A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, May 2, 2014

Two Frivolous Friday Posts: Falafel Wars and Tunisians Capitalizing on Star Wars

This has been a bad week for the peace non-process, Syria, and much else. So how about a couple of frivolous stories for Friday:

1. The Falafel Index. Forbes, the Magazine for People Who Make More Money Than I Do, has a piece on "The Falafel Index: A Way To Assess Purchasing Power In The Middle East." It's clever and cute, and not as condescending as it sounds, and finds that the cheapest Falafel is at Rafah in Gaza and Dheishah in the West Bank, while the most expensive is in Haifa, Muscat, and Tel Aviv. Let me offer three comments in the same lighthearted spirit:
  1. They corrected their values for national income, which is growing to screw up the rankings. Actual unadjusted values would be interesting, particularly between Israel and the PA. It would be cool if people in Tel Aviv (tied for most expensive falafel) would take an hour to drive to Dheishah (the Palestinian refugee camp just south of Bethlehem, tied for least expensive) to get cheaper falafel: but not gonna happen.
  2. They have Falafel in Muscat? The only time I visited all the cheap eats places seemed to be Indian Biryani joints. It's probably expensive because it's considered exotic.
  3. Cairo is at number 6, tied with Ramallah.  In Ramallah falafel is invariably and classically made from chickpeas (hummus) as it in most places. Some places in Egypt do the same but the traditional version, locally called ta‘amiyya, is made from fava beans (ful) and usually served with ful mudammas, the national dish. I call a major foul here. I've eaten falafel in Ramallah and ta‘amiyya in Cairo and consider this unfair. Chick peas and fava beans, even if the same spices and frying oil olive oil in Palestine; cheaper Egyptian joints use peanut oil) are used, do not produce the same taste. Perhaps instead of calling a foul I should just call ful.
2. Tunisia Cashing in on Star Wars.

As some of you (and you know who you are) are aware, Sunday is, for Star Wars aficionados, Star Wars Day, because it's May 4, and, well, (their deal, mot mine), "May the Fourth be with you."

Now, I'm not a Star Wars nut; if anything I lean more towards Star Trek. I enjoyed the three Star Wars movies (yes, three: no movie in which anyone other than the late Sir Alec Guinness pretends to be Obi-Wan Kenobi is not canonical, whatever George Lucas may say: what does he know?: but that's an aside).

Tunisia has several Star Wars connections and is starting to cash in on them in the wake of its revolution, or hoping to, The home planet of Luke Skywalker in the first film, "Tatooine," stole its name directly from the southern Tunisian desert town of Tataouine.  The desert filming in that scene was done in Tunisia's Saharan south, though mostly in Matmata and Tozeur, not actually Tataouine. The Sidi Driss Hotel in Matmata provided the interior of Luke's home in the first movie; though the exteriors were filmed elsewhere. Two of the "prequel" movies also filmed in the Tunisian desert as well.

Tunisia's desert south, not previously drawing much tourism (most go for the beaches) is finally trying to capitalize on the connection. So, good for Tunisia in promoting Star Wars tourism, even among young folks who think the young guy in the prequels is really Obi-Wan.


Paul Mutter said...

Be sure to pick up some of that blue milk from the region's moisture farmer dairies to bring home.

xoussef said...

Falafel in Rabat? Rabat in the Midlle East?

Michael Collins Dunn said...

I'm guessing the falafel in Rabat is in a Lebanese or Palestinian restaurant. How much is merguez in Ramallah?

J. T. Hutt said...

Link to Star Wars sets in Tunisia.