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Siroccos

By Tim Hazell

Heating up on the equatorial sides of the Horse Latitudes, trade winds move in two belts towards the equator. Dry currents dissipate cloud cover, allowing the sun to bear down on arid lands. Trade wind deserts follow the path of their namesake winds, including North Africa’s Sahara, the world’s largest sea of sand.

Sea trade routes from the Arabian Peninsula extended to the Spice Islands in Indonesia, Zanzibar in east Africa, the Han Chinese kingdom to Malacca, and from Ezion-geber along the mouth of the Sea of Aqaba to the gold mines of Solomon. Their dhows were coastal vessels, unsuited to deep water, hugging the contours of the land masses, docking at night and setting out the next morning, staying a day or two at most to take on cargo and refurbish their supplies.

Tales of New World riches set Renaissance imaginations ablaze. It would be left to Spain, liberated from the Arab empire, to cross an ocean to trade, conquer, convert, and plunder as fortunes were made and dissipated. Mediterranean languages were incorporated into the myriad spoken by indigenous cultures. The results gave newly-blended races of people; their religions, traditions, music, and literature bestowed a distinctive eloquence. French, Portuguese and Spanish contributed vitality and elasticity to the music inherent in regional vocabularies.

Writers living in Latin America created bold experiments from multiracial roots, finding inspiration in lyrics that danced among poly-rhythms. We can still hear winds from the Oriental desert and African steppe whispering in verses such as these:

 

The Bull-Fight of Gazul

King Almanzor of Granada, he hath bid the trumpet sound,

He hath summoned all the Moorish lords, from the hills and plains around;

From vega and sierra, from Betis and Xenil,

They have come with helm and cuirass of gold and twisted steel.

In gowns of black and silver laced, within the tented ring,

Eight Moors to fight the bull are placed in presence of the King.

Contact with ancient civilizations such as the Romans, Persians, and later on with the Ottomans brought the Arabs in close contact with cuisines of other sophisticated dominions. This multi-cultural infusion combines sweet and savory and comes from the Arabian Gulf.

 

Meat and Walnut Nadi with Dates

Ingredients:

3 tbsp. butter

1 lb. ground beef

1/2 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped

2 chicken stock bouillon cubes

3/4 cup water

5 tbsp. lemon juice

1/2 tbsp. lemon zest, shredded

3/4 cup walnuts, chopped

1/2 cup dried dates, chopped (available at Bonanza)

3 tbsp. molasses (available at Bonanza)

2 tsp. ground cumin

Good pinch of ground black pepper

Salt, if needed

 

Directions:

Heat the butter in a saucepan. Add the meat and coriander leaves, and sauté for 10 minutes over medium heat. Add bouillon cubes and water and simmer for another 10 min until the meat is cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, walnuts, dates, and cumin and cook a further 5 minutes. Place in the center of a large serving plate and surround with plain rice.

 

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