Monday, November 24, 2008

gerbil couscous

Just got back from another two nights in the Sahara. This time was very, very, VERY different than all the other times I have been. Now, those of you who are vegetarian or squeamish may not want to read any further...

The reason being, is that this time, I went with five of my Bedouin
friends to the desert for their winter tradition of gerbil trapping and eating gerbil couscous....

Now, if you've read this far, please don't leave now, hear the rest.

Bedouins have been mostly poor and have lived as nomads in the desert for centuries. And living in the desert, to kill a sheep, goat or chicken has been a luxury that often they could not afford, needing the animals for currency and such. So the tradition evolved of trapping the numerous gerbils. A side benefit has been to keep the gerbil population in check.

Today, Bedouins are still often poor, and meat is a necessary part of their diet. So, the tradition has continued to this day - throughout the winter and spring, groups of Bedouins head out into the desert for a few days of feasting and resting. They barbecue them first, then put them into a stew for couscous.

Although I could never eat them, I still respect their lifestyle and any animal that is killed is done in a humane way (often unlike our 'modern' western meat

So, knowing what I was doing, I decided to go anyway, a bit nervous, because I am of the squeamish ilk (I always wanted to use that word!).

As well, I recently acquired a new family member, a baby gatuseh (kitten). Petunia is her name, and my friends told me that she is the first gatuseh to go out into the Sahara! I have included a couple of photos with her in it. Can you spot her following me in one of the photos? Don't forget you can 'double click' on the images to enlarge them.

So, I ate well (lamb or vegetarian couscous), rested and enjoyed the warm sun on my face, the soft dunes of the desert, danced and laughed a lot! The company couldn't have been better...

So, enjoy the photos, try not to judge these gentle kind people, and insh'allalh, you may learn something, like I am doing every day...
Love, Juanita

Friday, November 21, 2008

glissia in winter

As I am heading into the desert for a couple of days with some friends, I decided to post some recent photos of Glissia before I go. Glimpses of the bedouin village and photos of myself and my friend Kharia and her three daughters at their home in Glissia.

Mud puddles are a rare find in this part of the world...I have come to love these girls so much!

Can you spot Lasfar in one of the photos? - he is with his friends.

Insh'allah, on my next update, I will post some photos of my apartment, it is long overdue!

Love and hugs,

Monday, November 17, 2008


Juanita in the Sahara

Sicilia did not dissappoint! I spent a week there with a friend from Vancouver, Caede Pungente, and her uncle, Ken, at his new home in the lovely coastal town of Portopalo (di C. Passero). Set in the lush countryside, olive and citrus orchards surround the beautiful classic town. Each morning, after waking up in his gorgeous casa, we would wander to the cafe for pastries and capaccino, then we either went on daytrips or spent the day wandering the quaint streets exploring and visiting. I was welcomed so warmly by the people of the town, visiting people in their homes, or just stopping to talk on the streets.

Some of our daytrips included Noto, a city that was once destroyed, then rebuilt in baroque style. Unfortunately on this day the battery on my camera died, so there are no photos until Caede sends me copies of hers. Streets and streets of baroque architecture, I was in awe. One of the buildings we went into was an opera house (I did get photos of this).

Siracusa is an incredible city, and Il Duomo, the magnificent cathedral was the highlight (see photos). We also visited the Greek Theatre there.

Caede and I spent the last night in Catania, a stunning modern city, but in a setting of baroque, sicilian and roman architecture. The city square in the centre of the city is surrounded by blocks and blocks of incredible historical buildings and fountains.

During my week there, I just touched on the beauty of what is Sicily. I will definately go back, and spend much more time exploring.

The food was amazing, sundried tomatoes, dried in the warm sicilian sun, drenched in fresh local olive oil, fresh basil and pasta, local cheeses and warm bread from the oven, we shopped at the market and cooked our meals in Ken's kitchen. Each meal was of course served with the rich dark red wine of the area. One night I cooked Kefta for them, a Tunisian dish I learned to make in Douz (see previous blogs). I think I gained 5 pounds in one week, but I needed to after being sick recently.

Then there was the shopping. It's a good thing I don't live in Sicily, my savings would be gone before I could blink. I don't know what the prices of clothes are in Italy's large cities on the mainland, but the prices for beautiful clothes in Sicily justified me spending too much! (Can you say italian boots???). I also bought jars of pesto, balsamic vinegar, sundried tomatoes and other dishes and foods to stock my larder in Tunisia. Also a blender so I can make my own pesto in Douz.

So I am back home, in Douz, and tonight am cooking pasta with pesto and chicken for Mounir, and Thursday, I am cooking lunch for my beautiful friend Kharia and my new friend Nadia. I have met some women friends here and am happy about that. Will include photos and more stories in my next blog. This one is dedicated to the beautiful Italian island of Sicilia... Salute