Glossary of archaic Palestinian words: compiled by Samah Hussein


ainar                          cinnamon boiled with water

atosa                          small saucepan or ceramic pot in which milk is curdled

awarma                      meat (preserved)

bayara                        orchard, plantation

dast                            cooking pot

faras                           horse

hakoura                      field (near house)

halqoum                     Turkish delight

hashweh                     stuffing for kibbeh or vegetables

hatta hisaniya             long white headscarf for married women

haway                         knife

i’lat                             dandelion

ijhadiyat                      gold coins

jalbanah                       herb eaten by cattle

kursana                           “      “           “

khaba                           storage place in the wall

khoweya                      toasted bread with sugar and cinnamon

lajan                             large cooking pot or tray

mabarim                       bracelets

manzil                          large yard

maramiyeh                   sage

Oaya                             drawing

oza                                stuffed thigh of lamb

qass                               stuffed breast of lamb

ratl (s), artal (pl)            a weight made of stone

razd                                round kaak

sanajik                           copper

saouar                            a small goat or lamb

taarifah                          a gift of money

tabban                            store

?takhrim                          needles used in ‘Arab’ medecine

tarash                              livestock

tastahwi                          inflammation of the legs

zalaa                                jar

zalfa                                spoon

zazd                                 cylindrical kaak, decorated



Hajji Um Ahmad al-Tamizi (‘Amqa)

Q: What foods were famous in Palestine?


A. Kibbeh, grilled meat, and laban immo. The recipe for laban immo is to boil the meat, make sure there is not too much water, then bring yoghurt, stir it well, pour it in with the meat stock and let it boil a little. Kibbeh was cooked for weddings and on normal days. Everyone in the village would be invited to a wedding to eat kibbeh and stuffed kibbeh. There was muhammar: you pound onion, squeeze it and pound pepper with it, and put it in trays.  There was also mansaf which was the most famous food in Palestine. At weddings and on other special occasions there was another famous dish — especially at weddings — which was stuffed courgettes. For weddings they would also stuff grape and cabbage leaves. They used to make different kinds of dishes, four or five kinds, so that all the families of the village could eatlunch. The food was cooked in the bride’s house and served to her friends and family. The family of the bridegroom would stuff a leg of lamb for him, as well as all the other dishes, but the leg was just for the groom — pine nuts and meat are stuffed inside the leg. That was what the bride and groom had for dinner.


When a couple got engaged, the bride would give her friends henna, and they would give her mandeels in return. When they pounded the meat they would sing folk songs.


In ‘Amqa, everyone worked for himself, I mean he produced what he needed. No-one worked for somebody else to earn money, because in ‘Amqa there were plenty of orchards, and they also grew olives. There was a big open space in ‘Amqa where people would celebrate various occasions like weddings.


Q: What happened when someone died?


A. The foods that used to be prepared during days of mourning were mjaddara and stuffed courgette (at the end of the third day), but without pine nuts or almonds in the stuffing. Rice mansaf was served in honour of the deceased. People used to help each other on every occasion – there was a cooperative spirit. As for the mandeel, at weddings, people would exchange henna and mandeels as gifts for the bride, or give money. We didn’t bring her gifts after the marriage. On the wedding day, everyone would wear special slippers and beaded dresses that were embroidered at the bottom. The hems were scalloped. People would wear scarves even if they were not veiled. They would put the scarf over their heads and secure it with a small ribbon. Both veiled and unveiled women would wear full-length dresses with long sleeves.


‘Amqa is very close to Kwaykat, and the roads there were paved. In their orchards, they grew grapes, olives, apples, walnuts, almonds and oranges — I mean citrus. In ‘Amqa, the water came from the well – in ‘Amqa there were plenty of wells. The Lebanese would bring abayyat to Palestine, and the people of ‘Amqa would exchange a large can of olives for one. Women in Palestine used to put on the hatta niswaniyya, and girls would wear the mandeel.


Special food for the hajj was kibbehand grilled meat. There was no real special food for the hajj, but there was an obligation to give lunch to any guest that came to the house.


At the ‘Eid, the most popular dish at any holiday was grilled meat, and liver. The people of ‘Amqa used to buy sweets from ‘Akka or Yafa (baklawa and halva). At the ‘Eid they would also grill kebab.


When someone was ill, they would be treated the ‘Arab’ way, using cups that were put on the back to draw out the pain. Or they might be given an aspirin, and have their body rubbed with olive oil and massaged. There were plenty of ‘Arab’ doctors in ‘Amqa, and they all treated patients using Arab medicine. If the problem was in the legs, the treatment used was tahzim [1]– that’s a sort of needle that was placed in the legs, to get rid of what was called ‘yellow water’ and reduce pain. People with thin hair used garlic and salt to stimulate hair growth. The herbs that were used for a patient during treatment were chamomile and sage. A woman who had recently given birth would put hot ashes on her legs so that they wouldn’t swell up. She would drink milk and eat eggs, broad beans, kafta, stuffed intestines, liver and sweets. All those foods increased the amount of milk in her breasts.


There were olive presses and there were bees that gave honey. Eggplant was fried with its skin. Potato was put for 15 or 20 minutes in a sieve to drain off the liquid. A.woman did not have any checks on the health of the unborn child or on her own health. She used to eat natural food like everyone else in the village. They knew nothing about birth control in ‘Amqa, or any methods of contraception. Women preferred to have babies for as long as God willed. People used to wash clothes and cook on wood fires. They used soap flakes[2] for washing, as well as citric acid.


There were schools in ‘Amqa for boys and girls.


The accent hasn’t changed over the generations, it’s still the same.


Recipe for al-Sab’a Dawla:

Chop three potatoes, three cusa, 300 grams of green beans, 200 grams of sweet pepper, 100 grams of hot pepper, okra and one eggplant. Put everything in the tray with some semneh on top. While that’s in the oven, chop an onion and tomato, then add ground meat and stir.


Recipe for Saloufa:

Stuffed carrots, tomatoes, eggplant, cusa and grape leaves. Fry the carrots, eggplant and cusa, put them in the tray with grape leaves and tomato, then put it in the oven.


Another recipe: Fry the courgettes, chop the meat, mix it with tahini and lemon, then put it in the oven.


Mulberry leaves: when the first leaves appeared on the mulberry tree, we would pick them and boil them, then stuff them with vegetables and cook them with water, lemon and salt.


[1] We are not sure if tahzim is the correct word yet.

[2] Baresh, made from scraping soap.

Hajji Um Kamel al-Ali (Kwaykat)

Q: How old were you when you left Palestine?


A. I was about ten years old.


Q: Whatwere the most popular dishes in Palestine?


A: Mjaddara, besara,[1] mnazaleh [2], red lentils, green beans, okra, cusa, green mloukhia,[3] In winter people cook what they have in their stores:  lentils, mnazaleh, moghrabiyya...


Q: At weddings, what foods are most common?


A. They would cook rice and beans and cusa. Everyone in the village would be invited to the wedding, and none of them would cook on that day, they would help the families of the bride and groom to cook. At lunch time they would all eat together.


Q: What about the ‘Eid? What food was cooked for that occasion?


A. At the ‘Eid, they roasted meat for lunch. For breakfast, we would eat raw liver. People also cooked khabisa and gave it away in memory of the dead. Khabisa is a mixture of starch, water and sugar.


Q: What food would people take with them on the hajj?


A. The hajj was hard because it was a very long journey. People didn’t travel by plane but by camel. The pilgrimage might take two or three months. They would buy food as they went along. Because of the length of the trip and the time involved, food would spoil, so pilgrims used not to take food with them, they bought whatever they needed from shops on the way.


Q: What food was made when there was a death?


A. We used to cook rice, beans, and stews of different kinds, but now people have started to make manaasef and manaqish with meat. In Palestine we didn’t use to make manaqish with meat for a funeral. People used to cook rice and yoghurt, beans and stews. As for meat, people slaughtered sheep when there was a death, but they stopped pounding kibbeh for forty days as an expression of grief for the loss and out of sympathy for the family. Pounding kibbeh before the forty days were over was considered disrespectful.


Q: What food was cooked specially for someone who was ill?


A. The patient would go to the doctor, and whatever food the doctor advised him to eat, he would eat. There was no hospital in Kwaykat but there were hospitals in ‘Akka, so the patient would go straight to the hospital. There was an ‘Arab’ doctor in Kabri who used herbs to treat patients. But anyone who was really ill would get treated by a doctor and get pills, drugs or injections. Diseases in the old days were not serious and could be easily cured. It’s not like that now, when every day there’s a new disease or illness and it’s more deadly than the previous one. It’s because before, people used to eat olive oil, real honey, and all the food, all the vegetables and fruits were 100% natural. There were no preservatives. People used to drink fresh milk every day and eat eggs, and all the cheese and dairy products were home-made.


Q: Was there plenty of water in Kwaykat?


A: Yes, we had plenty of water in our village. There was a well, people would draw water from it in buckets. That water was spring water, people used it for drinking and cooking. In order to water crops, people would dig a well to save rainwater, and use that for their livestock and crops. In summer, anyone who needed water for their crops would take it from the spring or the well.


Q: What crops were most commonly planted in Kwaykat?


A. We used to plant watermelon, sesame, green beans, okra, Egyptian cucumber, cucumber and maize. These crops were not for trading, people planted to supply their own needs.


Q: How did you earn money?


A. People planted wheat and sesame, and after they had taken what they needed, they’d sell the rest to other people. Anyone who kept bees and had extra honey would sell what he didn’t need, and benefit from the money he made. That was how people in Palestine lived, whatever extra olives or olive oil they had, they sold. There was no industry in Kwaykat; each family had a small piece of land that served their needs. The concept of distributing food wasn’t really known because each family planted only enough to meet their needs, and what was left over was sold for money – there was not very much left over. But it was common for neighbours to help each other. For example, if my neighbour had no honey, I would give him some, and if I was in need of vegetables my neighbour would give me what I needed.


Q: What food was cooked specially for a woman who had just given birth?


A. A woman who had just had a baby would eat eggs, omelettes, and khwaya, which was ground cinnamon boiled with bread and sugar. She would also have chicken, and meat and soup. In Kwaykat, people had livestock (sheep and cattle). Nahariyya is near Kwaykat, the Jews were settling in that village, but those Jews were peaceful and lived almost the same way as the Palestinians did.  Nahariyya is between ‘Akka and Kwaykat. It’s worth mentioning that when the war began, Jews came to the mayor of Kwaykat and told him not to leave Palestine. They said if we surrendered and handed over the land, we would live together on this land [Palestine]. But the people of Palestine refused. When we first left Palestine we headed to Aita Sha’b then we moved to other parts of Lebanon, until we reached Bourj al-Barajneh camp. After that we were unable to go back home because the Israelis had control of the whole country. In the old days, moving between Lebanon and Palestine and the other way round was easy, as if you were moving from one village to another in the same country. There were no customs or borders between the two countries until Israel occupied Palestine, and set borders and imposed conditions.


Q: Has the Palestinian dialect changed over the generations?


A. We, the older generation, haven’t changed the way we speak, it’s the same today as it always was. We still speak just as we used to in Palestine. We stayed seven years in a Lebanese village called Haddada, where the people are Lebanese and speak the Lebanese dialect, and we didn’t change the way we speak or dress or the food we eat.


Q: What differences are there between Lebanon and Palestine?


A. Palestine is different from Lebanon. In Palestine we had land and a house, but in Lebanon we have nothing. We used to have a homeland. We came to Lebanon with only the clothes on our backs, we took nothing from our houses. We started our lives in Lebanon from scratch. Lebanese people treated us well. After that, there were what is called rations for the Palestinian people; then they built schools for us in Tibnin. I didn’t go to school, because it was shameful for a girl, she was not allowed to learn, her duty was only at home. When it came to education, boys had priority, it wasn’t for girls.


[1] Pureed fava beans with dried mloukhia.

[2] A vegetable stew made of eggplant, onions, tomatoes and chick peas.

[3] Jews mallow.

Hajji Um Saleh al-Khobayzi (Kabri)


Q: What are the most famous dishes in Palestine?

A: People cook beans and rice, kibbeh, potato stew, and manaasef [rice with nuts and meat]: cut the lamb into pieces and boil it, then put it on top of the rice with nuts.

Q: What about weddings?

A:  The friends of the bridegroom would invite him the day before the wedding, and one of the bride’s girl friends would invite her to her house, where her future in-laws would bring her henna and distribute it to her friends. They would decorate the bride’s hands and legs with henna that night. The next day, the bride would stay at her friend’s house until noon while everyone else was busy cooking. She would have lunch with her girl friends, and later in the afternoon, she would be taken away on a horse. The mother of the groom would wear a velvet dress. At sunset, the bride would go home on the horse with her belongings and they would fetch a mandeel.[1]  The bride raises her hand and they would take her first to her family’s house, then to her house (her husband’s house). As for the food, there was a dish made specially for the bride and the bridegroom called qass. The food made for the guests at the family houses of both the bride and the groom was manaasef, yoghurt, beans and all kinds of stews.


There were no kitchen utensils made of glass, everything was made of copper or aluminum. People used to borrow pans from everyone in the village, and cook in them. The invitation was not limited to the people of the village but was extended to all the nearby villages and towns – al-Ghabsiyah, Sheikh Daoud, even as far afield as Haifa. At a wedding at least 50 or 60 sheep would be slaughtered.


Q: In case of illness?

A: A rooster would be killed, boiled and made into soup with rice and finely chopped parsley, and the patient would drink it. Yoghurt would also be made and given to the sick person. In addition to colostrum [the first milk given by a cow after calving], there used to be plenty of honey combs, and they would give the sick person honey from the combs. They used to make a gift of honey to everyone in the village. If there was any left over after that, they would take it out of the combs and put it in jars.


To make molasses, you pick the carob, pound it and leave it in the sun all day. When the sun goes down, cover it with water until sunrise the next day.  All the neighbours would get together to make carob molasses. You have to rub it, press it, then filter it through a special filter, before boiling it. Once it cools, it has to be passed through a fine sieve to make sure that no small pieces are left in it. That was also given free to everyone.


Q: What about the hajj?

A. People would go in buses, and food was the same as in normal everyday life. Pilgrims would give their neighbours meat from a slaughtered animal.


Q: At the ‘Eid?


A. Sheep would be slaughtered and the meat distributed to everyone in the village. People used to depend on those animals, because they were farmers, and in their daily life they depended on rearing livestock and growing crops. They would slaughter animals for every occasion, not like the people of the cities, where they bought meat by the quarter kilo or kilo. In al-Kabri, they would kill chickens every day. There was no need to buy any kind of food, they grew all their vegetables.


Q: What was it like when someone died?


A. They would make the same food as they did for a wedding: manaasef with meat and nuts, but when it came to kibbeh, the villagers would not pound kibbeh for forty days after a death. If one of the neighbours wanted to eat kibbeh he would go and visit a relative in another village and eat kibbeh there.


Q: What would you give a woman who had just had a baby?


A: On the first day, she would drink cinnamon (you pound cinnamon and boil it with walnuts and other nuts), because those things would increase the amount of milk in her breasts. On the second day, cinnamon would be cooked with rice and sugar and she would eat that dish for two days. After that she started to eat grilled meat and chicken cooked in all sorts of ways. She would keep to that diet for forty days, and then go back to eating as usual.


Q: What about pregnant women?


A. If the foetus was sick and the mother had a miscarriage, she would go to the doctor. There was a hospital in Nahariyya near ‘Akka – it was a Jewish village but they were all living together — it was foreign Jews who occupied the country. In Nahariyya there was a woman called Jewish Mariam, who used to treat women who didn’t get pregnant, she used to give them special medication. They didn’t use herbs to treat illness, they would immediately use modern medicine. The Jewish people in Nahariyya were peaceful, they never hurt Palestinians, but treated them with respect and cordiality. The people of al-Kabri would also seek treatment in Naharaya, and a doctor from Nahariyya would go round to the villages to treat patients. There were restrictions on the way people could be treated: no male doctor could examine a woman; a female doctor would treat women and a male doctor would treat men.


Q: What were the various seasonal foods?


A: Moghrabiyya was cooked in winter, and stuffed intestines were also made in winter. There was more food in summer, but it was largely vegetables. Vegetables and fruits were only eaten in season.


Q: How did they heat water?

A. With firewood or on a kerosene stove, but mostly on firewood because there weren’t many stoves. Around al-Kabri the land was not arable, and the people of the village used to cut firewood and there was no problem with that, because there were plenty of trees nearby: oak, sareer, carob, and al-andoor.[2]


Q: What food was prepared when people got engaged?


A. First of all, food and drink was prepared in the house of the bridegroom before they went to the bride’s house. The groom’s family would invite the whole village and everyone would contribute something (even if it was only something simple). Some people would give cloth – there were no tailors. Each woman would make clothes for herself and her family. Or there might be one woman in the village who would sew for everyone. Other people might bring night-gowns, everyone in the village would bring something as a gift for the bride and groom – rings, silk sheets, or sweetmeats. The sweets that were bought from ‘Akka were sugared almonds or sugared hazelnuts. They put the sweets on a tray when the groom went to the house of the bride to ask for her hand. They would take her bracelets, two rings and a wedding ring. Relatives would also bring rings, bracelets, necklaces and ijhadiyat [3]— gold coins to put in her plaited hair (six gold coins).


Q: Were there any ‘Arab’ doctors?


A. The ‘Arab’ doctor couldn’t do much. Most people would go straight to the hospital, and would only go to the ‘Arab’ doctor if they broke or fractured a bone, or had a sprain.


Q: What is the recipe for ka’k?


A: The recipe for ka’k hasn’t changed. They used to use walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar. Also pine nuts and dates. In order to keep ka’k they used to thread them and hang them on the wall, that way they wouldn’t spoil. Life in Palestine was easy and children were strong and resilient. Everything we ate was natural, and contained no chemicals at all. Every morning the children would eat eggs or drink milk, as well as eating honey and yoghurt. This was what everyone in Palestine had for breakfast.

[1] A mandeel is a woman’s headscarf, decorated with crochet work, beads, and other ornaments.

[2] We haven’t found the English for sareer and andour yet.

[3]  Ijhadiyat may be a mistake for majidiyat, an Ottoman gold coin.

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.

Hajji Um Khayr (al-Nahar)


Q: How old were you when you left Palestine?

A: I had five children, and was pregnant with my sixth. I was 23 years old.

Q: What special meals are prepared for a wedding?

A: In al-Nahar village they were cattle owners. Say the wedding is in al-Matn. First the headman of the village issues an invitation to all the people in the town, saying that so-and-so, the bridegroom, will marry so-and-so, the bride, on such-and-such a date, and needs, for example, milk and yogurt. So everyone milks their cattle, produces yogurt and gives him their dairy products for the wedding. One large cooking pot [dast] is equal to five or six artal: the Palestinians did not use kilograms in those days).[1] When there is a wedding in Nahar, the family of the first wedding would bring along eggplant, broccoli and alfun,[2] because al-Nahr grows no crops: they just have cattle, while the neighbouring village has crops but no cattle. So at weddings, people exchange what they have. The farms [of al-Matn] were about as far from al-Nahar as the distance between here and Wadi al-Zeineh. When there is a wedding, we take six or seven pots of yogurt and give them to the family as a gift, and when we invite them to our wedding they respond by bringing us all the crops they have as a gift. They bring their produce on camels. As well as exchanging slaughtered animals at our own weddings, we take animals to their weddings, and if they have any they bring them to ours. This custom is well established in all the towns and villages of Palestine. At weddings, sheep are slaughtered and cooked, as well as rice, beans, potato stew, eggplant, stuffed courgettes and cabbage. All the women in the area get together to cook. The wedding ends at sunset, and people start to leave. They half-fill their pots with rice and boiled meat for dinner. Wedding guests, the family and the neighbours who did not go to the wedding all eat the dinner prepared for the wedding. It was a simple, happy life.


The bride and the bridegroom eat breast of lamb stuffed with rice and pine nuts, and stitched together. They called it qass. This food was prepared specially for the bride and groom. The bride doesn’t cook for at least seven days and sometimes for up to thirty days. The bridegroom’s family cooks and brings them food. During that time the food is not special, they eat whatever there is at their family’s house.


When there is a death, for the first three or four days the family of the deceased doesn’t cook – the neighbours do that for them. For breakfast: milk, ka’ak, tea, labneh and cheese. At lunch, rice and stews. For supper, rice and stews.


It was not proper to pound the meat for kibbeh for forty days [after a death].


The English came to the country, and they distributed weights to shops equivalent to one kilo, half a kilo, and the waqiya.[3] The shops used to sell the crops of the village, the currency was silver (you could get half a ratl for half a lira). People rarely bought green vegetables because they used to grow them, but they would buy eggplant and cabbage because the ground was not well irrigated. There were wells but that water was for the livestock and for drinking. There was not enough water to grow any other crops.


If the person who died was elderly, people mourned and stopped pounding kibbeh for twenty days. If they were young, people mourned them for forty days, and it was the same for women.


A month or two before the ‘Eid, everyone who had livestock would make a gift of a saour[4] to a neighbour who had none, as well as ‘Eid cakes and dates. People would start making those cakes on the tenth day of Ramadan. Every day the women would get together in the houses and make those cakes. That would carry on until the night before the ‘Eid. The men would also help to make those cakes, decorating the dough with various pictures, of palms, flowers and so on. Every family in the village would take something to a poor family – flour, rice, an animal….


The ingredients used to make ka’ak: put aniseed and very finely sieved flour in a copper dish with cinnamon, mahaleb,[5] yeast and halqoum. Inside the ka’ak there were dates and halqoum and it was cooked at night. They would make a fireplace from stone and mud, or cook and bake bread using the tabun.[6] Dried cattle dung was used as fuel.


If someone was ill, they would give them a herb called ‘spirit of mint’ – its leaves are like the leaves of wheat. That herb was used for pain – stomach ache or indigestion. It grew wild in rocky places near the village.  They boiled it up and the patient would drink it. Another method of treatment was to hold on to the branch of a tree high off the ground, drink some water, keeping it in the mouth, swing a little bit, then spit out the water. You had to do that three times.


If someone had a cut, they would bring the herb tayun [linula viscosa],[7] pound it, press it and put it on the wound, bandaging the head or the forehead. In case of fracture, there was a doctor in the village of Ghabsiyah who used the traditional Arab method of setting bones; but there was no doctor in al-Nahar.


In the case of a difficult birth the doctor would come – he was called Anwar and he was from ‘Akka. It would take about two hours on foot, and less than an hour on a strong riding animal. First, a midwife would come and decide whether a doctor was needed. If a woman couldn’t get pregnant, there was Sheikh Abu Abdo, from Sha’b, who would treat her with Arabic herbal medicine. He would give her a bottled tincture of wild mint, thyme and sage, and the sick woman had to stay taking it until she got pregnant.


There were large jars that would fill a whole shelf, of cheese, labneh, and pickles. They used to lay in provisions of food, and they traded in livestock, milk and yoghurt. People from ‘Akka and Ghabsiyah would buy from the people of the village of al-Nahar.


Anyone with a wound shouldn’t drink water.


Apple and mastic… [unfinished sentence].


 If a woman was pregnant and the baby died, the woman would boil onion leaves with water and drink it. As for birth control, there was no such thing – a woman would keep having babies until she was no longer able to.  If the woman was pregnant and the foetus was not doing well, she would drink herbs.


The name of the midwife in al-Nahar was Naili, and another one called Rayya used to come from Sheikh Daoud. The midwife came to the house of the pregnant woman.


Recipe given by Um Khayr: Khabisa with carob.

Ingredients: powdered cinnamon sticks; sesame;starch; carob; rosewater.

Method: Place carob in boiling water, then add starch, sesame, cinnamon and rosewater. Boil all the ingredients together, then put in a dish. Good in cold weather.

[1]  Rotl singular, artal plural: a measurement of weight (archaic).

[2]  We haven’t found a translation for alfun yet.

[3]  The waqiya is equal to 200 grams, and is still used today.

[4]  Saour, a small sheep or goat a bit bigger than a kid.

[5]  Fenugreek.

[6]  The tabun was a clay oven that most village households possessed, for cooking meat dishes such as musakhan,as well as bread. See next interview with hajji Um Muhammad.

[7]  Tayun is a medicinal herb for which we haven’t yet found the English equivalent.

Hajji Fatima Mahmoud Yasin (Shafr Amr)

Q: Hajji, what is your name?

A: Fatma Mahmoud Yasin.

Q: Where are you from?

A: I’m from Shafr Amr.

Q: How old were you when you left Palestine?

A: I was born in the year ’38.

Q: What were the most popular dishes that you cooked in Shafr Amr?

A: Muhammar, kibbeh, spinach, fatayer — we cooked rice, manasef — everything.

Q: What did you grow mostly in Shafr Amr?

A: Wheat, barley, lentils, everything.  Mloukhieh, tomatoes, watermelon, sesame — all the foods.

Q: You mean you didn’t need anything from outside? What you grew you would eat?

A: Yes.

Q: What did you cook for weddings?

A: We cooked rice, manasef, stews.[1] We made fasouliya, dsouti, abu al-halaa,[2]cabbage, kibbeh. And we made yellow cake, we put ‘uqda safra [turmeric] and oil in it, and stuffed them, and made rows of them to give to the young men who begged. And when they brought the bride they would make us stuffed lamb that everyone and the bride would eat for dinner.

Q: What would you make in Ramadan?

A: If the feast came — may God make you share in it [3]— we would bring wheat and grind it, and put it through a fine sieve, and prepare it. We would bring semneh – we’d go to Haifa and get baladi semneh — and our neighbor would come on that day, she and her daughters would help you to make cakes. And we would bring a huge tray-full, and we’d bake them in the taboon or the oven. And you would share it with whoever didn’t have any. And they would go to the streets and to distribute them.  The next day your neighbor would do the same, and the next day someone else. And they would also bring mlabbas and Turkish delight, and would cook pumpkin—they’d slice it, and make jam — not jam that you dip bread into. And if you didn’t have it, your neighbor would give you.  And we would go to the swings and take with us all kinds of food. And we called it zarad, not ka’k.

Q: If a woman gave birth, what food would you make her?

A: We would make moghli. We didn’t make moghli in bowls. We brought the cinnamon sticks and pounded them, and boiled it in a saucepan, and cooked it.  We made it as something to drink.  We would bring walnuts, pine nuts, and other kinds of nut, as well as cloves, and we’d add a cupful of sugar with the nuts. And you would drink it like tea – we’d serve it in big cups. And afterwards you would serve sweets and mlabbas

Q: If someone died, what would you cook for his soul?

A: Manasef and kibbeh. On the third day we would kill sheep, and drink coffee, and everything.

Q: Was there someone to help you in such occasions, or did you pay someone?

A: No, the people of the village, and the neighbors, and our relatives, and the older women cooked, and those who were younger would help them, and also serve.

Q: Were the dishes of the winter different from those of the summer?  What did you make in the winter? And in the summer?

A: We would make cabbage and mjeddara, and khubz muhammar, chicken and everything. Whatever food there was we would cook it.

Q: You mean the dishes weren’t different from winter to summer?  Whatever there was you’d cook?

A: Yes, we would make i’lit, what they call hindbeh here. We would go and pick the dandelions, and get chard and spinach, and we’d make spinach fatayer, and we’d make yakhneh.[4] You would cut from what you grew, and chop it, and cook it with mint, tomatoes, and green onions, all in front of your house.  

Q: How was your accent different from the people of Kwaykat?

A: Like I said, our speech stayed the same.

Q: How could you tell where a person was from?

A: We knew.  For example, the people of ‘Iblin would say kaal. The people of Tamra and Kawkab would lengthen the name Hasan. Kafr Mandal people speak differently, and Safouri people speak differently. Al-Kasayer and Nasra would say kaal with a qaf.

Q: When you came to Lebanon did your speech change, or is it still the same?

A: No, our speech didn’t change, because we didn’t leave the people of our village, or mix with others. We stayed in Jwayya but we didn’t talk like them.  We Palestinians went on visiting each other. The people of ‘Amqa speak differently from us, but our accent is Palestinian.

Q: What are some words that you used in Palestine, but when you came here they changed?  For example, before they used to say zalafeh instead of ma’laqa.

A: Yes, before they used to call the spoon zalafeh, and I don’t know in what region they called it khashooqa.  We didn’t call the maghrafa maghrafa or the kafkir kafkir.[5] But spoons we would call zalafeh.

Q: What did you call plates (sahoun)?

A: The plate was istaytiya and also the deep dishes. And the long dishes for rice we called shakhatir. 

Q: Would you like to say anything else?

A: May God return us to our land, oh Lord. We just want to see our land before we die.  I wish we had died rather than have left.


[1] The word used here, dsout, means a very large pan, so we assume hajji Fatima is using the word to mean a dish with many ingredients.

[2] Abu al-halaa: meaning still unknown.

[3] “Inshallah yinadalayki” is a phrase used when speaking to people about Ramadan.

[4] Yakhneh can be translated as ‘stew’. It means any mixture of meat and vegetables that is served with rice.

[5] These are both words for ‘ladle’.

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