Dear Ali: I want to purchase an abaya, but there are so many varieties. How do I know what’s in and what is out of fashion? DS, Abu Dhabi
Dear DS: It’s easier than it might seem at first. All you need is to see what abayas other ladies are wearing. Take note of the colours – while black is traditional, sometimes colourful abayas can be trendy. Check the cut, length, embroidery and other elements. There’s always a certain style in the details.
You also could check local abaya brands’ websites and social-media pages.
If none of the above works out, visit a fashion fair, where local designers will display their new collections, and you can also see what type of abayas other ladies buy.
If you go for a simple black abaya made from a good material, it will be always a winning choice. The traditional black abaya is never out of fashion. It’s what a real abaya should always look like, if you ask me. Otherwise, try the haute-couture line of abayas recently designed by Dolce & Gabbana, although they’re not to my liking.
Personally, I hope and wish that more of our younger generation and those who love our culture come to know that the abaya is all about protecting you. Discouraging attention and other people’s eyes on you are the main reasons why the abaya is part of our culture.
Dear Ali: Even though I have been living in the UAE for 33 years, I came across camel meat only five years ago, and I got hooked. I was wondering where can I buy decent camel meat for cooking at home? And what would be the best type of camel to purchase? YQ, UAE
Dear YQ: Camel meat is becoming more popular, but the original way of cooking it is basically to boil the meat then cook it over charcoal or under the sand. In our culture, to show hospitality, we cook a baby camel, which we call “huwar” – this is known to have the most delicious type of meat.
The way to cook it depends on each tribe or family and individuals, but as you probably can guess, a single camel can feed more than 20 people, and sometimes even 50, depending on the portion sizes. But it’s not like how you cook a few chicken wings for one person – you cook camel when you have a festivity. And this is why the camel burger became famous as a unique dish – not many people expect it, and it’s not that widely available globally, just mainly in our region.
Some people stuff the camel with whatever filling they prefer, or simply cook it and then place it on a rice dish or wrap it in bread. You can also adjust the seasoning to your liking.
You can find the meat at any camel market and also at some butcher shops – if you ask them to place an order, they should be able to offer it.
The most famous camel market is in Al Ain, and you can also check with slaughterhouses to see if they deal with camels, as it’s usually different to the regular goat and sheep slaughterhouses.
Go for baby camel meat, because older meat is tougher.
In terms of how to cook it, how about paying a visit to the greatest cultural event currently happening in Abu Dhabi, the Qasr Al Hosn Festival, which runs until February 13. Ask some of the elderly ladies and men for tips on the cooking. You may even be able to try some of the indigenous cuisine, which includes camel meat.
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Source: art & life