One of my favorite quotes of the late artist Hani El Masri is:
In the life of every person,man or woman there will come a long and painstaking stage in which they will have to pack everything they have learnt up to that point and take it along with the things (or people) they value the most and…leave
Leave to start over from scratch in a place where no one knows your name, your potential, your principles, or your aspirations.
A place you don’t know. A place in which no one cares for you.
There, it will be up to you who to befriend and who to call an enemy.
There, you will find out what you’re really made out of and you’ll find the true worth of everything (and everyone) that you used to hold dear.
There, you will have to re-examine your principles,and everything you believe in.You will abandon some and re-embrace others with newly ignited passion and belief.
You will grow and mature away from the eyes and care of those who knew you as a child, befriended you as a youngster. Away from the love of those who raised you, the guidance of those who taught you,and the authority of those who had a say over you
The day will come when you’ll have the choice to go back or stay. It does not matter which one you’ll choose, what matters is: will you be the same man or woman who walked out years ago or will you be a new human being? Will you be happier? more miserable? successful? loser? content ? desperate?
You will be a new you, someone with a heart and mind full of experiences and memories
You will be a new you…better or worse, it is hard to tell now..and it is all up to you
But it is then and only then, when you’ve lived through the expat years and came out of the other end, you can say that you have truly lived
Hani El Masri
If you have ever been an expat, you will know how true those words are.
As we start our third year here in the UAE, I can tell you that it does not get any easier. Every season presents its own challenges and at every turn of the road you have to reinvent yourself and find the strength within you to carry on .
Tomorrow is Eid al Adha, and whenever a special occasion rolls around, I find myself overwhelmed with longing for my friends and family (being back from our short summer vacation makes it much worse). There is something sweet and special about spending Eid with your loved ones and believe me, the older you get and the further away you are, the more you realize that what you miss the most are the small details and rituals that make every family unique.
As we count down the final 10 days till eid, I really miss digging out our box of decorations that we have gathered over the years and hanging them around the house with the kids. I miss the back and forth calls with my mum telling her about the latest maamoul recipe I am experimenting with or the mess the kids made as they were decorating their Eid cookies. I miss the traffic and the buzz in the streets of Amman. The city hardly sleeps in the last few days that lead up to eid. As I write these words, I am sure that the markets in Amman are bursting with people rushing to finish their Eid shopping: a new outfit for the kids, some chocolate to serve or gift to your loved ones , freshly roasted and ground coffee because coffee served on Eid morning should always be fresh and the list goes on.
I miss waking up at dawn to go to the Eid prayers with my parents and I miss the warmth and kindness of everyone you meet, it doesn’t matter if you know them or not. You stop, shake hands, smile and wish them a blessed Eid. Kids are everywhere beaming with happiness in their colorful new eid cloths and for one day they almost get away with anything because it is Eid.
With so many precious details missing, one of my biggest challenges for me here has been to create new rituals for my little family for us to be able to recapture the joy of Eid. One of the best strategies I have found is to replace old habits and rituals with new ones. So instead of buying decorations (or missing our old ones), we make our own and do our best to take on new, challenging and exciting DIY projects every Eid.
Instead of making maamoul and eating it all by ourselves (Part of the joy of making maamoul is gifting platefuls of freshly baked maamoul to your neighbours and friends, it is no fun working on dozens of maamoul cookies all day only to have them stare back at you all eid) we’ve decided to experiment with making new desserts like baid al qata or batheeth or this year’s newest addition to our celebration menu, stuffed dates.
Instead of missing the buzz of Amman, we try to explore a new destination here in the UAE, like Abu Dhabi, Al Ain or Dubai.
They are all baby steps but at the end of the day they help make our expat experience here more enjoyable and memorable instead of being hardly bearable
That looooong intro leads me back to today’s recipe: Stuffed dates.
Stuffed dates are a great appetizer, snack, addition to your kids’ lunchbox (or your own),and they also make a great homemade gift idea. If you need any more convincing to try the recipe, stuffed dates require very little work. There is a world of stuffing options to try and they make a wonderful last minutes party appetizer (or addition to your Eid table) that you can whip up in minutes to impress your guests. Need I say any more?
I am sharing two of my favorite stuffings, one savory with feta cheese, mint, and walnuts and the other sweet with an addictive nut butter filling. I honestly can’t pick a favorite because I love the combination of the salty feta with the sweet dates beautifully complimented by the crunch of the walnuts and the freshness of the mint yet there is something beyond addictive about the combination of maple syrup, nut butter and coconut that you really MUST try
If you do give these a try, please let me know which one you like better
Your favorite kind of dates split, pits removed
Toasted walnuts chopped
1.Line each split date with a mint leaf
2.Mix the crumbled feta cheese with the walnuts
3.Place a teaspoon of the mix into each date
4.Top with pomegranate seeds
1/3 cup peanut butter(you can use any other nut butter)
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
1.Mix the peanut butter, coconut and maple syrup
2.Spoon a teaspoon of the mix into each date.
3.Decorate with a sprinkle of decorated coconut or drizzle with melted chocolate