Palestinian Products brought to Us straight from Palestine
I came across this little gem while taking a walk in Sharjah. It is located two streets across the infamous Buhaira Corniche, near Novo Cinemas Buhaira. I found everything my mother usually has a difficult time finding: Meramiya (East Mediterranean sage), Qizha (black seed paste), Maftoul (hand rolled bulgur and flour pearls), Nabulsi white cheese, Makdous (olive oil-cured eggplants stuffed with walnuts, red pepper, and garlic) and so many other products.
The founder of Old Taste store, Anas Jaber, tells me that 70% of their products comes from women’s associations in Palestine, aiming to support Palestinian artisanal products, mainly produced by the mothers and grandmothers of Palestinian prisoners and martyrs. If you are a lover of Palestinian cuisine and a supporter of artisanal products and you happen to be in the UAE, Old Taste store is a good place to find what you need. Most importantly, to me at least, finding a little store like this is what keeps Palestine alive in my day to day. It is what allows me to live that moment of familiarity when preparing a shay bel meramiya (sage tea) for my friends who come over, knowing it was one of my grandmother’s drinks of preference back in Nablus.
In his poem Jaddatuna (Our Grandmothers), poet Tamim Al-Barghouti imagines the main character of his poem, the grandmother herself, crossing al-jisr (the bridge), which is most certainly hinting at the King Hussein Bridge. As she approaches the checkpoint of the bridge, a young soldier checks her bags, spreading all their belongings across the inspection table. The poet describes the scene as follows:
She passes on the bridge,
carrying more than she can bear.
A concern for the country? Yes.
But also, olive oil for her grandchildren…
And all sorts of cheese and meramiya,
or say, sorts of eternal wisdom
baked in clay ovens,
furnished like groves,
picked from fig trees,
or from books of poetry, prose, and religion
I never understood
why she would always insist
on carrying all the goods of the earth
through the crowds of the bridge.
I saw an 18 year-old female soldier
opening all her bags,
spreading all their contents across a table,
and I saw a whole country
spreading on the inspection table,
fluttering like a flag.
Tamim Al-Barghouti’s poem excerpt translated from Arabic by Farah Chamma.
The poet saw a microcosm of Palestine spread across the inspection table, answering his question of why the grandmother always insists on carrying all these goods in her suitcases while crossing the King Hussein Bridge. This allegory is probably the closest description of what I saw and felt when I walked into The Old Taste Store. I am not sure if I saw “a whole country,” but I sure saw parts of it.
Farah is known for her powerful spoken word performances in which she combines orality, acting, and live music. Originally from Palestine, she has lived in Brazil, France, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
Her shows always incorporate several languages, especially Arabic, English, and French. Farah studied Philosophy and Sociology at the Sorbonne University, and later completed a Master’s Degree in Performance and Culture at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Chamma contributes stories and personal pieces in a series called Little Gems, where she recounts her discoveries walking the streets of her neighbourhood.