Tag Archives food

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.


You want meat?

You want meat?

The controversial removal of meat subsidies in Bahrain will be lifted starting from tomorrow and parliament has given up the fight to have the subsidy reinstated. Had they done their job properly as they are sworn to do, they would have had a serious look at all the subsidies offered by the government to various sectors when they were reviewing the government plan for the next few years. They should have also combed through the budget professionally and raised flags of objection, or at least call for better clarifications and expenditure; thus, pretend at least to exercise their oversight role. What Bahrain did get from this parliament; however, was a white flag of surrender – as expected – allowing the government to disregard their thundering tantrums and promises of resignations, which of course will never materialise. Why give up a cushy job?

Like other Gulf Arab oil exporters, Bahrain subsidises goods and utilities including meat, fuel, electricity and water, keeping prices ultra-low to buy social peace.

But since oil prices plunged last year, slashing state revenues, the subsidies have become increasingly hard for governments to afford – especially in Bahrain, which has smaller oil and financial reserves than its neighbours.

So the government announced last month that it would remove subsidies on meat from Sept. 1, allowing domestic prices to rise and compensating Bahraini citizens – but not foreigners, who comprise about half of the population of roughly 1.3 million – with cash payments.


What are the subsidies offered by the government I hear you ask? Well, here’s an overview (pdf) of those scheduled in the 2015/2016 budget and I also provide a comparative look at the 2011/2012 budgeted subsidies.

Bahrain 2011/2012 Subsidies Table
2011/2012 Subsidies Table
Bahrain 2015/2016 Subsidies Table
2015/2016 Subsidies Table

If you look at the food subsidy in Bahrain, the government is looking to save approximately BD24 million (US$ 63m) by 2016; however the electricity and water subsidy will increase to approximately BD65 million by then too. Apart from that not making sense to my simple brain, I’d like to know how the biggest subsidy in that schedule is actually apportioned? My understanding is a good chunk of that directly supports industry in natural gas subsidies that presumably goes to ALBA, the aluminium smelter, and other industries like it.

Of course I understand that the government must react to the appreciable drop of oil prices which is its main source of income, and I appreciate that it has put in mechanism to defray the cost increase on meats by offering citizens alone a monthly stipend and of course I thank them for their generosity, but I wonder if other subsidies should have been lifted first? Unless of course this is an initial foray into the lifting of other subsidies in the years to come, and the removal of subsidies on meat is to prepare the populace? Will the government ultimately be removing of all subsidies and even introduce of taxation to meet the increasing budgetary deficit?

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m willing to put in a bet that this scenario is actually closer than many people think. It’s because of this that we need much better oversight with a parliament whose members are much more aware of fiscal requirements, have the necessary understanding of budgets and fiscal policies, and also have the necessary tools to exercise proper oversight on government and its spending. Ultimately, we need a parliament which is much more accountable to those who elected them. However, had I that same crystal ball, it might well tell me that the latter just won’t happen.

In the mean time, register here to receive the subsidy if you’re a Bahraini, and here’s some meat to fill you up in the mean time.

Dig in!

camel feast for one - Camel feast in (presumably) Saudi. The upside of the removal of meat subsidies is that we'll never have this sort of excess in Bahrain.
Camel feast in (presumably) Saudi. The upside of the removal of meat subsidies is that we’ll hopefully never have this sort of excess in Bahrain. Ever.



What unites a country? What unites people? What unites a family? Food, probably, is one of the most uniting factors known to man!

So in celebration of Bahrain and its people, in an attempt to show that we are all really one with the same passions, needs and aspirations. In an attempt to show that what unites us, are actually an awful lot more than what could ever drive us apart, this is a small offering from all of us at Gulf Broadcast, to the great people of Bahrain…

Please come with us on a journey of discovery of the most dextrous and loved of Bahrain cuisine. Follow the story of the simple (or not so simple!) Khobiz from its raw material to the mouth-watering varieties on offer.

Now go and buy a couple of khobiz and share it with a friend, an acquaintance or even a stranger.

Go ahead. Be bold!

Be Bahraini!


Doner Kebab

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Doner Kebab

Doner Kebab, originally uploaded by malyousif.

There goes the diet!

Couldn’t help myself grabbing one from the first shop I came across selling it outside the hotel.

I must admit that it’s not as good as I remembered it from Frankfurt, and nowhere close to the one I had in Amsterdam.

But it did fill a hole…


My Poison

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I just love Custard Creams, I tell you. If I ever open a packet they’re gone in an instant. My wife likens the situation to me inhaling them whole! 😀

And you know what? We haven’t any in the house just now. I could do with one or two (packets) right now. This instant.

That, my friends, would be my poison.

What’s yours?


Vlog: Shawarma, Bahrain’s favourite food

My son Arif decided to get some shawarmas and go meet some of his friends. He wanted to get them from Shawarma Xpress, a new true-blue Bahraini franchise. I thought I’d get some for our lunch too as this is the very first time that I had a shawarma from this place.

As we waited I was intrigued by the non-standard (ie, professional) way they prepared the wraps, so I thought I’d film the experience and share it with you all.

You have my new iPhone 3Gs to thank for its availability! 😉


Things more important than oil

Who cares about oil prices? Sure it’s at $139 at close in NY yesterday, but it’s still cheaper than water. The issue I have is not that, it is the complete absence of Weetabix from the local market. How can one have a decent breakfast if there is no Weetabix?

Frances has scoured all the supermarkets in Bahrain and has been complaining bitterly as well about its disappearance. It seems that when it comes to foodstuffs, various necessities just disappear from the market once in a while. That’s why – just like the government – we are encouraged to hoard stuff. Something that would destabilize governments in other locales, but here, well, this particular thing is condoned.

Anyway, what would one have to replace the “breakfast of champions”? Yogurt and pita bread I guess, scrambled eggs on toast, bajella and bread, or just cheese sandwiches, but it’s definitely not the same.

I need my Weetabix!


Renault and Whipped Cream

What\'s with Renault and whipped cream?I’m not sure what’s up with the Renault F1 team, but I just saw three of them at Geant with 2 fully loaded trollies of cookies and many many cans of whipped cream.

I can find no explanation other than them stocking up on comfort food, you know, the food one scoffs to deaden the senses and ameliorate feelings of guilt. Oh, and as a good “pick me up” after a heavy loss.

So maybe they already know what next weekend’s results are going to be… mind you, with The Fluke back with them, it’s no real surprise!


The food of Champions!

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The food of Champions!

The food of Champions!, originally uploaded by malyousif.

Chapati, grated cheddar cheese and samboosa. Guaranteed heart attack inducer, but oh so deee-lish-ious!

Sorry for the low activity. We have three productions going on at the same time all with deadlines for next week. On top of that we have two more productions that we have to start next week too, so it’s bretty bretty busy!

And I am having the time of my life! I love this video production thingy!

Have a wonderful weekend my friends 😉


Sato’s, how to NOT run a restaurant!


We thought we would go to a special and different dinner to celebrate our daughter Amna’s 18th birthday a few nights ago and decided to go to the oldest Japanese restaurant in Bahrain; Sato at the Gulf Hotel. As it was mid-week, it wasn’t difficult to get a table.

We were received on arrival by the maitre d’ and led to one of their Japanese rooms where you sit at the table with your legs in a hole beneath it giving you the impression that you’re actually sitting on the floor Japanese-(or Arab)-style but you’re actually just sitting “normally”.

As the restaurant wasn’t that busy, we were soon attended to and placed our orders. We were all looking forward to a nice quality family night. Unfortunately, Sato’s had other plans.

I must admit that our knowledge of Japanese food is minimal. I prefer some kinds of sushi and teriyaki, but couldn’t tell you the contents nor do I know all the names; however, the minimally explained menu somewhat indicated what we can expect to get. We all stuck to the teriyaki side of the house that night, thinking better be safe than sorry. Amna, probably did the best thing and chose a set menu.

We chatted a bit after placing our order thinking that – as in a normal restaurant of its ilk – the order will take a while to arrive – something I generally enjoy – but I was mistaken. No sooner than the drinks were served then the first course arrived. Amna’s course, that is, while everyone else was left waiting much longer to get theirs. One would have thought that the arrival of food for all patrons at the table would be coordinated; not this one. That mish-mash of mis-coordination was symptomatic of the whole evening, leaving us at various stages of dinner, capped by them forgetting to bring my main course until almost everyone had finished!

That could all be forgiven of course had the food at least been acceptable. It was far from it.

I don’t think you will find me at that restaurant again by choice. If I ever want to enjoy Japanese food again, I would be much better served by picking up a Japanese meal from Al-Osra and enjoy it at my own pace rather than be hurried and harried as we have been at Sato’s. What a disappointment.