Er i c Benac


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Copyright © 2023 by Mason Crest, an imprint of National Highlights, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Printed in the United States of America First printing 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

ISBN (hardback) 978-1-4222-4682-5 ISBN (series) 978-1-4222-4675-7 ISBN (ebook) 978-1-4222-7141-4 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Benac, Eric, 1982- author. Title: Middle Eastern / Eric Benac. Description: Hollywood, FL : Mason Crest, 2023. | Series: Customs, culture & cuisine | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2022002800 | ISBN 9781422246825 (hardback) | ISBN 9781422271414 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Food habits—Middle East—Juvenile literature. | Cooking, Middle Eastern—Juvenile literature. | Middle East—Juvenile literature. Classification: LCC GT2853.M628 B46 2023 | DDC 394.1/20956—dc23/eng/20220215

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K E Y I C O N S T O L O O K F O R : Sidebars: This boxed material within the main text allows readers to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspectives by weaving together additional information to provide realistic and holistic perspectives. Educational Videos: Readers can view videos by scanning our QR codes, providing them with additional educational content to supplement the text. Examples include news coverage, moments in history, speeches, iconic sports moments, and much more! Glossary of Key Terms: This back-of-the-book glossary contains terminology used throughout this book. Words found here increase the reader’s ability to read and comprehend higher-level books and articles in this field. Research Project: Readers are pointed toward an area of further inquiry that relates to each book and encourages deeper research and analysis. Introduction:............................................................ 6 Chapter 1: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain & Qatar. ................. 9 Chapter 2: Yemen, Oman & United Arab Emirates. .... 23 Chapter 3: Iran, Iraq & Kuwait. ............................... 37 Chapter 4: Israel, Jordan, Syria & Lebanon. ............. 49 Chapter 5: Middle Eastern Food in America. ............. 63 Research Project. ................................................... 74 Glossary of Key Terms. ............................................ 75 Further Reading. ..................................................... 76 Internet Resources.................................................. 77 Index. .................................................................... 78 Author’s Biography & Credits................................... 80 contents

Introduction The Middle East has a rich and long history that stretches back to the very beginnings of human civilization. Historians believe that the first known cultures and civilizations began around the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers about 14,000 years ago. As a result, the Middle East is often known as the cradle of civilization. Here, some of the first cuisine cultures began and spread throughout the world. Middle Eastern food is varied yet universally aromatic and retains a unique simplicity of preparation and depth of flavor. The history and development of Middle Eastern cuisine are just as varied, and in modern times, its influence on the food scene has increased with its presence throughout the rest of the world. Think of 50 countries around the world. Chances are, you can find a falafel shop in just about all of them. Different regions have their distinct food cultures, but similarities exist based on a shared history and connected cooking style.  Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar: These three Arabian peninsula nations have unique cultures that have influenced each other heavily throughout their history. However, they all have similar takes on dishes such as harees , qemat , biryani , and seafood.  Yemen, Oman, and United Arab Emirates: For these Gulf states, fresh seafood has been the centerpiece of their cuisine for centuries. Meat and rice are other staple foods, with mutton and lamb more plentiful than beef or goat. Favorite dishes include saltah , majboos , and hareeth .  Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait: These Persian Gulf neighbors have a long and contentious history but share a love of flavorful food. Kuwaiti cuisine is a fusion of Arabian, Iranian, and Mesopotamian (Iraqi) cuisine. Iraqi cuisine comes from a blend of many cultures, including Persian, Babylonian, and Kurdish. In addition, Iranian cuisine draws upon Persian food as a significant cuisine type.

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 Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon: Food from this region is known as Levantine cuisine. Central to this cuisine is fresh ingredients seasoned with seeds, spices, and herbs. Spice mixes such as baharat and za’atar are also commonly used. Like most cultures around the world, when the people in the Middle East celebrate occasions or events, food plays a significant part. From Eid ul-Adha to Ramadan and Purim to Passover, these holidays and observances are anchored by a feast, with dishes as varied as the many regions that celebrate them.



INGREDIENTS: rice, wheat, bulgur, semolina, fava beans, chickpeas, green peas, white beans, saffron, allspice, garlic, cumin, and sumac

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain &Qatar Chapter

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar have a uniquely connected history due to their proximity on the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia takes up almost all of the peninsula and is the largest country in the Middle East and the second largest in the overall Arab world. The term ‘Arab world’ commonly refers to 22 countries throughout Western Asia and Northern, Western, and Eastern Africa. Algeria is the largest of these, while Egypt is the most populous. Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia is 830,000 square miles or 2,150,000 square kilometers in area. It extends from the Red Sea in the west to the Persian Gulf in the east and consists of vast stretches of arid desert across most of its landscape. However, some lowland, steppe, and even mountainous territories exist throughout the nation. This country is home to Mecca, the most important city for the Islamic faith, which is followed by almost two billion Muslims worldwide. Heavy tourism traffic to the area is common as a result. Beyond its religious importance, Saudi Arabia is dominated by its massive natural reserves of crude oil, which helps create a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of around $1.924 trillion.


Like the other countries in this region, Bahrain is a modern, developed country.

Bahrain Bahrain consists of 50 natural and 33 artificial islands in the Persian Gulf just off the coast of Saudi Arabia and north of the Qatar Peninsula. Saudi residents can reach this nation by boat or across the 16-mile King Fahd Causeway. Bahrain declared its independence as a protectorate of the United Kingdom in 1971 as an emirate and later became a constitutional monarchy in 2002. Bahrain’s history began well before this point, though, as it was the home of the ancient Dilmun Civilization and was one of the first nations in the world to embrace

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Islam around 628 CE. Today, it is one of the most important banking nations in the world. Qatar Without looking carefully at the map of the region, Qatar could be considered nothing more than a small peninsula off the coast of Saudi Arabia. For much of its history, the reality was not far from this perception. Qatar borders only its larger sister country, and has relied on trade and financial support with Saudi Arabia for much of its history. With a desert landscape held within just 4,471 square miles or 11,581 square kilometers, it is one of the smallest nations in the

The Al Jazeera Media Network, based in Doha, is one of the largest in the world, with more than 70 bureaus across the globe broadcasting in multiple languages.

Chapter 1: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain & Qatar


world. However, it has a surprising amount of power around the Arab world due to its exportation of natural gas and oil, particularly liquefied natural gas. Qatar is also home to the Al Jazeera Media Network, the region’s largest and most influential network. It was a significant factor in the Arab Spring rebellions, during which many Arab nations cut ties with Qatar. The People of Arabia People across the Arabian Peninsula are primarily Muslim (93% in Saudi Arabia, 70.3% in Bahrain, and 66.5% in Qatar). Each nation discussed in this chapter follows a relatively strict interpretation of Islam and is ruled under an uncompromising autocratic leadership, including kings and emigres. Both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have been accused of severe human rights violations, including terrorism sponsorship. Qatar’s

Shariah Law, the legal system of Islam, forbids the intermingling of unrelated men and women.

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record is a bit better than these two nations, but it has a history of being hard on immigrant workers. Its justice system includes punishments like flogging, stoning, and the death penalty. The average person throughout the Arabian Peninsula is typically friendly and respectful, treating guests very well. They are usually comfortable talking to strangers and random individuals they see throughout their day. The concept of personal space within a gender is very lax, meaning it is not uncommon to see men embracing openly or sitting extremely close to each other. Between genders, the Shariah Law, the law of both Islam and Saudi Arabia, forbids the intermingling of (unrelated) men and women. In 2019, this law was relaxed in public places like restaurants. Friendliness and respect, however, are often given at an emotional distance between new contacts. People throughout the region practice great hospitality but stay guarded emotionally. They rarely open up emotionally to new friends and even among people they’ve known for years. The conversation may focus more on exterior subjects for a long time as an individual gets to know someone new. Culture and Cuisine Through the Years The early history of the Arabian Peninsula was dominated by a series of small-scale wars between various nomadic tribes. However, Saudi Arabia was the home of Mesopotamia, one of the earliest known civilizations and the possible origination point of the Sumerians. Before the introduction of Islam throughout the region in 623 CE, the area had pagan religions, meaning local faiths with multiple gods. Islam gave the area a unifying force. It rapidly spread throughout the peninsula and east toward China and even as far west as Spain with the Umayyad Caliphate. This empire was the largest of its time up to that point and influenced cuisine and development throughout the region. However, between these surges of civilization and the 20th century, when oil was discovered and banking investment flowed in, the region periodically fell into a nomadic and tribal culture.

Chapter 1: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain & Qatar


The reasons for this breakdown include religious differences throughout the region and the landscape itself. The Arabian Peninsula is a hot region with a primarily desert landscape. Civilizations and countries often rose and fell based on their access to water throughout extended wars and conflicts. As a result, the area’s food choices were usually based on convenience, ease of preparation, and simplicity of storage. Crops, Livestock, and Spices The highly arid atmosphere of this area makes it hard to maintain crops and livestock. Hardy animals like goats and chickens are common throughout this area’s cuisine, as they are easy to raise and butcher. That said, fish is also popular due to the proximity of the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Pork is not eaten throughout the region, as it is forbidden by Islamic culture. Nevertheless, dairy products like cheese, butter, and cream are widespread.

Goat meat is widely used in the region as goats are animals that thrive in the local environment.

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Saffron is a locally grown spice commonly used in many dishes throughout the region.

Locally grown ingredients include rice, wheat, bulgur, semolina, fava beans, chickpeas, green peas, white beans, carrots, zucchini, artichokes, potatoes, onions, pomegranates, dates, watermelons, peaches, grapes, almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, white spinach, and more. Spices and herbs used include sesame, saffron, allspice, garlic, cumin, sumac, and others. Preparation techniques include roasting food over flames, the most common method used by nomadic Arabic tribes throughout history. Meat, in particular, is heavily seasoned and roasted to bring out its rich flavors. Heavy seasoning adds a lot of spice to Arabian food. Dishes typically consist of the main meat dish with vegetables,

rice, or couscous on the side. Common Dishes

A standard Saudi meal would commonly include a range of ingredients, including chicken, fava beans, rice, yogurt, and

Chapter 1: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain & Qatar


vegetables. Familiar dishes include lamb shanks, Tunisian egg rolls, roast chicken with couscous, cucumber yogurt salad, meatballs, and baklava ( phyllo pastry layered with honey and chopped nuts) for dessert. Bahrain meals consist of falafel (fried balls of mashed chickpeas), shawarma (shaved lamb or chicken in pita bread), quzi (fried lamb stuffed with eggs, onions, and spices), and lobster stew. Qatar dishes include majboos (marinated chicken, lamb, camel, or fish served in rice) and saloona (a type of beef, lamb, or fish stew with potatoes and carrots). Hand washing before and after meals is essential, as most people throughout the region use their hands to eat. That said, some people also use a broad range of utensils, including spoons, forks, and knives. Most Middle Eastern meals involve dishes that require spoons, due to various ingredients like rice and couscous. People avoid using their left hand to eat, whether picking up food or using your utensils with it. Doing so is thought to bring bad luck or even to showcase evil traits.


Historians believe that the first coffee shops opened in and around Mecca in the mid-15th century. From there, the use of coffee spread across the region, and by the 16th century, the bitter brew was found in North Africa and Turkey. The Italians brought coffee from the Middle East to Europe in the early 17th century. Coffee is an integral part of many Muslim’s lives. They are forbidden from drinking alcohol, but caffeine is an acceptable vice.

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