Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pity the Fuul

Over a decade of journalism gives you bad habits. I've picked up a truckload.

For instance, we journalists are obsessed with the pithy phrase - the all-encompassing 2-3 word expression that we think crystallizes what we want to say. Like "the new normal", "terror links", "the Arab street", "the Arab world".

Here's a tall claim: there's no such thing as "the Arab world." This monolith doesn't exist. Why? Because everybody in the Middle East looks down upon everybody else.

The Kuwaitis don't like the Jordanians, who hate the Syrians, who dislike the Lebanese, who might not like Egyptians, etc. etc.

Almost nobody likes the Palestinians. And the Saudis? Well, they're god's gift to the world, and pretty much don't like anyone.

All of which begets humour like this:

A Saudi and an Egyptian are at the airport, waiting for their flights.
"You Egyptians," says the wealthy, white-robed Saudi, "are no better than animals."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, let me explain - what did you eat for breakfast?"
"Fuul," is the immediate answer.
"And for lunch?"
"Well... fuul."
"Hmm... er.... um... fuul?"
The Saudi leans back.
"So tell me, then, what separates you from the animals?"
"Ah, that's easy!" exclaims the Egyptian. "It's the Red Sea."

Fuul is the middle eastern poor man's food - mashed fava beans with olive oil and spices, eaten with bread. It's cheap (a fuul sandwich is about 10 cents), delicious, and sits in your stomach for the whole day.

Everybody has their own recipe - the Lebanese make it with garlic, lemon and parsley, the Egyptians add tomatoes and spice it up, the Syrians throw in some chick peas, some other folk add eggs or onions or tahini.

But the wonderful thing about fuul is that everybody enjoys everybody else's recipe. Maybe this is what will unite the... Arab world?