Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sightseeing in South Asia

Since my last post about who I am and why I blog, I realized I have a few key posts from my old blog on xanga that need to be transfered over here. This gives me a fantastic opportunity to revel in memories, and I ask you to join me.
This past Christmas Isaac and I took the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend weeks overseas with my family in a conservative Muslim country in South Asia. IT WAS AMAZING. Even though I grew up overseas and in a Muslim country, it was totally different than anything I had experienced before and every day was truly a cultural experience. Today and for the next several days I'll be posting a few of the posts complete with photos from that trip
Today we visited the kashmiri bazaar, which was a winding street filled with repetitive little stores that we weren't finding all that interesting in comparison to some of the other markets we've been seeing. I was much more fascinated by the beautifully tiled but falling-apart mosque that the market was built around.
I decided that the architecture and style of the decor on the tiles reminded me of Shah Jahan's palace, and I told my family it was probably also a Moghul mosque. Because it was falling apart and didn't seem to be very well cared for, they told me I had to be wrong and it must be a newer mosque.
BOOyah, I totally won that argument! Turns out it actually was built in the 15th century by the governor of the province under Shah Jahan's rule. It really is totally beautiful, and I'm shocked it's not more well cared for. My research tells me that it is covered in these ornate tiles on the inside and out...


Gorgeous, isn't it?
We also went to this patriotic ceremony that I'll avoid describing in detail, but lets just say it was SO funny because it was absolutely oozing with machismo and patriotism. The guard were marching around aggressively while the crowd cheered and chanted. It was like a football game, except the cheers were "Allahu Akbar" and other things like that. A little eerie for an American to hear a whole crowd get riled up with patriotic and religious fervor like that!

Like I said, the crowds went wild with deafening cheering and chanting, just like a soccer match.
My little brother Matt got all excited by the cheering and as we walked out he was chanting the national slogan with gusto. This drew the attention and very pleased looks of the group of young men around. They stopped and talked to Dad and asked for photos with us, and one guy even bought Matt a hat! They're used to thinking Americans dislike them, so to see an American little boy supporting their country was pretty thrilling!
We also thoroughly enjoyed a night market that cleared out a main city street of traffic and set up chairs and tables everywhere. You could walk through and shop or pick whatever kind of food you wanted at the moment, and then sit and watch them cook it. Watching a series of five men producing naan bread was fascinating - it's sort of made similar to a brick-oven Italian pizza. The atmosphere of the night market was so romantic and exotic - I thoroughly enjoyed it!
We also tried Kashmiri chai, which was hilarious. I went up to the vendor first and saw that he was serving a thick pink liquid. Intrigued, I asked my dad what it was. He asked the vendor, who looked confused and then said, "green tea". My dad looked at him skeptically and informed him, "This is not green tea."
Hah! I was so embarrassed by my dad's impudence that I walked away and pretended not to be associated with the rest of the crazy white people (impossible to do). As it turns out, dad was wrong - it was kashmiri chai, which I guess is just chai made with green tea instead of black tea. I'm still not sure how it gets to be pink, but whatever. :) It was delicious.
Our other culinary adventure of the night was only shared by my crazy sisters:
There was a little stand at the entrance to the night market selling some kind of chew. They were set up as little squares of betel leaf with a little pile of brightly colored stuff on it. When people came up and ordered one the vendor would wrap it up, the customer would open their mouth, and the vendor would swiftly pop it into their mouth for them! So funny to watch. So... the girls didn't want to try the whole thing at once, but they ordered one and brought it home to try. They first picked out the individual pieces inside and discovered they were little bits of sugar candy, chocolate, coconut, and something that tasted exactly like incense smells.... In any case, the girls got brave enough to try a bite of the whole thing, and the above photo was the result. Red mouths and horrified looks.
My favorite street food is shown in the photo above of my brother and the vendors. These vendors sell peanuts and corn. They have woks of sand and salt, and when you order something they throw in the peanuts or corn and shake it around a little, and then run it through a sieve until the sand is all out. It's genius, I tell you, and SO GOOD.

And a few other photos from our adventures in the city

I loved this. Lebanese, huh? The other thing is the small word at the top of the sign that you can't see - "Inshallah". that means "If God wills it." It cracked me up that at the begin of our bus and plane journeys the announcement would be made" "We will be arriving at 7pm, Inshallah". No schedule guarantees here!

What do you think this is - Marble Slab or Coldstone Creamery?

Isn't this kid totally adorable? He was ticklish.


Togenberg said...

hahahaha That little guy is SO cute.

These were great pics.

I think in terms of narrative I really appreciated the border patriotic ceremony. Too funny.

Erin said...

Hello, loved this post and all the amazing pics!
As per our chocolate chip recipe conversation-depends if you mean chewy as in nice and soft or as in flat and sort of chewy? This recipe is good, its my go to for fast large quantities but I have a trick to make all cookies soft and chewy(melt in your mouth chewy) when you let them out to cool, only cool for five minutes and then stick them in a ziploc freezer bag and close it tight-they're still a little warm and the moisture in them stays in the bag and makes them nice and soft yumm!! Good luck let me know if you try them!