Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Baking Cookies for Palestine

When I was just starting out my own life, I had an idea what kind of life I wanted, but I had no clue how to get it. When AdventureMan and I met, we had the same vision, it was so cool, so unbelievable. We married, and this amazing life has unfolded.

Not everyone is born to move. You have to be good at change. Change can be daunting. Some people are better at staying in one place, sinking deep roots, developing lifetime relationships. Some people – like AdventureMan and me – have a need for stimulation, and we get it by changing locations. We feel so blessed.

It is always painful leaving the place we have been living, pulling up roots is just plain painful. The transplantation process takes time for the organism to adjust, for new roots to develop and take hold. Sometimes, the plant fails. In our case, we have had our failures to thrive, but for the most part, every move has helped us to learn and grow in new ways. We feel truly blessed; we have the lives we were born to lead.

Arriving back in Doha, I called my good friend. We have never lost touch, with e-mail and visits we have stayed in contact, and now I am calling her so she has my new number in Doha.

“You must come Tuesday morning!” she enthused, “We are baking cookies for Palestine!”

This wonderful woman was my teacher for reading and writing Arabic, and she did a great job. I read and write about as well as a five-year-old, but I can sound out words, and can write my name. Best of all, I adored this teacher, and when she called and asked me if there was something I could teach her daughters during the long hot Doha summer, I said “yes” and a new adventure began.

One of the things that happened is that I learned I never really knew what the day might bring. Getting to know her, her daughters, and her family better, I learned now ignorant I am of how totally differently others live their lives and see the world. I was learning all the time, and most of it was from the daughters. On one occasion, the daughters called me at 6 in the morning – they are never up at six! They asked if I would take them to the hospital to see their mother, and I sleepily said “Yes, of course,” and asked what time they wanted to go.

“Now!” they replied, joyfully, for this was a birth.

My sweet daughter-in-law was visiting, with our son, and so the two of us rushed over to pick up the girls, who came loaded with carafes loaded with coffee, boxes of finjan (tiny Arabic coffee cups) and sweets, loading up the car with goods and joyful laughter. When we got to the hospital, we had a quick visit with the Mom and then – the guests started arriving.

First – the room. Our friend was in a king sized bed, surrounded by lush curtains which could be pulled. She had a marble floor and a marble private bathroom with private shower, and a small dressing room. There was a visiting area with velvet covered seating for around 16 people, and mahogany paneling everywhere. This is the poshest maternity ward I have ever seen.

Many of the guests were stopping on their way to work. “When you visit someone in the hospital,” the girls informed me, “a thousand angels pray for you, for having made this visit.” These visits are de rigueur, an absolute must. We were there an hour, a constant stream of women came and went, staying around ten minutes, each receiving a small coffee. Then, the girls told us we could go, that they would stay to take care of serving the coffee and sweets.

The entire episode, we never had one clue as to what we were doing, or what was going to happen next. I learned just to go with whatever was happening, stay quiet, watch and learn. Sometimes, I ask questions, if there is a quiet moment.

So when my friend says come bake cookies, I go. I remember when she first baked her first cookie; she called me to come. She didn’t have a mother, growing up, and there were gaps – like how to bake cookies. We spent a morning learning how to make mamool, and it took me three days to get the smell of butter out of my hands. It was so much fun.

As I entered the workroom twenty pair of eyes looked up at me. Everyone was neatly dressed in aprons and headscarves, but my friend wasn’t there! I found my friend, we exchanged greetings, and she came to workroom to get me started. I had my own apron with me, and they provided me with a headscarf; we all looked a lot alike, little baker women. As a beginner, I got to put out the dough, later put the date paste on each piece of dough, later roll the dough around the date paste and put a hole in the top.

Most of the women, vastly more experienced than I, were using little tweezer tools to crimp the dough into the fabulous tiny ridges you can see in the photo. My friend explained that one of the women’s husbands had made the special tools for making the holes in the dough, and the table for them to use packing up the cookies and wrapping them, another had provided a portable oven for baking the cookies, another donated semolina (the flour) and another the dates.

Working once a week, making these beautiful cookies, (biscuits, if you are British trained) the women have built two wells in Palestine, and are currently building a bakery. They took their grief and outrage over Al Raza and turned it into the most amazing effort for good. They feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, they clothe the poor, they take care of families whose men are imprisoned.


“You must come back!” one woman says as I am heading out the door. “You are a good worker!”

I wouldn’t miss it for the world. 🙂

June 10, 2009 - Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Character, Community, Cooking, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Fund Raising, Hygiene, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Locard Exchange Principal, Qatar, Relationships, Women's Issues


  1. Where can we meet! I think we’re meant to be friends 😉

    I feel about traveling and living in foreign places just like you described. I love the stimulation, the challenges that it involves, and learning about how people in other countries live their lives.

    The maternity visit story was wonderful, as is the cookie baking story. Having lived in Ramallah, Palestine, I have a soft spot for the place and the people.

    I’d like to put a link to this post on my next blog post on Saturday if that’s all right with you.


    Miss Footloose

    Comment by Miss Footloose | June 10, 2009 | Reply

  2. LLOOLL, Ms. Footloose, I am so glad you commented. My husband was a little concerned that people might object to this post. You are welcome to use this post!

    You’ll be coming soon to Qatar?

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 11, 2009 | Reply

  3. I don’t know why but I can not see the photo of the cookies. What a wonderful fund raising idea and a great way to spend a morning, baking but without the temptation to eat the produce!

    Comment by Sally | June 11, 2009 | Reply

  4. LOL, Sally, I don’t know why you can’t see the cookies, either! Everyone was hoping the gal minding the oven would burn a batch; it’s the only way people get to eat any, unless they buy a kilo to take home. 🙂 They were really really GOOD!

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 11, 2009 | Reply

  5. Intlxpatr, I’m not coming to Qatar as far as I know (the universe however works in mysterious ways) but we might just meet up in some other foreign country down the road. It’s a small world in many ways!

    Until then, I’ll have a coffee when I read your blog stories.


    Miss Footloose

    Comment by Miss Footloose | June 11, 2009 | Reply

  6. Great post, keep it up :>

    Comment by Monica B | June 13, 2009 | Reply

  7. Hi Intlexpatl,

    Just to let you know I put a comment and a link to your post on the bottom of my post this week:

    I enjoyed your stories!

    Miss Footloose

    Comment by Miss Footloose | June 14, 2009 | Reply

  8. Thank you, Ms. Footloose! We may indeed meet up – my life is full of such wonderful coincidences. 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 14, 2009 | Reply

  9. […] out this post on HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE by a fellow blogger living in Doha, Qatar. If you like my stories you’ll enjoy hers. subscribe to […]

    Pingback by HAVE MICROWAVE, WILL MARRY EXPAT | October 4, 2010 | Reply

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