Women of Beit Elfarasha

Great cooking is a combination one’s culture with a personal touch. At its best, it is an act of giving and sharing done with love. Cooking is ideally experienced in a group and while the meal is prepared, stories are shared, bonds are created and people come together. Our vision is to replicate the magic of the Arab family kitchen and to bring people together to taste amazing food, the richness of the local culture and the unique personality of each of our “chefs”.

My name is Nura Kurdi and I am from Akko. I grew up running around the small alleys in the old city of Akko from the time I was 3 years old.  Both of my grandmothers lived in the old city, and so was my kindergarten, so basically I spent most of my childhood discovering all the nooks and crannies of the old city, especially where to buy the best sweets!

I remember that once when I was small, I went next door to the local mini market to buy candy.  As I left the store, I saw a beautiful cat and decided to run after it to see where he was going. Before I knew it, I found myself in the old port, and realized the sun was setting.  The beauty of colors in the sky mesmerized me as the sun was setting.  I sat on one of the boulders that lines the port and watched as the sun set slowly, slowly on the old city, with all its beauty and charms. 

I completely forgot I was suppose to go back to my grandmothers house after buying the candy.  As everyone knew me in the old city, she was able to find me sitting alone on that boulder, as I watched the sun set. 

Akko is simply an experience all unto itself.  I am so proud of Beit Elfarasha that is in a historic Ottoman building, close to the sea and the market.  Beit Elfarasha allows Akko’s visitors an opportunity to meet the local women and really have conversations with the people that live here in Akko.  I am thrilled to be the manager of Beit Elfarasha and be here to share in my love of Akko, answer any questions anyone might have on Akko or about our workshops, and to help them discover the secrets and magic of Akko. 

My name is Amera Gzawe, I am 54 and have 5 children. I am happy with everything Allah has given me.

My hobby was always cooking.  I grew up in a home that was always filled with family and visitors.  We were 13 children living in a 2-room apartment.  My mother loved cooking and loved having family and friends over to visit and eat.  There was never a day that went by that the table was not bursting with the specialties of the Middle Eastern kitchen, dishes loved by our ancestors.  Friday was the special day in our home.  My father would always return home early from work and would bring with him many special foods, which my mother would cook into incredible delicious dishes. 

I always loved helping my mother cook, as that way I was able to learn all her secrets how to make each of her special dishes. Every day she would ask me what she should cook that day and she would laugh,  as most days, I only wanted to eat Maqluba, that was one of her special dishes that always tasted so good. 

My name is Manar Kurdi, I am 45 years old and I have 3 children. I have lived in Akko my entire life. 

I had a small store selling touristy items to the tourists in the shuk (market) in the old city of Akko.  Since Corona hit and everything closed, I have been at home.  I heard that Beit Elfarasha was looking for good cooks and I thought it was a great opportunity for me, as I have always loved cooking and I also love meeting and talking to new people. 

When I was younger, I always helped my mother cook, as there were many dishes that required a lot of preparation and cooking time.  During the month of Ramadan, it is a challenge to cook for so many people; our house was always filled with family and friends.  We always try to make each meal different, from the main course, the salads and the deserts, for 30 days in a row.  It is like an intense cooking course of 30 days, every day cooking all day for the evening meal. 

To remind you, all day we are cooking for the evening meal, we are also fasting, not eating or drinking anything.  True, it is a challenge and difficult, but all the exhaustion disappears the minute I see my family and friends sitting around the table enjoying every bite from the food I cooked that day.  This is the main reason I love to cook, the joy it brings to my family, also brings me joy. 

My name is Samaher Hathut, I am 45, live in Akko and am married with 4 children, one boy and 3 girls.  I learned how to cook from a very young age.  When I was 13, I was always in the kitchen with my mother. 

I married at the age of 20, and I was also responsible for all the cooking in our home.  I would love to prepare Sambuska, kube, Sfeecha and other delicious food for the family and all of our neighbors. 

As I improved my cooking, I decided to open a restaurant in 2014 and I was responsible for the kitchen and all the cooking. Three years ago, I went to work at the Kibbutz near Akko.  Every day I am preparing food for the kids at the boarding school, with lots of love. 

My name is Wafa Isaa, I am 48 years old and I have 5 children. 

I have lived my entire life in the Old City of Akko.

I love to be in the kitchen making delicious food. I am happiest when I am cooking, whether it is cakes, cookies or some of our favorite Arab dishes, such as Maqluba or Fatayer.

  I married at the age of 18 and until that moment, I had no idea how to cook.  After I was married, I came to my mother and asked her to teach me everything she knew about cooking.  I only discovered then how much I love cooking and ever since then, all the credit for my delicious food goes to my mother, whose recipes I use until today. 

My favorite thing to cook is Mansaf. Everyone loves my Mansaf and when I make it, everyone around the table tells me “there is nothing that compares to Wafa’s Mansaf!” Mansaf is a traditional Arab dish made of lamb, cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and served with rice or bulgur. 

My favorite time of year is Ramadan, when the entire family gathers around the kitchen table to help prepare the cakes and cookies for after the evening meal. The girls help me fill the pastry with dates nad we are all pounding shapes into the pastry.  There is lots of noise as we all are preparing for the daily meal after sunset. The smell of the cookies when they come out of the oven fill the house with memories of the past and my mother.