Friday, August 19, 2011

The Breakfast Club

I am writing this while thousands of miles in the air, sitting on the rather worn out airbus jet operated by British Airways, enroute to London where insha allah I will catch my connecting flight to Calgary. There are no TV sets or anything on this rather barebones plane, so its giving me a good excuse to write.

I just finished eating my breakfast here, soggy toast and salty scrambled eggs served on a plastic tray, with packaged plastic cutlery, some decent yogurt with fresh orange segments, and a proper cuppa of English breakfast tea, with milk. This was the first cup of tea in over 3 months that I have had containing milk. How quickly things can change, just step on an airplane!!

It got me to thinking about these amazing last 107 days, and all the many breakfasts I consumed, and how I could honestly tell you the details about each one- I don’t know why but maybe because a weary backpacker often judges a hostel on its free breakfast, they stick out in my overloaded memory. Here then is a list of all the breakfast's I consumed on this 3-and-a-half month journey, staring in Cairo, where it all began:

Dinas Hostel , Cairo, Egypt – I remember most the chinzy foil wrapped triangles of processed cheese served with cucumbers and tomatoes that I was scared to consume (my sensitive Canadian stomach not yet being acclimatized to any minute amounts of bacteria on the vegetables), some dry french bread and packets of apricot jam. Me and the few other travelers to Egypt at that time would sit around in the common room and check out facebook and start the day, with instant coffees served by a charming Egyptian man named Ramadan, who spoke no English but had a twinkle in his eye that surpassed all language barriers.

Bob Marley house, Luxor , Egypt– For the 3 days that I stayed here my mornings started with a giant rooftop breakfast of fruit and yogurt and really bad tasting greasy eggs (butter is not always like normal butter in the middle east), maybe some toast, jam and various other things, while overlooking the Nile and the temples of Karnak proudly standing in the distance. the Man who ran this place was a cool (and also very attractive) Egyptian stoner dude who burned incense and had a giant tattoo of a scorpion on his arm. I also remember they served cereal here with that weird 3 month long shelflife, pasteurized-to-death milk that I refuse to drink. I haven’t had cereal in months because of it.

Penguin village, Dahab, Egypt – No free breakfast here that I recall. I know I ate a lot of delicious fuul and tahini and hummus with falafel patties (see the photo above) at a little cafĂ© crawling with cats by the red sea one morning, and was so happy to be eating decent food in Egypt!

Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan – Staying with the Bedouin here, breakfast was varied. The first morning, upon hearing of our love of falafel, Tyseer made the drive into town before we awoke and presented me and my Aussie pal Maria, with some wonderful falafel wraps which we ate sitting in the sand. It was great. Other days we ate yogurt and dry pita bread out on a rock and it was pretty sparse. I remember eating dinner on the ground at the camp one night, sheep liver and something else that terrified me, with my bare hands that hadnt been washed in hours, just because I was so hungry and was worried if I didn’t eat then, I might be literally starving the next day.

Valentine inn, Wadi Musa, Jordan – Breakfast here was pretty standard and cost 3 dinar extra , so I think me and Maria ate cheap falafel down the street more than the offered bread and jam affair. I remember the amazing 20 item homemade vegetarian buffet dinners here most of all though, which at 4 dinar were great value and more than made up for the lacklustre breakfast.

Abbasi Palace hotel, Amman, Jordan – I remember the punchy and hilarious divorced female owner (not so many independant divorced punchy women in Jordan, let me tell you) smiling and getting her Indonesian workers to bring us coffee and toast and those little ubiquitous cheese triangles on trays divided with partitions. Hardboiled eggs. Jordanian fatayer pastries with spinach inside, mmm...while we watched BBC news (mostly of the carnage in Syria, where I was headed next) and me and Maria planned our mall days.

Damascus, Syria – Couchsurfing here with my friend Shadi meant the breakfast usually consisted of strong Arabic coffee (nothing like Turkish coffee, no murky grounds to thicken it, just distilled caffeine in a bottle spiced with cardamom and strong as HELL), numerous cigarettes and hunks of pita bread dipped in sticky date treacle syrup or hummus. One time we had boiled potatoes and eggs with salt and pepper, eaten silently with his very hungover friend Hashem who looked very unimpressed with Shadis cooking -but it tasted great to me.

Gawalhaer hotel , Aleppo, Syria – No free breakfast here, but I know I ate a mighty good schawarma after wandering around the souk one time , and also had some really good juice/smoothie thing made fresh down the street, that the hotel owner brought to me after a night of drinking Gin together on the roof.

Antakya, Turkey – Couchsurfed for a night here with my pal Celil and his friend, and was treated to a lovely homemade Kurdish breakfast of fresh pide bread, scrambled eggs, cherry syrup jam (very common in turkey), and the classic feta-like peyniri cheese. We ate on the floor of the kitchen with our hands. I loved it so much.

Urfa, Turkey – I stayed a few nights at some weird little hotel here where no one spoke any English and there was certainly no breakfast, maybe a cup of tea offered, but I ate some apricots off the street and a giant doner sandwich that was actually decent for once, so it was okay I guess.

Dohuk, Iraq - Spent one night here at the only hotel recommended in the lonely planet guide, no other guests except the Iraqi man, Hassam, who picked me up (in a platonic way of course) and took care of me at the border. No complimentary breakfast here, but Hassam treated me to fresh fruit smoothies and tiramisu-like cake the next morning at a little sunny yellow cafe down the street, before we headed off in the shared taxi bound for Erbil.

Erbil. Iraq – Staying with my friend Emily here was great. Breakfast was shared downstairs in the company of her roomates in the kitchen of their giant metal-doored and concrete floored apartment (typical middle-east housing) – surly Joe from B.C and another chatty American from San Francisco, Carter. I remember we ate a delicious pepper spiced Kurdish cheese that I haven’t found since, bread, eggs, jam, olives, Halva and plenty of instant coffee

One miscellaneous morning at a bus station in Diyarbakir on the way back to Turkey I found myself, (after 20 hours on a bus coming from Iraq), eating French fries with a lot of ketchup at 8 am. That was a long 30 hour journey to make it to Mersin and I was hungry! I also ate a lot of Turkish prepackacged roadside cakes.

Mersin, Turkey – For 6 weeks here, (mon – fri) I was treated to complimentary breakfast at the summer camp I was teaching at. It made the getting up and stumbling downstairs to the service bus at 730 am a bit easier knowing that food was waiting for me there. It varied a bit day to day, but always consisted of giant platters of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, fresh white cheese, French bread, eggs of various kinds (mushroom omelettes or sometimes this tomatoes and onion based stewed eggs that I loved), sometimes fried cheese rolls or borek, olives, and plenty of little tulip shaped cups of tea

Konya, Turkey – when I couchsurfed here with my Sufi friend Huseyin, his father made the most wonderful Turkish breakfast for me and the 3 other French girls staying with them. Hardboiled eggs, bread, tomatoes, cukes, lettuce and mint, olives,cheese, treacle syrup, pomegrante syrup and endless cups of tea and Turkish coffee. I helped slice the cheese into cubes and wash the lettuce and made his dad laugh very hard with my rudimentary Turkish (“gunaydin, nasil siniz?” = good morning! How are you”). It was one of the nicest mornings of my life.

Stray Cat hostel, Istanbul, Turkey – Upon my first arrival here, breakfast had just passed and I accidentally knocked the still-half-full bowl of scrambled eggs all over the floor with my clumsy giant backpack. Chris just laughed and told me to go put my things away…setting the easy going mood I had the pleasure of enduring for the entire 11 days I worked here. Breakfast here was lazy and simple, --french bread, sometimes eggs, nutella, yogurt and tomatoes. However there were 2 days where in a hungover unshowered haze , after arriving back in Taksim having spent the night at my friends house on the Asian side, I ate junior whoppers and orange juice from Burger King  instead. Ughhh

And now….I head back to Canada. My last free breakfast courtesy of British airways. My head is so full of so many memories, its like a swimming pool full to the brim whose excess water flows into the edge when someone enters the pool. and gets sucked down and recycled back into the system. I can visualize all these breakfasts and where I was when I ate them…and now I have to come back to the familiar, the mundane, the same. The hurried Calgary breakfast of Starbucks lattes and bagels. I'm so nervous.

I am going to vow to eat more interesting foods in the mornings.

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