Falafel, yogurt, falafel, pastries, lentilsoup, falafel and more amazing food. 

The biggest foodie of my friends asked me to write a blog about food here in the Middle East (requests for topics can be handed in a week in advance, only written applications, in threefold, will be taken into consideration :p). And as I was thinking of how to describe the amazing tastes, I realised that this is easier said than done. Especially because it’s not just the food, it’s the people that share with you that makes it an incredible experience.
For example, a few days ago, I was in Nazareth, Israel. I was wandering through the souk and smelled amazing coffee (I’m starting to get hooked on Arabic coffee). I went inside the shop of an old man who sold coffee beans, grinded coffee and spices. This lovely man showed me the whole process of mixing different beans, roasting them, mixing with spices, etc.

  After a while he offered me a coffee, which I obviously couldn’t refuse! And this is the best part, I’d bought a coffee maker in Istanbul, but had no idea how to use it (I know, sounds like a typical tourist). So this man showed me how to make a proper (delicious) coffee. Besides the fact that I spent over an hour in his shop and drank many strong coffees while chatting the time away (I felt very awake after so much caffeine), he didn’t even want to have anything for the coffee I bought at his shop. People here are so generous and share whatever they have.

Similarly in Istanbul. I was, as a proper tourist again, following a walking route through the city. Me and my amazing new friend were slightly lost, so we ended up at a local market where we bought some dried apricots (the prices here were about a quarter of the tourist prices downtown). However, the guys in the shop made it their task to let us taste every single thing in the shop: figs, walnuts, turkish delight (which is like a small sugar bomb), cheese….

 After buying loads of food for about €1, we moved on to the next place, where it all started again. Delicious tea (with a lot of sugar, I somehow started drinking all my drinks with sugar here), more turkish delight, etc. After a while, we politely thanked for more tea and rolled (almost literally) out of this area. We felt so sick after all this food!
Ok, but I know you’re thinking, these are nice examples, but still don’t say anything. So I’ll describe a normal day, and then you’ll understand why I’ll be wearing a fully covering, XXL dress at graduation. This morning, my breakfast consisted of (pita)bread, a boiled egg, local cheese, olives, cucumber, tomatoes, 2 different types of cake, pizza slices, yogurt, Arabic coffee/fresh orange juice/fresh mint tea. And all of this was included in the price of the hostel. Lunch was falafel and dinner was a repetition of breakfast. Not too bad, huh ;).

Of course, every country has its own specialities. In Morocco I ate many tahines, couscous and, best of all, homemade soup. It took me a while to discover this, but many restaurants offer fresh soup (often lentilsoup or vegetable soup) for €0,50!! Can you imagine?!

In Israel I ate loads of falafel and in Turkey I just ate everything (sorry, there’s no better way to describe it).
There’s one thing I failed at. There’s a typical food here in Jordan that’s called knafl (no idea how to write it). We heard it’s amazing, but the queues for it were so long that they were until around the corner. So if you ever find yourself in Jordan (Amman), please try this one for me! For the Dutchies; snavel, s=k, -e –> easy to remember!
Hmm, after all, writing about food isn’t that hard. I could write another 10 pages about this. Although I’m still not able to describe the taste! I think I should start working out again as soon as I’m back home (only 2 weeks to go! Scary!).
Take care and see you all soon (in 2 weeks in the Netherlands, in 4 weeks in the UK, and the rest…. Soon!).

Backpacking in the Middle East; are you out of your mind?!

I always said that I wouldn’t write a blog, just because I’m usually too busy enjoying my travels. But here I am, writing a blog about my experiences during my backpacktrip in the Middle East. Partly because I want to share these amazing trips with you. And partly because I feel the need to challenge some stereotypes.
I’m not going to give a chronogical report of my trip, but will write about topics that I feel the urge to share. Nevertheless, feel free to leave a reaction if you want to know about a specific place!
Almost a month ago, I started a new backpackingtrip. I started in Morocco, followed by Istanbul and I’m currently in Israel (Jordan in a couple of days). It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out all the warnings I got before I left; ‘are you sure it is safe?’ ‘Do you really think it’s a clever idea that a blonde girl goes backpacking alone in the Middle East?’. Well, I can be very clear about that: I feel safer here than I felt when I was living in the UK. I came to realise that much of our perceptions in the West are based on stereotypes. For example, I took a 13-hour nightbus in Morocco from Essaouira to Fes. And you guys know me, I obviously took the local bus (I’m not the kind of traveller who takes tourist buses). So no one in that bus spoke English, and my French and Arabic is poor. Still, when I asked after 10 hours where we were, they knew exactly where I had to go to, and made sure I got off in the right city. Did you ever see that happening in the Netherlands? I truly believe that where ever you go, people generally have good intentions (which can of course be interpreted as negative due to cultural differences).
Okay, I have to admit that I was very cautious when I came here. Especially in Marrakesh, I expected difficulties, but this was unnecessary. Of course, there are adjustments that you have to make. In Morocco for example, I always had my legs and (almost always) arms covered. Which is stinking hot, yet avoids a lot of unwanted attention. I found Istanbul and Israel quite relaxed. These are Western countries where you can easily wear a t shirt and shorts (okay, maybe not short shorts, be sensible).

There is one trick with which you can separate a traveller from a tourist, besides dressing modestly: they put their bitchface on. Sounds extremely arrogant, but sometimes it’s better to avoid eye contact and to ignore men on the street (although I’m sometimes worried what kind of image they’re getting from all these people that ignore them). But to be honest, I only had to do this in the main cities in Morocco, like Marrakesh and Fes. Besides that, every single person I met here on my trip was extremely friendly and really went out of his/her way to make my trip as comfortable as possible. In Istanbul, for example, I’d booked an airbnb, because I arrived late at night and the airport was too far from the city. The next morning I got an amazing Turkish breakfast that was better than any breakfast I’d had in a long time! (And when I stayed there again a couple of days later, he left for work in the morning and I could just close the door behind me. Speaking of trust).
Yet, while you usually try to act like a local, here in Israel I’m trying extremely hard to look like a tourist. You probably know about the unrest that’s going on here. So far, I don’t feel in danger, because attacks are not against tourists. Therefore, I’m trying extremely hard to release my inner Dutchness (which is pretty easy when you’re tall and blonde). I heard that there’s 1 rule here: stay far away from everything that’s related to the army, because they are an easy target these days. Easy peasy, so I thought. Not realising that the army is everywhere here! If you take a local bus, there are almost always a few soldiers in it. Today I got a ride offered from Akko to Tsfat (north Israel). But guess what: the guy was in the army. For a split second I considered thanking for the ride, but I didn’t. And I had the most interesting carride in a long time (what happens if you put someone from the Israeli intelligence service in the same car with someone who studied terrorism). Great fun! Although I have to admit that being here in Israel with so much tension is weird. My hostel in Tel Aviv even advertised it’s the only hostel in the city that has a bomb shelter.

I think I’ll need to spend a whole blog on that. Great cliffhanger :p. But, bottom line, if you were not sure whether it is safe, it is! So pack your backpack and go!
This story is getting long and I know not everyoneis on a permanent holiday like I am. So I’ll stop here for now ;).