While I was living in Aleppo, I became the de facto ambassador to the city. I was never shy about expressing how much more interesting I thought Aleppo was than Damascus. As the capital city, Damascus always felt formal relative to Aleppo. Walking down the narrow streets of the old city in Aleppo felt like you were stepping back in time. The old buildings showed age, but also splendor. The hidden culinary gems in tucked away neighborhoods packed some of the most magnificent flavors I have ever experienced. I quickly gained a reputation among the US embassy staff and the Fulbright scholars in Damascus. Anytime anyone planed a trip to Aleppo, I was more than happy to show them around my favorite city. I knew my way though the historical sites, but most importantly, I knew where to find all the best food.
When the bomb cyclone hit the New England area a few days ago, I was prepared. The cyclone may have packed bitter cold wind chills and the ability to crush my soul like a popsicle, but I had soup. Specifically, Fadi’s red lentil soup. The bomb cyclone didn’t stand a chance. Before I get to the soup though, let me tell you about Fadi.
Note: I wrote this post for the IIE Fulbright Blog about my Fulbright experience in Syria.
Lost, I strolled up to a middle-aged gentleman standing a few feet beside me who was leisurely munching on a bag of peanuts. I cleared my throat as I approached him. “Marhaba,” “hello,” I said in my peculiar Arabic accent. As the man turned to me, I asked if he could point me in the direction of the market.
I love to walk around for hours deep in the labyrinth of souks that interweave the old city in Aleppo. I lose myself in the crowds, chat with vendors, drink coffee with strangers, and take in my surroundings. It’s an exhilarating feeling. The chatter, the people, the sales, the merchandise–it’s all a very lively experience.
I can’t believe I let January slip through my fingers. It went by incredibly fast and ended without notice. You should’ve seen my face when I found out it was already February; my heart sank. Only because I’ve been meaning to tell you about this fantastic recipe since I returned from Syria back in December; it’s a Middle Eastern stew of sorts called Shakrieh.
While I was in Syria, I got to meet Abu Fares. Those who know Abu Fares, or have read his blog, will know why this encounter deserves its own post; this man is a talented writer, inspiring humanist, and simply put, a great person. He really is. Not to mention it is his Shakrieh recipe, which I’ve made four times in the past couple of months, that is outstanding.