Monday, 10 April 2017

H is for ...Hello!...and...Haddad ...and... Helwa... and... Hammam



is for


Hello! is ‘Marhaba’ in Arabic, when you meet face to face. On the telephone the Arabs say Allo or Alluw,  closer to a French-ish accent rather than English, which somehow reminds me of Hercule Poirot. So. Marhaba! I'm back, and we're into the second week of the A-Z Challenge.


Diana Haddad, one of the most popular Arab artistes, an Emirati of Lebanese origin. Her breakthrough single ‘Amaneh’ greeted me when I first came to the Gulf, a great rhythmic chart-topper of 1997, have a listen. 







Helwa!


Helwa literally means ‘sweet’ and is used the same way as ‘cute’ or ‘nice’ or ‘sweet’ would be used by an English speaker in the colloquial. The word is originally from the root word h-l-w in Arabic and has diffused into Turkish, Yiddish, Urdu, Hindi, Bengali and even globally, used to mean desserts generally but actually refers to one particular dish, interpreted differently.


This confection is made from some kind of grain-flour (wheat – usually semolina), nuts, or even veggies such as carrots, yams, pumpkins. The main ingredient is combined with vast amounts of fat (usually ghee- clarified butter), sweetened with sugar or honey, and sprinkled with roasted nuts, cardamom, cloves, saffron, mace, rosewater etc. Yum! eaten hot or cold.



Incidentally, the Arabs have a massive sweet tooth, just like the Bengalis! Eat a huge variety of desserts. Not exactly the first place of choice if you want to preserve your sanity! Or your waistline.


Roadside vendor of Lokmat el Qadi, sweet dumplings.
Mersa Matruh, Egypt.  

Hammam


A Hammam is a public bathhouse, and has a long history in the Middle East. Bathhouses came to the Middle East from Byzantium, through the traditions of the Eastern Roman Empire.  Baths dating back to the 3rd century BCE have been excavated in the ruins of Karanis, a Graeco-Roman settlement on the edge of Fayoum, near Cairo. 

Ruins of Karanis. Where remains of an ancient bathhouse 
have been found. Kom Oushim, Fayoum. Egypt.




The coming of Islam spurred the building of Hammams in the region – Islam demanded ritual ablutions as part of spiritual practice.  And as the Islamic Empire expanded, the capital moved from Medina first to Damascus, then to Baghdad and then onwards to Cairo and Istanbul. Each successive leader built newer and more lavish bathhouses both for their private palaces and for their citizenry all through their lands. The culture of hammams reached a peak during Ottoman rule, and the practice is still known by the name of 'Turkish bath' the world over.

Replica of dome at Khirbat al Mafjar Bathhouse, Jericho. 8th century. 
National Archaeological Museum. Amman. Jordan.

Freshwater, reflective bath built for Dona Maria de Padilla. 
Alcazar of Seville, built in the Moorish style. 

Essentially the hammam consisted of three separate chambers – one for heat/steam treatment, one for tepid water washing, and one for cold treatment.  Apart from these, there were sections for massage, soaping/scrubbing, washing off - various grooming activities. Floors were made of marble, surfaces were decorated with stuccowork or frescoes, elaborate fountains and faucets were incorporated into the décor.  Western painters found the bathhouses fascinating and painted some scintillating hot (and of course totally imaginary! feeding into the 'exotic' stereotypes of the East according to some Arab scholars) scenes set in them.

The Harem Bathing. Painting byJean-Leon Gerome,
Orientalist. (1824-1904)

Bathing was of course, segregated – men and women used separate baths or used common facilities on different days/times.  Women's use of bathhouses marked a special social tradition in the Middle East, wedding rituals and confinement ceremonies were celebrated there. The bathhouses were an acceptable venue for women to go to alone without males.



The bathhouse culture in most places has lost its shine because of private bathing practices and faster modern lives. But the hammams in Turkey and Morocco still carry on the glamorous, leisurely tradition.



Are the traditional hammams outdated? should they be phased out? Or be restored/revived as major ways to detox in Hyper-stressed modern urban living?




Yesterday was Palm Sunday, there were two horrible attacks on worshippers at Tanta and Alexandria in Egypt, more than 40 people killed, hundreds injured.  It is heartbreaking this quagmire of violence the region seems to be trapped in. What can one say?







Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2017 



49 comments:

  1. The violence is indeed Heartbreaking. As a species we are slow learners. Too slow.
    Helwa I grew up with as halva. My father loved it and on the rare occasions it appeared in stores here, snapped it up and guzzled it. Now he is dead I often see it, and wish I could buy it for him.
    I suspect I would thoroughly enjoy a leisurely trip to a hammam. Water is always a benison.

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    1. Benison is such a lovely word. Water is always that indeed. Why we can't figure out the lessons of violence and warfare baffles me utterly.

      Halva is the Turkish version, also the Hindi in India.

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  2. As soon as I saw Helwa my mouth started watering. i'm guessing it's the same as the desert I know as Halva which I've eaten extensively (and naughtily!) on my travels, and I make at home. Another really interesting and illuminating post.

    Amble Bay's Village Hall!

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    1. Yup, the very same. Only Arabic doesn't have V so it's Helwa.

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  3. This is so absorbing to read, another culture and words. My grandaughter would love to read this as she is learning Arabic in readiness for her chosen career when she leaves school next month.
    Yvonne.

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    1. The ME does have a fascinating culture - so many aspects to it. Wish your granddaughter much success.

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  4. I am great fan of knowing about lost/endangered cultures and your post did provide some. I am fascinated by the Byzantine era and have a great desire to visit Turkey. Experiencing the Hammam would be fun. I wish this culture returns back.

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    1. Turkey is a wonderful place with an equally fascinating culture as the Arabs. Both the Byzantine and Ottoman era are mind blowing.

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  5. Link to my blog- http://dipanwita.com/a-z-challenge-h-horses-neck/

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  6. Fascinating. I hate to hear of the violence. It is no way to live. I can't imagine the stress some people have to endure. I pray for them. Thanks for reminding me.

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    1. Yes, indeed. Tough times. Thankfully all my friends are safe and okay. My heart goes out to the families affected.

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  7. I totally wait eagerly to read your post everyday.
    Its so informative. Thanks again for sharing

    A Peice Of My Life

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    1. I had great fun writing. Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for being here.

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  8. It's sad to see so much massacre in the world! Marhaba... it is such an interesting word! And this was quite some information here!

    Cheers
    BoisterousBee

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    1. The violence all around is depressing sometimes, but then the good ones outweigh the haters many times over...

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  9. Very interesting research / knowledge sharing . Thanks so much , Nilanjana. Also, your A to Z theme and posts makes me wonder if your academic background is History or English because you are so brilliant in both . I am really upset about the attacks in Egypt too. Sadly, we are only helpless onlookers .
    Best wishes
    Moon
    https://aslifehappens60.wordpress.com

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    1. Nope, neither English nor History I'm afraid...but was always into reading and writing even when teeny tiny. The level of violence in the world is appalling, the space for living together in civilised disagreement seems to be constantly under threat...

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  10. The attacks makes one wonder when will all this stop?
    Wish there was more halwa than hell to talk about these days.
    H is for How are you?

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    1. Me too, totally for halwa and not hell

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  11. Enjoyed your post.

    Dropping by from the A to Z Challenge

    ----------

    Sandra, Aspiring family historian, fellow participant in the #AtoZchallenge

    Sandra's Ancestral Research Journal

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  12. H could also be for Hawwa, my name in Arabic... Just kidding! :)
    The use of hammams has decreased also in Morocco. While men still go there regularly, most women I know here only go for weddings. But then, more luxurious hammams, nothing to do with the traditional, are becoming to be fashionable among upper-classes.

    -----
    Eva - Mail Adventures

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    1. Yes, it totally could...Hi Hawwa! :)

      'Moroccan' baths are a fashionable thing in the Gulf, but of course they are not the traditional bath houses more like modern spa treatments...

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  13. This is wonderful. I need to brush up on my arabic. I studied it for a while for learning how to read the Holy Koran. If you like reading you may like
    Hauling books
    http://theglobaldig.blogspot.com/2017/04/h-is-for-hauling-books-atozchallenge.html

    @trincarl

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    1. I totally like reading and have hauled quite a few books around so far :)

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  14. Ahh, helwa/halwa....one of my favorite sweets. Especially good old carrot halwa. :)

    Modern saunas and spas really have nothing on the traditional bath houses. Those were architectural marvels in themselves!

    It's funny that modern culture is considered more open and less prudish than that of our ancestors, but I wonder if our contemporaries would be alright with hanging out in a bathhouse like the old days...

    Today's unusually strange tale is: Horseplay

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    1. Our remote ancestors were definitely less prudish than us...it's only after modern plumbing came into being was privacy possible..from the ancient Greeks right down to the Tudors bodily functions were not a hidden thing, and of course in India they still aren't for a large section of the population...

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  15. This is such a happy post to start a monday. But alas the horror of church bombings hover over humanity.
    The contrast is stark. So many good people


    But evil rules headlines

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    1. It was a happy post, but then the horror muscled in...it's disheartening.

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  16. We have some wonderful bath houses in Budapest from the Ottoman era that are still open today :)

    The Multicolored Diary: WTF - Weird Things in Folktales

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    1. That is so cool! I didn't know, thanks for sharing that here.

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  17. Replies
    1. Me too! still keep rereading those books from time to time...comfort food for the eye/mind

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  18. That's interesting about the bath houses and Islam. I hadn't put that together, but now it seems obvious. How else would they maintain all the required ablutions?

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    1. Yes, the required ablutions partly drove the building of more bath houses...Islam also recommends grooming and hygiene practices for its followers, not just the ablutions before prayers.

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  19. I am still enjoying learning about the culture and area.

    ~Mary
    Jingle Jangle Jungle
    #AtoZChallenge 1970's Billboard Hits

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  20. Extremely interesting facts about the bathhouses.

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  21. Such heartbreaking news, once again! :( Will it ever stop? One can only hope...
    Hercule Poirot was a favourite character. I read all of Agatha Christie's books when I was a pre-teen. I have also eaten and enjoyed Helwe/Halva. Bath houses are architectural and historical marvels and should be preserved as such. I wouldn't use one, preferring to bathe in private, but I'm sure some people would enjoy the experience.

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    1. I wouldn't use a bath house either, but totally agree they are architectural wonders and should be preserved for the heritage value.
      I loved Hercule Poirot as a school girl and still read the old Christies when I want a break from heavier reading :)

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  22. Informative post.
    I love Halwa! Never tried Hammam...

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    1. Me neither...not been to a bathhouse except the ruins of one :)

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  23. H is for the heights I reached reading such an information packed post.

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    1. :) Thanks! Honoured to Have you Here!

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  24. I'm fascinated by ancient bathhouses. I'm sure they were a big part of the social scene for people back then too.

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    1. Yes, indeed, they were places to majorly network!

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