Richard's niece is married to a Syrian with a wonderful, loving, extroverted family. French is their language of choice and at holidays, when you walk into a room where the effusive and vivacious Syrians have gathered, gesticulation is rampant, laughter is loud and you can hear multiple melodic conversations in soprano and basso profundo voices and everything in between. Nobody stands still; kids run around your legs. Food is everywhere; wine flows freely. How dull we were until the lucky marriage that mashed us all together.
They are putting us in touch with a guide (long time family friend in Aleppo) and if all the schedules work out, he will drive and guide us during our visit. Any scraps of spare time I can find at the moment have been spent online looking at hotels (we hope to stay in the below pictured B&B in Aleppo, restaurants (for the basics) and the many travel blogs (for itineraries) being kept by young people who are in Syria to learn Arabic - apparently the cost of living is cheap enough to attract students and there are plenty of teachers available. As it's only a 4 hour plane ride from London to Damascus, the country is popular for vacations for Brits and for scholarship. The amount of writing on the net about traveling in the area is amazing.
As usual, I'll be on the lookout for interesting foods, but eating will rank low on our priorities for this trip. Two of the items I will be looking for are:
1. Aleppo pepper which has suddenly become one of the darlings of the culinary world. It's a red pepper flake which is apparently not too hot with plenty of flavor and rich fruity notes.
Recipes for camel always start with the basics: Find yourself a good looking medium size camel. Remove the rider; dust off coat, clean feet carefully (I'm picky about this). Whisper sweet nothings in both ears and then bonk on the head, hard. It's much easier to proceed with the recipes if the camel is unconscious or preferably dead.
Here's a typical (slightly modified) recipe from RecipeBazaar:
Whole Stuffed Camel for Book Club
SERVES 1 hungry book club