Aida - More Than an Opera

She was a Christian living in Bethlehem when refugees started arriving in 1948, and gave land for their camp. Over the years it has been transformed into a more permanent settlement. The refugees gave it her name - Aida Camp.
Mohamed was born to Islam and her husband 17 years ago. A few months later she discovered he was not as other children, brain damaged and having special needs. She could have kept him isolated in a back room as is often the case, but she was determined he should have as normal a life as possible. The Noor Women's Empowerment Project was born, a school for children with special needs and a commercial programme alongside to support it. That's where we fitted in - sharing in preparation of a traditional Palestinian meal in a way that would have made us stars on TV's Master-Chef. 
It starts with vegetable preparation: potatoes, cauliflower and aubergines fried; then tomatoes, cucumber, parsley and mint chopped up finely, and in a way that enables a mother with six children still to keep an eye on them, lemon juice squeeze by hand over these. Meanwhile André gets on with the fries, including the parboiled chicken quarters then coated with a marinade including tamarind and other spices.

And the rice - soaked in warm water/stock for 30 minutes, then briefly boiled, and the hardly fried noodles that go with it before everything is layered, veg at the bottom, rice on top and baked. Then upside down delivery onto trays, with the chicken pieces placed above and garnished with roasted nuts and parsley. That's Muqlaba - delicious with yogurt and salad/sambals alongside. And for dessert, semolina and coconut baked with a topping of syrup - no wonder I wanted a second helping. Beware those who might be around for a meal over Christmas with us!
It's goodbye all round, including a hello to Mohamed who's alone on a balcony a few steps up. I leave him with what I suspect is his chromosome abnormality and two wonderful parents. 
If hospitality is spirituality, then that's it for today.