tastily touring: a visit to bahrain with a muhammara recipe
Bahrain, or the Kingdom of Bahrain, its official name is a rather small island state in the Persian Gulf, just north of Qatar. Bahrain is an archipelago of 36 islands located off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia. The four main islands are joined by causeways.
In Arabic, bahrayn is the dual form of bahr (“sea”), so al-Bahrayn means “the Two Seas”.The official language is Arabic, but English is very widely spoken and is the principal language of commerce. According to the US Department of State Bahrain is one of the most densely populated countries in the world; about 89% of the population lives in the two principal cities of Manama and Al Muharraq. Approximately 66% of the indigenous population is originally from the Arabian Peninsula and Iran.
When looking up the culture at Bahrain Tourism it was very interesting to note that after clicking on the tab “About Bahrain” this is what appeared under the subtitle “Culture”:
The Kingdom of Bahrain is a Muslim country therefore; most of the people are dressed modestly. Bahrain is also considered one of the most modern countries in the GCC and has a mixture of people of different cultures and nationalities.
MEN: When visiting a mosque shorts and sleeveless tops are not allowed. Shoes are also not allowed when you enter the mosque. It is recommended that you talk quietly when you are there.
Traditional Areas: For the central market, clothes can be less formal. You are free to wear anything you like as long as it is respectable.
Malls and Restaurants: Casual clothes are the best choice for such an outing.
Private Homes: When you are invited to an indoor party informal respectable clothes are recommended. Smart casual sounds perfect.
WOMEN: Mosques: Hair, arms and legs must be covered. Loose clothing required. No shoes allowed inside the mosque
Traditional Areas: Souq, villages, central market, and etc.Skirts should be below the knee but long skirts and pants are preferable. Short sleeves to long sleeve tops preferable.
Malls: Seef mall, A’ali mall, Dana mall, Bahrain mall etc. Malls are very crowded areas; people are usually smartly dressed at malls.
This description of the culture of Bahrain, on their tourism site, is both uninformative and telling. It is disconcerting that the only thing they found merit in telling a potential tourist had to do with proper clothing. On a tourism site, which would seem to want to entice visitors, it might be prudent to add a little more detail about the rich history and culture of the country instead of a dress code, which could have been detailed under a tab titled “Visitor’s Guide to Cultural Norms” or something of the sort. The site did list historical locations that warrant a visit and this list gives a more complete picture of Bahrain.
Bahrain is known for oil and pearls and is home to the Bahrain World Trade Center. These are imposing (787 ft) high twin tower complex located in Manama. Bahrain imports many of its food products due to the limited amount of land. The crops produced in Bahrain are dates, bananas, pomegranates, tomatoes and cucumbers. And, because there is little land for grazing animals there is a very limited amount of cattle. However, the location in the Persian Gulf allows for a good deal of fish and shrimp.
Pomegranate juice is quite popular in the United States, but we don’t use pomegranates in many recipes; perhaps the seeds in a salad or the juice to make a vinaigrette. We found a recipe that is a wonderful alternative to hummus and full of flavor. Muhammara makes use of walnuts, pomegranates and roasted red peppers, combined with seasoning, to provide a dip that is delicious served with pita chips or bagel chips. The next time you think of serving hummus, give muhammara a try instead for a savory alternative.
Muhammara Recipe by (Food. People. Want)
1 thick slice whole grain or wheat bread
1 cup walnuts, toasted
3 large roasted red bell peppers
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (Can be purchased, but if you cannot find, see recipe below)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-2 large pinches ground Aleppo chili pepper or a mixture of sweet paprika and cayenne to taste
1 teaspoon table salt, or more to taste
Juice of half a lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
1. Toast the bread slice in an oven that has been preheated to 350° until it is dry and no longer soft in the middle, about 5-7 minutes. Tear the toasted bread into pieces and pulse in a food processor until you have rough breadcrumbs. You should have close to 1 cup.
2. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and roast in the same 350° oven until they have taken on some color and begin to smell aromatic, about 5-10 minutes.
3. Place the roasted red peppers, toasted walnuts, breadcrumbs and garlic in the food processor and pulse a few times to just barely combine. Add the pomegranate molasses, cumin, and chili, salt and lemon juice and turn on the processor. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while the machine is running to emulsify the paste and bring everything together.
4. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Allow the mixture to rest for at least a half an hour before serving.
Pomegranate Molasses (Simply Recipes)
4 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1. In a large, uncovered saucepan, heat pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon juice on medium high until the sugar has dissolved and the juice simmers. Reduce heat just enough to maintain a simmer. Simmer for about an hour, or until the juice has a syrupy consistency, and has reduced to 1 to 1 1/4 cups. Pour out into a jar. Let cool. Store chilled in the refrigerator.