Bedouin Bread, Good Olive Oil and Za'atar.

Bedouin bread, olive oil and za'atar

After a day at Lagoona Beach in Dahab, a friend and I were invited for tea at a Bedouin home. I've known the family for a couple of years now, and they're fantastic. Always so hospitable, generous and welcoming.

As soon as we arrived we were offered tea, then perspired gently by the fire in the 40 degree heat chatting about what we'd all been up to in our broken Arabic and English. Somehow we always manage to communicate despite the language barrier.

After that the woman started to make Bedouin bread, a simple mix of wholemeal flour, water and salt cooked in two ways. One variety is very thin and flat (like a large wrap or tortilla), cooked over a special black heated dome, and the other is a thicker version, almost like a pizza base, cooked in the ground in the ashes of the fire. 

While my friend Annemarie did most of the breadmaking duties as she wanted to learn the techniques involved, the kids proudly showed me around their garden. It was bursting with lemon, guava and fig trees, herbs, and plants. Freshly washed colourful blankets were drying in the boughs of the trees, and the washing line had fish (they also often catch octopus) drying in the sun ready for the next meal.

Once the bread was ready, we all sat in a circle and ate it with organic South Sinai olive oil and za'atar (supplied from Palestine by another friend, Mary). Za'atar is a wonderful mix of toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme, sumac and sea salt and it's very popular in the Middle East although oddly not widely available here in Egypt. The bread was broken into chunks, and we dipped each piece into the oil first and then the za'atar.

If you're looking for inspiration for your next dinner party or barbecue, you should really try this delicious combination out. There are ways and means of making the bread using a more western style kitchen or garden as it's quick and easy. The key is to be creative with the equipment you have.

I'll write a separate post with a Bedouin bread recipe, but for now I'll leave you to salivate a little... ;-)