Hajji Um Muhammad al-Owayti (al-Kabri)


Q: What dishes were well-known in Palestine?

A: Palestine is well-known for its moghrabiyya, raw kibbeh, stews of various kinds, and all kinds of fish. The people of al-Kabri are famous for moghrabiyya (also called maftoul), stuffed intestines, raw kibbeh, fish, fish kibbeh, the large hamour fish, and fish kafta. Kabri is famous for its water – there is one spring of water called “the honey spring”, it’s the most delicious water in all Palestine. It is also well-known for olives, crops such as wheat, livestock, and the bread they make in a tabun. A clay cylinder is placed in the earth and in that they place mud and dried dung, which produces a high temperature when burnt. The bread cooked in that oven smells delicious. But water is the most famous thing in Kabri. All the villages of Ghabsiyah, Sheikh Daoud and Kwaykat used to take water from Kabri.


Q: What arrangements do you make in Kabri when there is a wedding?

A: First, all the neighbours are invited. A week before the wedding, they start preparing the food – sha’riyya[1]and stews of all kinds. The way to cook sha’riyya, which is a kind of dry pasta, is to divide it into small pieces, then rub it with your fingers until it’s small, then fry it. That’s the way to make sha’riyya.


The way to cook rishtaya (a dish of lamb, noodles, and lentils) is to roll out the dough on a low round table, sprinkle flour on the dough, then roll out the dough again until it becomes thin and holds together well, fold it over several times into layers, and then cut it with a knife. Some people make this mixture with lentils and milk or yoghurt.


A special dish for the bride and the bridegroom is qass, that’s breast of lamb stuffed with rice and pine nuts, roasted in the taboor oven. This is a special dish that is made on the day of the wedding, for the bride and groom to have for supper.


When the wheat is harvested, at the end of the season, neighbours invite each other and cook rice, and they make and cook white burghul. They put down the straw mat, place the food on it and eat together in celebration of the occasion, the end of harvest season.


On the day of a wedding, people cook rice, make yoghurt, stuffed intestines, sweet peppers, and white burghul.


When there was a death, they used to make dough for sfeeha,[2] and mansaf. People would travel from town to town in the event of a death or a marriage. The town would be full of slaughtered animals and mansaf. [In the event of a death] they would not pound the meat for kibbeh for forty days. The villagers had a very traditional mentality. Death is something hard for people to accept. They would not pound the meat for kibbeh because they considered it an insult to the bereaved family. If the family of the deceased really wanted to go to great lengths in their mourning, especially if the person they had lost was young, they would not wash and would stay in their dirty clothes.


When someone was ill, they would make food that was suitable for the patient, such as lentil soup; or they’d kill a rooster, boil it and make soup from it for the patient. There was an ‘Arab’ doctor who would go from town to town on his horse to treat patients with ‘Arab’ medicine. There were cars at that time, but very few. If the doctor wasn’t available, they would take the patient by horse to the nearest village where there was a doctor. There were no hospitals in Kabri, nor in Kwaykat, Bassa or even Zair. Those villages were considered to belong to the city of Acre. In extreme cases, the patient would be taken to the hospital in the city. If someone had a really bad knife wound, for example, they would go straight to the hospital to get it stitched, because in the village there was no doctor who could deal with such cases. It was rare for anyone to study medicine.


Two years before the war started, two schools were opened for children in al-Kabri, but war destroyed everything. Al-Kabri is small village and its people are well-known. Learning wasn’t considered very important in Palestine. The Palestinian people need knowledge and culture.


The children of Kabri used to play in Nahariyya.[3]


Q: When people went on the pilgrimage, what food would they take with them?


A: Mlatin [ka’k with no dates], spinach pies, burghul for kibbeh and mjaddara. For the ‘Eid they made ka’k.


After a woman had given birth, they would prepare moghleh, with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. A woman who had recently given birth would boil cinnamon and drink it. They would also boil [ground] rice, cinnamon and caraway. To each cup of rice, put seven cups of water, one spoon of cinnamon and one of caraway, boil them together for about an hour and a half or two hours. Then pour it in cups and put nuts on top and give it to the guests.


If the foetus was not doing well in the mother’s womb, they would give her natural remedies. She would have to sleep on her back, drink lemonade, and eat lemon with sugar.


Things that were used for medication were tincture of iodine, coffee, iodine, rshoosh.[4]


When a woman was pregnant and about to give birth, they would boil marjoram, sage and aniseed, and that would show whether the pain was from indigestion or labour pains.


There were no birth control pills: the husband and wife would make an agreement. If the woman wished to space out her pregnancies, just after giving birth – no more than a few hours – she would swallow three cardamom pods, and that would delay pregnancy. But that remedy was not very dependable: it failed plenty of times, and come the next year, the woman would be pregnant again.


The Palestinian dialect has not changed, but the accent was different from one village to another. But there has been no change in the dialect until now.


People had no plates because the family used to put the food on aluminium trays. The whole family would sit around the tray and eat from it.


Villages would swap things: a village that didn’t have vegetables but did have livestock would trade livestock with a village that had vegetables but no livestock. There was cooperation between the villages and families of Palestine.


[1] Sha’riyya can be translated as vermicelli or noodles.

[2] Sfeeha are pastries filled with a mixture of minced meat, onions, pine nuts, yoghurt, and tomatoes. .

[3]  Nahariyya is on the border between Palestine and Lebanon. It was a predominantly Jewish town. To say that Arab Palestinian children played there suggests the good relations that existed between the two communities before 1948.

[4]  Rshoosh, an apirin-like medicine, crushed and sprinkled on a wound.


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