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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 🙂



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.


MahmoodsGarden surpasses 1,000 likes on Facebook

MahmoodsGarden surpasses 1,000 likes on Facebook

Yes! We’ve surpassed 1,000 likes on Facebook in under a week since launch of the page! Very happy. Thank you all VERY much indeed for making this happen. Thank you for your support, I really appreciate it.

I would really appreciate it if you would subscribe to the YouTube channel, just follow this link: http://YouTube.com/MahmoodsGarden and hit the “subscribe” button. This will allow you to get notified whenever a new episode or video is released.

Thanks again guys. Very much appreciated.


Thinking Pink!

I’m pretty excited about the first (of many I hope) sponsorship deal my company (Gulf Broadcast) is entering into for a very worthy cause. Gulf Broadcast has become a Platinum Sponsor of the Think Pink Bahrain, a non-profit organisation

Julie Sprakel (Think Pink Bahrain Founder) and Mahmood Al-Yousif (Gulf Broadcast) at the launch of the 2009 Think Pink Bahrain campaign, both showing this year's central message of the campaign 'iCheck'
Julie Sprakel (Think Pink Bahrain Founder) and Mahmood Al-Yousif (Gulf Broadcast) at the launch of the 2009 Think Pink Bahrain campaign, both showing this year's central message of the campaign 'iCheck'

“that was founded by Ms Julie Sprakel in 2004, and provides an extra support mechanism to the already established Bahrain Cancer Society (BCS). The money raised has been directed through the society to help Bahraini breast cancer victims.

Think Pink is dedicated to increasing awareness of breast cancer issues, especially early detection, thereby saving lives.”

Our involvement is to help Think Pink Bahrain spread the awareness of breast cancer in Bahrain via a number of videos documenting their efforts, be that the forthcoming Golf fund raising weekend, the Gala Dinner and of course creating media to show how a woman should check herself and other how-to and advice videos.

I really look forward to a long-term relationship with Think Pink, it is a very worthy cause and I applaud Jules Sprakel and others who willingly help her spread the message.

If you want to help, please view their site at ThinkPinkBahrain.com and offer your services.


The Farmers Market

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A lot of people came out and enjoyed the first Farmers Market this morning on the Budaiya Highway and bought some fresh local produce and enjoyed the other handicrafts and local food stalls.

I was fortunate enough to buy a couple of plants from Anne Al-Jalahma who recently opened a new nursery by the Barbar Temple. I got a Mexican Flame Vine (Senecio Confusus) which I planted in a pot and a Dombeya Elegans which was just right to fill in a gap behind a small pond in the garden. As all of Anne’s displays had a proper label with a picture and the Latin names of the plants, I also found out the name of a plant I’m propagating by cuttings I got from Al-Khair garden centre who didn’t want to sell it (I did get their permission to snip off a shoot!) – that plant is Clitoria Ternatea with quite an interesting looking flower. I hope it survives. Otherwise I’ll just have to visit Anne’s nursery and get one from there. She tells me that she even has the “double” variety.

Despite the heat, the atmosphere at the market was quite nice actually; children were running about, a few stalls had buyers around them getting the best and freshest produce at very reasonable prices. More stalls would have certainly been welcome; though. I’m told that a lot of those who confirmed their participation even yesterday just didn’t turn up, even though some of their stalls were provided free, sponsored and paid for on their behalf.

The kids enjoyed an entertainment stall provided face-painting and balloons. Unfortunately; however, a reserved jumping castle didn’t arrive by the time that I left, again not due to organiser’s failure, but the supplier not keeping their word.

The organisers were accosted by a big business offering to help them take the event to the “next level” and made much bigger. That’s quite nice, but if the organisers do take that offer up, the possible quaintness of the event might well suffer. I think they are well on the way of possibly building a very nice “local” brand which might be diluted – if not completely eradicated – by accepting such invitation.

Another thing that the organisers could consider is doing this event in an air conditioned hall, it was just too hot even for the produce. Places like the Marina Club or Awali Club or the like would be ideal locations; failing that, a Farmers Market happening in the cooler months, say between November to March on a weekly basis (which the organisers are seriously considering anyway) would be much appreciated by all.

I hope that whoever spent some time there enjoyed it. I know I have.


Bahrain’s First Farmer’s Market

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I received an exciting email which announced the inauguration of the first ever Bahrain’s Farmer’s Market to take place on Saturday the 12th. It is very much hoped that this event will become a regular seasonal market with facilities that will promote local seasonal produce and handicrafts, enshrining the concepts of “buy local” and of course cutting the greenhouse gasses at the same time. This is local produce with all the goodness of being picked fresh and consumed fresh with no frozen, shrink-wrapped pseudo-green things in sight!

Produce, just picked!This effort is pioneered and organised by my friend Muneera Obaidli who also owns and operates the scrumptious (and uber healthy) Vida Sandwich Bar by the Passports office in Manama. Typical of an entrepreneur, she got the idea to help local producers and ran with it. Her premise is manifold: help local producers; help the environment, and help the farmers and their community by providing a good event and venue in which they can sell their products.

Muneera met several farmers from many Bahraini villages and home-based manufacturers of handicrafts and convinced them of the feasibility of the idea and secured their support and participation. On finding out that some of those who wanted to exhibit but couldn’t afford to pay the stall fee, she asked businesses, friends and relations to chip in and sponsor stands.

There is a very good chance that should this event prove successful, Muneera will use the proceeds collected to finance future Farmer’s Market event. She plans to use the money to make permanent fixtures of tables and parasols in the venue – which will reduce the stall fees for future events as whatever is positioned there now has been rented – as well as develop the event further.

So what can one expect in this first ever Farmer’s Market?

A great day out for the whole family.

Lots of fresh local produce as well as handicrafts, entertainment for the kids and a tasty Bahraini-style BBQ lunch. It doesn’t get better than this!

Don’t miss out on this fantastic event. Enjoy a chance to reconnect with the land and the produce of the season.

Entrance fees will be charged at BD3 for adults, 1.5 for children but free for those who are under 2 years old.

It’s going to take place on Saturday the 12th of April, 2008, next to Jassim Agriculture (this is the “old”NEW” Jassim’s on the main Budaiya Highway) between 10am through to 5pm.

If you are interested in having a stall for fresh produce or local and hand-made items (such as bakery items, preserves, chutneys or handicrafts) or sponsoring a needy person who produces such items, please email Muneera Ubaidly who will be happy to provide you with more information. Please include your contact details.

It promises to be fresh, fun, local and friendly!

The particulars:

  • 1.5 x 1 meter stalls are rented per day and will contain a table and 2 chairs for BD 60 25 (price reduced from original due to good response and sponsorship!)
  • Vendors keep all their sales and profits
  • All proceed from rentals and admission fees will go towards the organizers of this event.

I’m definitely going to visit and hope to see some of you there. Please drop by if you have a chance, you will be supporting your community and help reduce greenhouse gasses by buying fresh local produce while eating healthy!


Building a community

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Anwar had some excellent suggestions in a comment he posted earlier which I thought I would act on immediately. If you have any suggestion at all to make the site better and more interactive to help the growing community of Mahmood’s Garden, please do comment:

I believe that it would be a good idea to include some more subjects or sections in this site such as “anything that goes into the garden” : BBQ secrets, sauces marinades and experiments, garden hard and soft landscape ideas, may be even arranging group visits to readers gardens to enhane the overall experience.

And I think probably the best way to do this is to invite interactivity, that’s how we can all share our experiences. Having a forum is probably the best way to achieve this. I have now updated the forum software to (I hope) a better and easier to manage one, please have a look and start using it.

Would you consider moderating a section or two? Which would you prefer?

Would anyone else volunteer for a moderator position? You don’t have to be an expert at the subject you want to moderate as it is an admin/marketing position more than anything else; having said that, if you do have some expertise, this will add to the value of the forum.

Volunteers? More suggestions?


First non-sectarian mosque to be built in Bahrain

The King Hamad Grand Mosque is being built on the instruction of king Hamad between the islands of Manama and Muharraq. The construction of the compound and its beauty and facilities pale into insignificance when the king attests that this new house of worship is destined to be used by all Muslims without exception; in his presentation yesterday, he stated:

King Hamad showing his Grand Mosque project to other dignitaries

وبما أن للمسلمين قبلة واحدة يتوجهون إليها في صلواتهم فسيكون هذا الصرح الإسلامي جامعاً للمسلمين جميعاً إن شاء الله تعالى
الوسط – ١٠/١٠/٠٧

As all Muslims pray in one direction, this new edifice will be for all Muslims without exception, inshallah.

This is excellent news which need to see the light and we must ensure that this vision is not once again hijacked by the sectarian effluent of our society.

When this mosque is completed and we see people from all sects in Islam praying next to each other, with a shared lead in prayers and its calls, then King Hamad can be assured that his place in history is not only assured, but elevated considerably by this action.

I hope that this is indeed the case and my interpretation is correct. It is projects like these which bring the community together and should act as a gateway to correct the sectarian imbalance we suffer from in a practical sense, rather than just empty words uttered by high and low officials which are never more than media fodder.

This project is very much JustBahraini endorsed and approved.


bin Rajab’s redefines the role of maatems

bin rajab celebrates the healthy return of his majesty the king of Bahrain

I am so gratified that we have visionaries in this society and am doubly so when I find an honourable member of the reigning cabinet extends himself even further by bridging the cultural gap that maatems[1] traditionally play in society.

For instance, what is wrong with local maatems, like the ancient and quite famous Ma’atem bin Rajab, holding meetings to celebrate the healthy return of our beloved king? What is wrong with almost all the maatems in Muharraq putting up boards of welcome and well-deserved congratulations for our illustrious prime minister for receiving the honour of the UN Habitat Medal? Of course this is part of their mandate as they reflect the people’s views from the grass-roots up and their love of this country. It is – I understand – nothing to do with positional politics at all, but a clear and an unadulterated fiesta of gushing love to our beloved leadership.

I shall of course attempt to be present at this national festival of love and urge everyone to do their utmost to do so too.

I wish to congratulate the right honourable excellency Mr. Mansour Hassan bin Rajab for taking this very much needed initiative and pray God that that ancient area of Manama which embraces his family’s maatem not to suffer any electricity blackout during the celebrations and poetry recitals.

[1] Maatems: plural, religious halls of mourning frequented mainly by the Shi’a.


Abbas Al-Shakhoori has passed away

Abbas’ funeral procession shot from my office’s balcony this evening (9 Apr ’07)

It saddens me to learn that the security guard Abbas Al-Shakhoori has passed away this morning after being in a coma and declared brain-dead over a week ago.

I join other Bahraini citizens and call on the Ministry of Interior to exert all efforts to apprehend the killer and ensure that they are fully transparent and present the criminal to justice no matter who he is.

As I look out of my office window, I see that a lot of people are walking toward Bani Jamra village which is where his funeral will start and mourners will carry his body to his village of Shakhoora a short distance away.

My condolences to his family and friends. May he rest in peace now.

Update 11 Apr 2007: The BNA reports that: