The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is the most vibrant part of the country that I saw on my trip in September. The houses are painted bright yellows, soothing blues or even daring reds. Restaurant and shop signs are bold and vivid, in sync with the popular reggae, its heavy bass line and playful rhythm. The loud colors mirror the culture and the rugged geography. The lush green of the forests and the light blue skies are like a canvas on which the locals get creative. San Jose is a little dreary, but once you drive out of the city you’ll notice the explosive colors of this country, that’s sandwiched between the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean. I don’t think any country in the world is as colorful as Costa Rica.
No trip to Oman is complete without a taste of halwa. The word literally means sweet and there couldn’t be a better noun or adjective for this traditional treat that is made from (a whole lotta!) sugar, ghee, eggs and water. Saffron, cardamom and nuts are added to flavor the high-caloric dessert which is served with bitter Arabic coffee, to balance the rich, sweet halwa.
When I was younger, a trip to the Barka Factory for Omani Halwa meant walking into a stuffy building where an old man prepared halwa over a wood fire. That has changed. This time we were told we cannot go into the main factory. I remember that the Barka Factory always had pots of halwa ready for visitors but part of the experience was watching the tough older men stir the ingredients together until they turn into the right consitency. According to a tourism website, “The halwa-making process is a laborious one, with the dedicated chef stirring the gigantic pot of bubbling hot, sticky substance for up to three hours. A momentary lapse in attention and the halwa could stick to the pot and be ruined.” Eventually the dessert will turn either a golden-brown color or slightly darker, depending on the ingredients used.
We passed by the factory yesterday and picked up a few pots for family back home; everyone’s waiting for their share of Sultani halwa (considered the finest type). Lately, people have been cautious about the amounts of halwa they consume as they are more aware of health and nutrition and it’s anything but a healthy treat. Apparently the Sultan Qaboos University is working on a low-fat, low-sugar version of the iconic Omani sweet. So if you’re watching your weight, you might want to wait for that.
Here are some pictures I took when we stopped at the Factory yesterday. I couldn’t resist a few spoons of halwa but I mentally added 30 minutes to my workouts over the next week. I find it impossible to resist traditional sweets (or dessert in general) when I travel. Would you indulge in halwa or a similar extravagant desserts when you’re on vacation? Tell me I’m not the only one. Make me feel better.
I don’t know what your vacations are like but mine tend to revolve around good food and better company.
I’m currently visiting Muscat, where I grew up. It has been a week of delicious meals and unforgettable reunions.
Possibly even better than my last trip in 2009. Roads have changed but my friends are right here ready to pick up conversations where we left off almost a decade ago. Here is a peek into a day in my life while I’m on vacation soaking up the sun and piling on calories.
It was April, I was in Paris and it was better than any song. I watched the winter haze lift and the flowers bloom, I was lost in the details of La Ville-Lumière. Paris gave me rain, crisp breezes and just enough sunshine to cast fun shadows on the wide trottoirs. I went to Paris with a camera, unsure what to capture and waiting for the city to tell me. I didn’t know whether I should experience Paris or just breathe it in; do I listen to Paris every night or pick up a pen and write? I expected Paris to overwhelm, but it was sweet, serene and healing. It was April, I was in Paris and it was better than any song.
When I was not wandering around the old city of Amman in January or stuffing my face with mansaf (read about that here), I was diligently learning how to make falafel and authentic hummus at a charming little cooking school called Beit Sitti. I even have recipes that I plan on sharing with you, dear readers, when I get my life back together and find my way into the kitchen again (heavy sigh).
I had a wonderful time at Beit Sitti and I wrote about it for Bazaar. You can read my article here. Yes, this is self-promotion at its best. So, humor me. Read my article. Feed the ego. Tell me you love me. Learn how to make real hummus, America (sorry, that was uncalled for). Livin’ la vida loca. Good night, world.
I’m taking on The Daily Post’s photo challenge. Rawr. This week, the theme is unique (no pun).
I spotted this teeny tiny rolling-pin at a shop in Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 2011.
It’s adorable, but who would buy it? It might be the right size for Tinkerbell, but I don’t see her kneading wet dough and dusting counters. Do you?
I’m always on the look out for humorous signs when I travel and I get really excited when I spot one. I feel like these signs are an indication of an expressive culture that is not afraid of doing something different. Here are a few that I’ve captured over the years (click one of the images to access the gallery). I can’t wait to add to this collection!