Happy Eid al-Fitr everyone! For the past few weeks that I’ve been in Dubai and Amman it’s been the tail end of Ramadan (to explain it simply and too general, Ramadan is the holy month of fasting that is a tenet of the Islam). Living in the Middle East, specifically theocratic states has made being in Amman and Dubai interesting. I’ve stayed in Morocco during the beginning and middle of the month of Ramadan, but this is my first time being around for the end of Ramadan. Basically, one of the most interesting things for a non-fasting/Muslim person is that within the Middle East/North Africa, eating, drinking, and smoking in public is forbidden for Muslims. For foreigners/non-Muslims/tourists it’s not forbidden in the same way, but it’s very very strongly frowned upon and to respect the cultural and religious space that I’ve been invited into, so I don’t eat or drink in public spaces. In my homestay, my host family has been very accommodating of non-fasting since they practice fasting more flexibly.
Living in Jordan during Ramadan has been interesting. I’ve spent a lot of times the past couple of weeks searching for places that I can have lunch at after my colloquial Arabic class and before my anthropology class. Most of the places I’ve been frequenting have been pretty smoky café/restaurants that offer food for non-fasters. If you’ve been to Amman and happen to be here also during Ramadan, Rainbow Street has a couple of places that are open like Turtle Green, Books@Café, and Shams al-Balad. If you’ve seen my posts on Instagram (@travelingcurl), I’ve been posting a lot of the yummy things I’ve been eating the past couple of weeks.
Last night (Tuesday) was the final night of Ramadan and fasting, so my host family and the two girls I’m living with starting making some Eid (festival) treats that our host mother’s family and relatives are going to eat when they visit this week!
These delicious tasty morsels are called maamoul (transliterating Arabic is hard). I can’t think of any sort of comparable American treat that is like maamoul, but it’s date paste or walnuts wrapped in a flaky, crumbly dough. Since Eid is family time, last night we made a lot of maamoul. Our host mother (bless her heart, she’s amazing) made all of the date paste and the dough, and let us put all the decorations for the maamoul. Usually, you stick to one design for the ones filled with dates and another for the ones filled with nuts, but our host mother lovingly called the diverse designs we made for all of them “American Jordanian” maamoul.
In first making our maamoul, we put a hole in the middle of the dates and not for the nut-filled maamoul. Then on a little plate, you spin the maamoul to make the bottom flat so it’s easier to design and then begin the super fun design process.
The designs that go on the maamoul are made of these cool little brass, almost fork like tongs that are used to pierce the outside of the dough. This helps the maamoul get cooked all the way to the center and makes them look really pretty/artistic.
We tried later to use this sort of wooden, mold tool to make the maamoul faster because there was a lot of them to do, but the mold made them look very un-pretty, so we scrapped that and kept up doing our very artistic designs.
When the maamoul come out of the oven, they were super golden and lovely and wonderful. The hot ma’moul has a very buttery, smooth texture with the really rich date filling. They taste even better once they’ve had time to cool because the texture becomes crumbly and the filling solidifies.
Since we have probably hundreds of maamoul to eat for the next few days, our host mom has been insistent that we eat a ton of maamoul during Eid.
I’m excited to see how life in Amman changes once Eid ends and seeing the influx of tourists from the Gulf that come to summer in Jordan after Eid because it’s so hot in the Gulf.
How has your summer been? Have you made any super tasty desserts this summer? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @travelingcurl.