2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

R&K Insider: A bittersweet holiday

Thermal baths in Iraq, a badass OB/GYN in Dakar, and our #BannedCountriesDinner series hits the West Coast.

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Ramadan began last week, and a very happy holiday to all of you, dear readers. But it’s been a very dark few days in some of the places that would be celebrating. The shocking bombing in Kabul yesterday, which killed 80 people and wounded hundreds, was a terrible reminder that violence continues to plague the country 15 years after the U.S.-led war began.

And there was also the horrifying stabbing in Portland that left two men dead after they came to the aid of a woman being taunted with anti-Muslim slurs. My heart is heavy as I think of all of those who are suffering from grief and injury right now.

I was thinking of the ways that people cope with violence in their lives as I read an article R&K published this week, on the famed hammams of Hammam Al-Alil in Iraq, which ISIS jihadists occupied for two and a half years before they were driven out in November. Today, fighters from the frontlines in Mosul take a break from the hardships of war to relax in the steam for an afternoon. Author Campbell MacDiarmid writes:

 [Hussein] is spending the rest of the day relaxing in the steamy atmosphere, prolonging the moment when he’ll have to return to his tent. “It’s muddy when it rains and there’s choking dust when it’s hot,” Hussein tells me. A shortage of hygiene facilities has contributed to outbreaks of scabies and there’s no work available for the men. “It’s no life,” he says. But since his family’s home in east Mosul was destroyed, the camp will likely be his home for the foreseeable future. Luckily for him, the hammam staff waived the 1000-dinar entrance fee (about 80 cents), allowing him a temporary reprieve from camp life. “I came here today to forget all that,” he says.

A day at the baths may not seem like much, but there is much comfort to be had in simple pleasures. So, let’s read about home cooks and their strategies for iftar, an article about fasting that is chock full of delicious things to contemplate, such as namoura. Let’s meet the traditional chefs in Kashmir making feasts for Eid. And now that we’ve talked about all that food, shall we get together for dinner? We’re having another #bannedcountriesdinner, this time in San Fransisco! Join us, West Coast brethren!

And finally, did you see this article on Dr. Juliette Faye, a young mother, devout Muslim, and doctor in Dakar who is fighting tirelessly for women’s reproductive health? That gives me comfort indeed.

That’s it for this week! Join us again next week for more of the best in politics, travel, and food from around the web. Tweet me stories you want to see here @caraparks

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