15 things I learned in Shanghai

1- It is not a tourist friendly city.

2- People are not helpful and dismissive.

3- It is mostly a concrete jungle, and has no spirit, except for a few parts of the city.

4- Everything is mostly in Chinese, and geared for Chinese.

5- The majority of the people don’t know the basic English words, like; taxi, toilet, subway, metro.

6- The service sector is horrible, and mostly people are borderline rude.

7- You have to bargain.

8- They are loud people.

9- You can only find one brand of Tampons, even in Walmart.

10- They have very good hot-pot restaurants.

11- It is OK to pick your nose in public.

12- In most public areas they have squat toilets.

13- People, spit and litter in the streets.

14- There are many homeless, and beggars.

15- Tab water isn’t potable.

Isfahan, Half of the world (Nisf Jahan)

Naqsh Jahan Square

Naqsh Jahan Square

Isfahan:
Isfahan, one of the most historical cities of Iran, and was once one of the largest cities in the world and it served as the capital of the Persian Empire in the 16th century. Although it is considered the third biggest city in Iran, with a population of approx five million people, its a small city in terms of how exposed the people are. People are traditional, and when I asked an Iranian girl, what is the difference between Iran and Mashhad for instance, because the latter is one of the most traditional and religious city since one of Iran’s biggest Imams is buried there; Imam Reza, and one of the most bedazzling architectural phenomena as his mosque . She said, “The difference is in the mentality of the people. In Isfahan, people hardly get accustomed to any new trends that evolve in the society. They want to live according to an old set of rules, that their ancestors lived by ages and ages ago. These rules are not necessary religious, they are mostly social, which means they lack flexibility.” As for Mashhad she said, people take any social norms old or new, and apply them through religion, they always ask does these rules align with our beliefs or not? An Isfahainan well traveled friend, has a different opinion he said that although he doesn’t agree with everything in the Isfahanian culture, like the fuss and details of the marriage traditions, but he feels like ,”you can’t rule out all the culture because these rules are also part of our identity,” he said.
In Isfahan, people can ask you all sorts of questions in the first five minutes, like, how old are you? What are you doing here? How long you have been here and how long you are going to stay here? Are you married? Do you have babies? ending with the most popular question in all Iran; “Do you like Iran? Or what do you think about Iranians? Or Isfahanians?

Today I went to visit the Chehlstone palace which is very close to Meydan Naqsh Jahan nowadays ( Imam Khomeni square), I was mesmerized by how colorful the patterns and the drawings were, even the mosques in Iran are one of the most colorful I have ever seen. The famous combination of the Shia mosques are grades of blue and yellow tiles that are so beautiful, along with their mirror work. The thing about these beautiful colored mosques, that they stands in sharp contrast and almost obscured by the people who come to pray. The women are mostly dressed in in a black chador; which is a loose, , full length, black gown, that is from the top of the head till the toes and usually open. Sometimes the streets, and monuments are obscured by the amount of women WILLINGLY wearing black in the streets of Isfahan. When I asked about the reason, “we mostly wear it out of tradition, than religion.” However, what I figured out later, that there is a very fine-line between tradition and religion in Isfahan, that at the end you won’t know what is what.

Rice : waste not a grain

You  can’t  imagine  what a bowl  of  rice  pudding  can do to the  soul. After  a long  school  day,  or coming  home  after  a long  day  at work  and  longing  for  comfort  food, this can be the cure. I watched  my husband  coming  sometimes  late  at night, with  an intention  to  skip  dinner  but  wants something  filling  and comforting, and reached immediately for a bowl.  Barely have  time  to  cook?  you can  even have time to  make  dessert. Just take a look inside  your  fridge.

Rice Pudding :

Ingredients:

Minimumm  a cup of well  cooked  leftover  plain rice.

2 cups of milk (preferably  full  cream)

1/2 a cup of fine sugar

1tbs of Rose water

1tsp Mcetkh

1/2 cup of starch

Pistachio powder for garnish

How to make it:
Heat the rice in a cooking pot, add some water to it if you were keeping it in the fridge. After it becomes soft, and it absorbed all the water, add the cold milk,sugar,and starch. Stir till it reaches a boil. Then reduce the heat, add the rose water and Mcetkh. When you feel that it became a soft and homogeneous mix , pour it in bowls or glasses while hot. Cool for minimum

Rice Pudding

Rice Pudding

four hours then serve it cold,garnish with Pistachio powder .

Iran Journal: Iran through the eyes of an outsider

My trapezing in the Middle East  for almost three years finally lead me to Iran.

Tehran: September 2014:
If you visit a traditional, big or small city in Iran, you will immediately notice the stark contrast between them and Tehran.  In some areas like Elahia, and Zafarania, you feel like you left Iran all together. It was very refreshing to see less people in Chadoor ( an open black gown that is normally worn on top of clothes).when I asked Iranian women whether women wearing it is as a sign of being religious or not? They said that its not necessarily that,  and most women wear it out of tradition.

I went to this café that is called the living room, and not only it was impressive because of the decoration, but even the clients were more intriguing. From one look at the young people in the place you can realize that they come from a wealthy background, colorful cloths, bags and shoes are mostly brands, their hair is beautifully styled and completely exposed, the scarf is a piece of ornament that only adds to the elegance of the overall look, and not take from it. Let alone that they all look tanned, as if they just stepped out of a beach somewhere in Florida.
It was interesting how if I closed my eyes for one second and forgot where Iam , I can never relate this image to the rest of images you see around Iran. But this concept only got asserted when a girl walked in with a completely torn out jeans, as if she was attacked by a wolf or something, and most of her thighs and legs were shown, and a tight top that left nothing to the imagination, but of course she has a manteaux pronounced (manto) in Farsi;which is a knee long coat, sometimes longer mostly covering the hip area. But I was surprised of the bold notion of getting out of the house like this, where she can easily be stopped by the police , and according to Iranian law, she can actually be locked up for sometime before a judge can see her, and decide on the punishment(usually an amount of money, and attending some religuios classes).

While in Tehran, I visited another fancy neighbourhood ;Elahia, I saw women coming down from their fancy buildings, blonde hair, stilettos, you can smell her perfume until two blocks later. I forgot to mention the piece of cloth that covers a small portion of the crown of the head aka Veil.
Through my travels in different cities in Iran, I noticed that young people yearn for choice. For flexibility to make their own choice. May be they will choose to practice and be committed religuiosly, they just want to choose.

image

image

Stale bread: How to kiss a frog and turn it into a prince

French toast_reinvented

French toast_reinvented

Of all the food we throw out, bread mostly has the lion share. When it became stale, dried out, or too hard, I know it doesn’t become appealing anymore. Here is one very simple recipe to bring it back to life.
Ingredients:
3 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla ( ucan use grated coconut powder, and grated nuts as another option)
2 Tablespoons butter
Kiwis
(This will make at least 8 pieces)
How to prepare:
1-Whisk together all the ingredients in a large bowl (except for the kiwis).
2-Try to open the bread, or slice it if you can, just make sure that it doesn’t break into crumbles.
3-Quickly dip each side of the bread into the custard mixture.
4-Add the bread to a pan on medium-high heat that has been coated with butter. Cook on each side until brown.
For decoration you can sprinkle more grated coconut powder, nuts, then put the kiwis on top.

How to be a great guest

How to be a great GUEST

With the plethora of travel social networks, for travelers, its QUINTESSENTIAL , to know how to behave when you are a guest in somebody’s house especially if u don’t know them. I listed some points which will make u the PERFECT guest that everyone would want to host u.

1-Bring something from home for ur guest, a souvenir, a present, something that he/she can remember u with.

2-Make sure to spend sometime with ur host (if u dont know them), don’t use their house as a hotel.

3-Make up ur bed when u get up, and try to make ur space neat and clean.

4-Help with house chores (at least wash ur dish).

5-If u r staying for a week or more, it would be nice to go and shop, at least one time during ur stay or replace what u have consumed.(pay a visit to a local supermarket, or a grocery store).

6- Don’t use toiletry stuff of the host, unless he tells u, u r free to use them (shower gel, shampoos….etc.

7-Respect house rules, if there is no smoking inside, or loud noises after midnight.