to Jordan. I live in Aqaba and I get stuff shipped to me all the time. It’s like Whole Foods minus the produce, fresh meat and dairy. But they have just about everything else. Enjoy!

  8. I love the smell of spices, I find those ich earthy scents to be intoxicating 🙂 So beautifully written with your descriptions of the Tea Section, butchery (and pet cat) though to the yeast and sugar scents wafting on the air. Lovely.

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