Earlier today a group of women congregated with their husbands and families over steaming dishes of succulent kunafa, zaatar, manaeesh, and all things lip-smackingly delicious.
With the gothic clock tower of a former hospital looming over, and the leaves of autumn rustling against the doors, it could have been an ordinary social meeting of the mosque nestled in an agricultural town.
Except it wasn’t – it was an Ethnic Food Festival and an innovative means to get to the hearts of the local people through their tantalised nostrils and empty stomachs.
Food is an amazing thing: it can bond, introduce, break down barriers and facilitate cohesion.
According to Ghada, an Egyptian doctor based in Britain, Islam has suffered unnecessarily due to ignorance stoked by the poker of the media.
Guarding a table of sweetmeats, she lamented that the locals were capable of burning down a new mosque, but not of asking about Islam, why she wears a hijab, and what the culture of the Middle East is like.
At the end of the day, she said, we are all human and we all laugh, work, and have families – so why not talk too?
Food it emerged, was a way to break down barriers in the isolated town and tempt the folk to lay down their matches and pitchforks, and succumb to the lusciousness that is Arabic food and culture.
Later this month food will be replaced with a dance festival, with the Debkeh and raqs sharqi; if the splendid oud does not melt hearts, then I know not what will.
[Image by *omar.]