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Nasfah Halawa – ناصفة حلاوة and Ramadan Kareem

Nasfah Halawa – ناصفة حلاوة and Ramadan Kareem

The Nasfah, a celebration conducted on the night of the 15th of Shaaban, is a happy occasion in Bahrain and the rest of the Muslim world. It is an occasion to celebrate the pending onset of Ramadan – which is only half a month away, and also the birthday of Imam Mahdi, the 12th apostle of Shi’a Islam and who is one of the grandsons of the Prophet. He is highly revered by Shi’a muslims.

The word “Nasfah” loosely means “half” or the divisor, pertaining to it’s occurrence in mid-Shaaban, the month immediately preceding Ramadan.

On the Nasfah, children put on fine clothes and go to as many houses in the neighbourhood as they could to collect sweets, nuts and some coins too but they have to sing for them first. The traditional song they sing is “Nasfah Halawah” which means “give me sweets” basically!

Here’s a nice manicured example of the celebration, courtesy of du in the Emirates:

And here’s my coverage of the celebration in Duraz in 2007 that I covered for one of my vlogs:

On the Nasfah, people also tend to distribute sweets to their neighbourhoods across many communities in Bahrain. The sweet which is very particular to this time of the year is called Zalabia. It’s pure sugar. Just one little bite will last you the whole day, believe me! Tasty as it is, it must be taken a little at a time if you don’t want to overdose.

My son Arif was visiting his grandmother’s in the old neighbourhood and was fortunate enough to be there by when the Zalabia distribution was taking place in that neighbourhood. He got some, but to complete the typical Bahraini experience, he also got Sun Top from the nearby cold store and brought them home to us to enjoy after lunch 🙂

zalabiya-and-suntop-01

 

Here’s how Zalabia is made (with a lovely Iraqi accent) if you feel so inclined as to make your own:

 

Bon appetite and Ramadan Kareem.

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The Instagram New Logo

The Instagram New Logo

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The New Instagram Logo

For the record, I love it!

I love minimalism and generally don’t like complicated things.

This one is cool.

And… this is the 4,000th post on Mahmood’s Den!

What a trip 😉

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Filming in Bahrain, dodging the hostility of permissions

Filming in Bahrain, dodging the hostility of permissions

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Filming in Bahrain is not always fun. Almost every time we go to film in cultural or a historic venue we get shooed off by a security guard or some other functionary with a perfunctory warning to go get permission first. We get faced with this especially when shooting cultural spots like the Bahrain Fort and the like. No one offered us an explanation why such permission was required and in most cases they wouldn’t know where or whom to apply to gain it.

The question is, why is permission needed in the first place. What is the cultural authorities afraid of? What will clips of a fort or other such structure threaten?

I know this is very tiresome and believe that the process is completely unnecessary. My view is that the government should welcome filmmakers – amateur or professional – to shoot to their heart’s content. What their footage will do is promote Bahrain’s culture and history and be a good pull for possibly the right kind of tourists. What they’re doing to us now with this requirement is at the very least delay our projects until such permission is procured.

For Bahrain’s sake we need less red tape, not more. So please, remove the restrictions on filming in the country, or at the very least in all cultural and historic locations. All we want to do is show the country, its history, culture and people in the best possible light through making films worth watching.

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Time for the soul

Time for the soul

Today. I spent a little time with inspiration. Today. I felt humble. Today. I swam in the mists of contemplative philosophy. Today. I got to know myself a little better. Today. I rubbed shoulders with giants. Today.

I remembered my father.

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All Atheists are Muslim!

All Atheists are Muslim!

Huh?

I know, that title alone grabs the attention doesn’t it? So imagine my surprise when browsing through what’s going on in New York to find something to decide on the day’s program when I came upon it in the FringeNYC show listings. I decided that with a title like that, it’s a must-see. As the show was less than 24 hours away, we couldn’t buy tickets online so we decided to just go to the venue and hope that a few tickets would be available at the theatre. The Cherry Lane Theatre is a quaint little theatre tucked into a picturesque lane in New York’s Greenwich Village. The area teams with theaters and excellent restaurants in which a person can spend many happy a day imbibing culture and various inebriating drinks should one chooses. Arriving at the theatre in plenty of time, we stood in line to get tickets, and even though we were early, there was already another person in front of us. But, as luck would have it, they had only four tickets left when the box office opened! We got the last three tickets which left a few in the queue with disappointment for not making it. That was the last showing in NY too. Lucky 🙂

Zahra_Flyer_NYfringe_HLThe writer and performer, Zahra Noorbakhsh whose parents emigrated from Iran to the US in the 70s, yet just as almost all émigrés, continue to hold on to their origin’s culture in many ways. Them being Muslim, they come with some extra baggage which might not fit very well in their new chosen home, resulting in a number of challenges and heart-wrenching decisions which must be made, or foisted on them to make, in their daily lives and more importantly with their children who have grown up with a tenuous link to their parents’ origin which probably does not extend beyond a romantic notion of them “originally” and “culturally” belonging to that far away land. The children being born and/or raised in the US or Western culture and having been immersed into that culture are no more Eastern than George Bush Jr, who might also enjoy a plate of Chillo Sultani once in a while.

This cultural push/pull cannot be more amplified than when those children choose to have relationships their compatriots view as normal; while to them, it’s an extremely big production, owing not to their parent’s stance on such relationships. This is the dilemma that Zahra found herself in when she chose to have a relationship with a “whitey white Atheist American” and live together. Trying to explain this relationship to her parents, her father mainly, and get their blessing is a journey of hilarity and heart-ache. Add to that the “complication” that she didn’t think of marriage nor wanted it but just wanted them to live together, as people do in the West, and you get a glimpse of the frustration that her parents have been through in trying to come to terms with this reality, and to find even a tenuous way in which they can make this relationship somewhat Islamically sanctified in order to satisfy their own cultural upbringing.

With the amount of immigrations which have taken place from Muslim countries into the West, Zahra’s parents apprehensions are not unique and some people deal with it by internalizing their own anger and frustrations, others get to terms with their reality and let go, while others find these differences so overwhelming that they resort to either quickly marrying off their daughters to relatives from the old country and “nipping the problem in the bud”, or at worst, on discovery of their daughters contradictory behavior to their religion or cultural norms, they kill them – in the name of honor. How they view the murder of another human being, their very own daughter, sister or relative, honorable, is a mind-boggling conclusion.

There is no way that Zahra can address all of these cultural issues in 90 minutes of course; however, putting her own experiences in such a frame allows people to connect with issues most émigrés go through in turbulent silence and allows “foreigners” to be empathetic to their situation through the understanding gained through shows such as “All Atheists are Muslim”.

Here’s a taster:

 

So how did that assertion that “all Atheists are Muslim” come about then? Well, a non-Muslim man cannot marry a Muslim woman. End of story. Full stop. So how would one go about that? The man must convert to Islam. In Zahra’s case there is an added complication which is that Duncan, her boyfriend, is an Atheist. Her father couldn’t accept that. That is, he doesn’t accept the concept of Atheism in the first place, but found an expedient way around that in stating that Islam is the submission to God, everything else is subsidiary, and as everything is the creation of Allah, if one believes in His creations then they believe in Him. That is, if one believes in gravity, then essentially that is tantamount to “submission” to the will of Allah and thus recognition of Him and His religion; therefore, one who believes in this is necessarily a Muslim! End of that “Atheist” crap! Hence, the ready solution offered by Zahra’s father to enter both of them into a “Seegha” (milcha) or nuptial agreement recognizable by Islam!

Thank you Zahra for being brave enough to give the world a glimpse of what you have gone through, and I hope that through your efforts these thorny issues will be discussed at large to gain good mutual cultural understanding.

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Beyond the 5-star hotels

My good friend and uber creative person Mohammed Buhasan visited this afternoon and presented me with his latest books; this one in his hands is FUNtastic Bahrain – a brilliant project in which he explores various aspects and secrets that only locals are privvy to. Things like how we negotiate, how we order our khubiz, what we normally have for breakfast, how to become a real Bahraini by partaking in some Aloo Basheer and the like…

The other two books he brought with him were fabulous too, both funded by the Abu Dhabi Culture & Heritage, the first is about the local worry beads – the Misbah – and the second is about Arabian Swords and their makers in Bahrain.

What a fantastic effort by Mohammed and his company Al-Waraqoon. Well done indeed!

If you have a chance, buy his pictorial books, they will be – and should be – the centerpieces of any coffee table, home or office.

UPDATE 101221: This book (and others published by Mohammed) is available at Jashenmal’s. The retail price is BD15. Well worth getting and giving as Christmas or corporate gifts.

This is what the box looks like, for those who asked. It's available at Jashenmal's in City Centre

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Wish Tree

Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree at the Museum of Modern Art [MOMA] in Manhattan, NY. Filmed on 16 Sept 2010.

May all your wishes come true.

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Burqa, modernised.

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bqBoys, be prepared for this as it promises to be the next best best thing for girls. I personally can’t stand the huge shades they put on their faces at the moment, this is going to be even bigger, but hey, to each his/her own.

Dubai’s hot new trend – burqa-shaped sunglasses

Emirates women are very stylishly dressed. The burqa is part of the Emirates culture, even if it hasn’t been worn since my grandmother’s generation.

Finding sunglasses that aren’t too big or too clear, to go with the burqa would be pretty tricky. These glasses manage to retain our elegance and respect our culture at the same time. It’s a clever way of combining both fashion and tradition.
france24.com

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Bahraini Views – Huda Radhi – Connoisseur of Life

It’s not just the psychology of chocolates and flowers that entrepreneur and Huda Radhi is an expert at, it’s also the passion she has for both. Discovering such a brand by chance on a business trip, she didn’t allow anything to stop her from bringing that joy to her native country Bahrain.

Through this interview, Huda shares with us the ups and downs of her business and offers us some insights into the love of the finer things in life.

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