Kushari

kushari

I’ve just spooned away a nice portion of kushari, originally Egypt’s poor man’s dish, but now enjoyed by everyone. Real comfort food, with vermicelli, macaroni rice, lentils, chickpeas, crispy fried onions and a rich tomato sauce. I like to add some chili, to give it a nice bite. Tastes so good, especially while watching the boats pass on the river Nile. Kushari joints are everywhere in Egypt, it is the country’s street food.

As far as I know, there is only one spot in Brussels where you can get kushari. It’s at Mr Falafel, Bd. Lemonnier, a tiny restaurant which only sells 2 dishes. Fresh veggies are available, prices are low, service is friendly and – surprise! – in Dutch! It is so funny when people talk to the owner in French, and hear him answer “Wablief?”

According to an article in The Guardian, kushari was served to the protesters at the Tahrir Square in Cairo during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. Guess who was in the country a few months later? Yep. And it was absolutely my best Egypt trip ever. No busloads of tourists (literally), just a handful of individual travellers. During the day we all did our thing individually, but in the evening we would meet up at a restaurant to mingle with locals, mostly people in the tourist industry, to have a meal together, and to talk Egyptian politics. Not my favourite subject, but I must say that I enjoyed sharing a freshly cooked meal with others, it is one of the joys of travelling alone. The chef would make one single dish, a nice tagine or something typical Egyptian, beer and wine were plentiful. A unique experience.

I can assure you that it is the most wonderful thing to visit the Great Hypostyle Hall almost alone, or just be 2 people in a tomb. Pictures will follow.

Why this all of a sudden craving for kushari and Egypt in general? It is all Joann Fletcher’s fault. This driven and erudite Egyptologist has made a series for the BBC, Immortal Egypt. Her enthusiasm and passion for Egyptian history, her appreciation of things of beauty and her delightful red hair make this series a true feast for the eyes and ears.

All the episodes can be found on Youtube, I listed them here. Enjoy!

1/4 The Road to the Pyramids

2/4 Chaos

3/4 Zenith

4/4 Invasion

 

 

Happy New Year!

Explosions of colour, reflected in the water
Explosions of colour, reflected in the water

This afternoon, I had my first Kulfi of the year. No, that is a lie. I had my first kulfi in my entire life. Thing is, I always skip desert, simply because I never have enough room for it.

A new Indian restaurant opened about a month ago in the center of Brussels (Jai Ho), and today I ate there for the second time. As I entered the restaurant, I greeted the only guest present, an elderly gentleman. We started chatting about travel. He had just flown back in from Hong Kong, where he celebrated New Year’s Eve. Apparently, the fireworks are quite impressive there.  Lucky him, in Brussels everything was cancelled due to an ongoing risk of terrorist attacks.

He appeared to be an avid traveller, and had been to India on several occasions. We chatted about Indian culture, world heritage, food, … and as the conversation continued, he brought up kulfi. The staff being so charming and fun to talk to (the gent was joking with them all the time), they allowed me to eat only bits of my different dishes. Result: I have enough Indian food in the fridge to last me at least 2 days, and I finally got to taste this rich, delicious desert.

This is exactly what I love about Brussels. You can enter a place, and start a conversation with a perfect stranger. Most of the time they are even happy to do so. A very open minded, multi cultural city, I can only hope this will never cease to exist. The kindness of strangers. Stranger than kindness. I can not imagine living anywhere else in this country.

Where else in this country can you have your eyebrows done by threading, for only a few euros? I first got to know this technique in my student years, must have been 1994, on a 6 week trip through Egypt. Waxing your eyebrows can lead to nasty accidents, and don’t even start about tweezers! The address? Oria is located in the centre of Brussels, not far from La Bourse. They do good haircuts too, for half the price you pay elsewhere. The place is divided into two different salons, one for men, and one for women. The atmosphere is warm and amicable; I recommend Saturday afternoon, if you like to see a bunch of beautiful young Arab women getting ready for an evening out. Coming to think of it, I never saw another “real Belgian” woman there. Inexplicable.

So why all this fuss about eyebrows and hairdos and Brussels? Well, tomorrow, I’m starting a new job, as a language trainer, right here in my city. Done with the daily 3 (or more) hour commute to some place in the Walloon Region. I’ll finally be a true “Bruxelesse”, and I’m looking forward to exploring my city, something I never had the time to do before. When you arrive home at 18:15 every day of the week, there is no time to volunteer in a school, or to engage in other activities that can help you truly understand our capital city.

I get a great start in this New Year. I wish you all a joyful, healthy and peaceful 2016. Some words of advice here:

  • be nice, everybody is fighting a fight you know nothing about
  • stay away from toxic people, toxic relationships, toxic places
  • there are a few tricks to slow down time, try them (safety first, of course)

I wish you all the best for 2016. Take good care.