DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania – The breakfast buffet spread at the hotel looked splendid and elegantly presented. In typical African style, there is “everything”: from eggs and bacon to stir fry and hummus, fresh fruits, baked onions, pastry and plenty of juices. As I was looking at this wonderful display, My eyes fell on an inviting plate of baba ghanoush, a typical Arab and Mediterranean eggplant dip made with mashed roasted eggplants, tahini, garlic, cumin and olive oil. There is something truly appealing for me in the delicious smell of roasted eggplants and all the other flavors combined. I helped myself. It was truly delicious.
Pride and sadness
So, I went back to get some more. As I approached the buffet, I saw a young, handsome chef walking near by. He could be an Arab. With enthusiasm, I said to him: “This baba ghanoush is really delicious”. “You liked it?”, He asked with a smile, “I made it fresh this morning”. And there was joy in his face. Then he added, “The Egyptians call it baba ghanoush but in Lebanon and in Syria they call it [and here I missed the words he used].
“And where are you from?”, I asked him. And, as I got closer, I looked at him in the eyes. And I saw a strange mix of pride and extreme sadness.
“I am Syrian”, the young chef replied. As I said, there was pride in his expression; and yet he looked dejected. “I had to go, all my family had to go. Because of the civil war, we lost everything”.