Fateer Bread from mid region of Yemen- Ibb خبز الفطير من وسط اليمن -اب

final look

If you happen to travel by car from Sanaa to Taiz, Ibb will be the highlight of your trip. Once you survive the motion sickness from roads of Somarah ســــ’مارة, and Nakeel Thee-Yaslih نقيل ذي يسلح Mountains the scenery starts to open up into wide lush, green valleys. All organized into combed terrains .This is the green belt of Yemen, the place that historically used to feed people of the Arabian Peninsula.
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Ibb has the second most amount of rain per year after Salalah, Oman. Which makes it number one in Yemen. Most people of Ibb work on agriculture. Crops like Corn, vegetables, and fruits grow fantastically here. People say wonders about the rich soil of Ibb, and it’s cool, sunny weather. Each time I visit Ibb, I get out with a different understanding of it as a place. Ibb is famous for its green valleys, and lush mountains, but since the seventies, it became a big exporter for Yemeni immigrants to the U.S and neighboring countries. Whole villages had migrated and only old women and men were left behind. When I passed by the city this summer I was surprised by its urban growth that changed the town. Eclectic architectural styles are more obvious in the busy part of the city. Houses became bigger, using non local stone. The wealth that came with the waves of returned immigrants made changes in people’s tastes and lifestyles.
Modern Ibb city

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Food in this area is very rich and delicious. Grains, and dairy products are heavily used in the local dishes.Unfortunately, like any place in Yemen. If you want to try an authentic food experience, made to high standards, you have to eat it in a house, not a restaurant. It’s a very different food culture than in the west. Where there is a whole industry behind food cooking and serving.
But that’s why you are here, right? 🙂 To get you some authentic Yemeni recipes, and learn one thing or two about Yemen!
Jibla city

Mosque Courtyard

Mosque Courtyard

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If you ever passed through Ibb, and wanted to explore it more, start with its historical heart, city of Jibla جبلة , where the Tomb of Queen Arwa Al-Sulayhi resides in peace inside her mosque الجامع الكبير.
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Queen Arwa’s Tomb inside her Mosque in Jibla

Queen Arwa’s Tomb inside her Mosque in Jibla

1000 steps

inside the mosque

Jibla minaret

The famouse 1001 prayer's beads of Queen Arwa

Couldn’t believe my eyes , when the Mosque’s manager opened a box and let us hold with our hand an artifact like this !

Beautiful details in much needed restoration

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Queen Arwa is a well-respected historical figure for people of Yemen, her religious status as the head of Ismaili minority in Yemen, and the ruler of Al-sulayhid dynasty gave her fame and power that reached up to India, were there is a bigger community of Ismailis living there. Until today, Ismailis from India and all over the world, pay her tomb a pilgrimage in Jibla every single year.
I became a fan of Queen Arwa as a kid listening to all stories and myths around her, her beauty, and how she outsmarted her enemies with her intelligence. Queen Arwa was an orphan little girl from Al-Sulayhi family. She was fortunate to get education at Al-Sulayhi Palace in Sanaa, she learned politics, poetry, and religious studies. She was famous of building schools and mosques. Today women in Ibb are struggling with issues such as lack of education, and early marriages, yet they still maintain great resilience and strength. When you go to the country side, you notice it’s culturally easier to understand than the city. Women are usually seen unveiled with colorful dresses and wearing hats made of straw or light fabric on top of their heads to protect them from sun. They work hard in collecting the crops, bringing water from nearby streams and yet still carve time to cook and bake meals for their families from scratch using their outdoor clay ovens and few simple stone and clay cookware. I remember them always happy and chatty with visitors, coming from Taiz, we were treated as guests. I can’t remember how many times I got invited by random people for a bite of freshly baked bread served with smoked butter milk.

Some Kids that offered to guide us in our way to The-Sufal ذي سفال, a village in IBB. Kids here are witty, funny, and smart. They take responsibilities in working in the field and helping their families, and probably they would make better conversations with adults than city kids. They were so excited that we offered them a ride in our car and that we were using their expertise in the area to help us reach were we wanted to go. They were also very proud while talking about their lives in the village. We were surprised that they asked us for a ride. If anything it means it’s a very safe area, and locals are friendly with strangers.

Some Kids that offered to guide us in our way to The-Sufal ذي سفال, a village in IBB. Kids here are witty, funny, and smart. They take responsibilities in working in the field and helping their families, and probably they would make better conversations with adults than city kids. They were so excited that we offered them a ride in our car and that we were using their expertise in the area to help us reach were we wanted to go. They were also very proud while talking about their lives in the village. We were surprised that they asked us for a ride. If anything it means it’s a very safe area, and locals are friendly with strangers.

A popular recipe from this area is the Fateer Bread. Almost every family has its own way of doing this homemade healthy bread. It’s usually done with one or a combination of Corn Flour, Pearl Millet flour, Wheat, lentil flour and White flour. What I noticed some people would like to add boiled potatoes within the dough or White cheese for flavor. The plain recipe is fantastic, so you can imagine how great it will be with the extra additions.

Ingredients:
3-4 Cups of water
1 cup of hot water (boiling temperature -keep the water hot)
1 tbl spoon of cooking oil
Pinch of Salt
3-4 cups of Corn flour (depends on the consistency)
2 tbl spoon of yogurt for glazing
– Sprinkle some corn flour on a wide metal dish ready to go into oven.
-Heat the oven to 400 F.
Preparation:
The first steps are similar to making Yemeni Aseed.
-First Bring the water into boil and add the salt and oil.
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-Quickly, add the flour combination and start whisking with a strong wood spoon until the mixture start getting thicker, make sure there are no lumps!
-After 7-8 minutes of kneading on the stove, the dough will get thicker and stronger, keep moving the spoon, and if it dried up add some hot water to the dough or few drops of oil.
-Cover the mixture and let it boil under low heat for 10-15 minutes, then stir it one last time.
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– Remove the mixture from the stove and put it on the dish. It will be very hot, so be careful.
-Quickly put your wood spoon in the hot water and smooth the bread mixture into the dish in circular motion. Make sure all the side of the bread are equal in their thickness. The perfect thickness is around 2 inches.
-Add your favorite garnish, could be potatoes, red pepper, cheese, be creative 
-Put the glazing on top (Milk or 1 egg)
-Now your healthy, all made from scratch bread, is ready to go into the oven.
-Wait for an hour, or until the bread is crispy from the edges, and golden brown from top before you get it out.
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This bread is great with Cheese, hot chili and yogurt, or could be eaten on its own with a cup of tea.
Enjoy!!

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Lahooh لحوح

lahooh

Lahooh is a Yemeni bread that like no other.It mostly looks like pancake but tastes sour. This sourness is due to the fermentation process that the dough goes through and the proportion of liquid to flour. It’s for that reason it’s preferred to be consumed on the same day it’s made or will be very sour, stickier, and breaks down into stiff pieces. You will be surprised how many recipes there are for Lahooh. They usually differentiate in the amount of yeast that is included and the amount of time it took to get fermented.
Lahooh in Yemen is the same Enjiera of Ethiopia, only it’s made of Corn and white flour, while the second is made of Tiff flour. This bread, and some other delicious food are part of the African-Yemeni cultural fusion through long history of migrations, wars, and marriages between both civilizations.
I grew up eating Lahooh mainly in Shafoot, a Yemeni appetizer that is mainly made of one or two layers of Lahooh bread dipped in yogurt-Khathawir sauce and garnished with salad, grape, or pomegranate, whichever was in season. This was my favorite meal, I could eat a whole 12 inch dish all on my own! Lahooh is also eaten with Zigni, another African influenced super spicy meal that is usually made of chicken with sauce and Ethiopian special spices, hard boiled eggs and served on a bed of Lahooh. The sourness of the bread goes well with the spicy flavor of this exotic meal.

History
Oldest stories of Ethiopian influence in Yemen are traced back to the earliest ages of Christianity in Yemen. Particularly between the 3rd and 5th century A.D.
At that time, Yemen was a competing stadium between bigger kingdoms, the Christian Byzantium and Zoroastrian Persia. Yemen’s positions was Natural at the times as there trade was flourishing and it was important for them to keep good relations with both powers. The main religion at the time was Judaism. Scholars think that Kings of Yemen may favored Judaism for that exact reason and to limit the Ethiopian interference in the country.(1) This however, was difficult to continue, as in 525 AD ,the Negus , or King of Aksum, the Ethiopian Kingdom, that follows the Christian Byzantium church started interfering in South Arabian Affairs, across the red sea controlling western Tehama region and many other areas for the desire to control the trade in Yemen, particularly port of Aden, and had ambitions to start a Byzantine base in the Arabian Peninsula.

It’s hard not to mention the Najran Massacre as it was an incident that had a tremendous impact on Yemen at the time, and basically triggered the invasion by Aksums.
Yusuf Dhu-Nawas, a Yemeni Jewish who ruled Hemyarite kingdom had enough of Aksums interventions in Yemen, he began a war against Christians. In 524 AD he massacred and prosecuted Christians in Najran, in what was to be known as one of the bloodiest massacres known in old history.

Portrait of  King of Himyarites Yusof Dhu-Nawas

Portrait of King of Himyarites Yusof Dhu-Nawas


Najran, which was always part of Yemen, until 1934 became part of Saudi Arabia. It was considered a peaceful haven for Christians, Jewish, and Pagans, and was a financial center for Christian merchants.
Tens of thousands Christians were burned alive, the shocking news flew around Arabia and to Europe, raising anger and demanding for revenge. The survived Christian tribes fled to the valley of Jordan and Palestine and lived there ever since.

There is a famous story of Abraha the king of Abysians, mentioned in the Holy Quran, who ferried elephants on ships to invade Yemen. He built a church in Sanaa in an attempt to distract the attention from Mecca hoping to change the trade route from Mecca to Sanaa, but it didn’t work for him. Eventually, Aksum’s power deteriorated by time and the church’s ruins got totally demolished in the first century of Islam in Yemen .Myths says that the big mosque in old city of Sanaa was built on its ruins.

Ethiopian Women

Ethiopian Women

Yemeni girl wearing traditional jewelry

Yemeni girl wearing traditional jewelry

Language
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Both countries shared the Amharic language during the Himyarite Kingdom (110 BC–520s) which is now considered the second major used Semitic language after Arabic (2), and the official language of Ethiopia. Amharic Language was the official language of Himyar Kingdom, and was written on stones of dams and shrines with Almusnad script.
I grew up seeing my mom talking to Ethiopian domestic helper in Amharic. She gained some language skills in talking with Ethiopians from my grandma who speaks it fluently after she lived couple of years in Asmara as a wife of a diplomat. To my surprise I was able at the time to complete brief talks and simple sentences in Amharic just by listening to what my mom and the lady would talk. I also noticed that Ethiopians learn Arabic within months, because of the common roots between both languages.
The influence of both countries had always been strong on each other, and the modern relations between both aren’t any less complex than its history, however, Lahooh and Enjiera are two sides of the same coin, and will still be enjoyed by both of Yemen’s and Ethiopia’s people.
Enjoy

Ingredients

Ingredients
1 cup of Corn Flour or Corn Meal
2 cups of White flour
1.5 eating spoon of Yeast
3-4 Cups of Water
Vegetable oil
Pinch of Salt

Directions

process 1
First mix white flour with Corn flour, put them in the oven to get toasted and turn light golden, get it out later and wait until completely cold.
Mix with Yeast, salt and gradually add water until it turns soluble and very light in texture.
process2
Cover the mix tightly with a plastic bag and put in a warm place for around 1.5 hours, or until the mixture turns with big bubbles, and smells a little sour.
-Start warming the pan (preferably used only for Lahooh) and wipe its surface with little oil, wait until it gains heat.
Start adding some of the mixture and quickly move it around the pan before it dries up.
-wait until it completely dry up and turn it upside down for a little.
-Make sure that the Lahooh you make are covered in a dry thick towel to keep them warm and the elastic texture of the Lahooh is maintained even after it gets cold.
fresh lahooh
-Start digging!

Sources
1- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yemen_Jews
2- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amharic_language

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himyarite_Kingdom
http://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%A7%D9%87%D8%AF%D8%A9_%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%81_%281934%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhu_Nuwas