GF Dining in the Middle East

Doesn’t exist.  (From what I experienced anyway)  Earlier this week, I heard that a woman who works in the office across the street from me is a driver and that she goes off base nearly every week.  I went over to her office and asked when she would be going off base sometime soon because I really wanted to go with her.  What an experience and culture shock. 

I’ve had the privilege to travel to many interesting places in my 26ish (almost 27) years.  I enjoy it because it gives me the opportunity to see how other cultures live and always makes me appreciate what we have in America a little bit more.  My first out of country experience was Mexico when I was around 4 or 5 years old and I can still remember the sight of wild pigs and dogs running wild in the streets.  We were taken to the “Old County,” not to Cancun to stay at a luxury resort.  Since that first eye opening trip to Mexico, I’ve traveled to the Caribbean, Honduras, England, France and Turkey.

None of these travels even come close to what I experienced tonight.  First off, we drove past an actual castle.  It has a princess and everything!  On our way off base, about a mile away, we drove past what looked like a gated compound.  It had tall brick walls and a huge gated entrance.  I asked the woman who was driving what it was and she replied back with, “That’s the princesses castle/summer home.  She lives there regularly and she’s 16”.  Wow!

Second thing I learned on our trip downtown: there are no 4 way intersections, only those crazy “roundabouts”.  I could never drive in this country.  I sat in the back and tried not to look at what was going on in front of me.  The driving here was worse than driving with my husband in Chicago.

Third thing: They have camels in the parking lot.  This is what we saw when we pulled into the parking lot of where we were trying to go.  We started to take pictures from outside the gated area, and then the handler of the camels told us we could come inside the gate and get pictures.

He then charged us $5 dollars for the pictures that we had taken. Definitely saw that one coming.
Another thing I learned in this country: The men to women ratio is about 100 to 1.  A group of American girls definitely stuck out like a sore thumb.  I’ve never been stared at so hard in my entire life.  This part made me very uncomfortable.  There was one point while we were driving and there were literally hundreds upon hundreds of men just walking down the street hanging out.  I said that Justin Beiber must be having a concert 🙂
We finally got to the market area where we dined on some local cuisine.  I didn’t even bother to ask about gluten because our server barely spoke English.  We basically just pointed to the menu and he wrote down what we ordered.  One of the girls ordered hummus for an appetizer.  I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to come out with carrots or cucumbers and I was right.  Along with this heavenly looking hummus came this even more heavenly looking pita bread.  Major Fail.  I figure I’m only in this country once (fingers crossed) I might as well immerse myself in the culture.  One pita topped with the hummus later came my symptoms: stomachache, headache, and the lightheaded feeling.  It just amazes me how my body seems to have become more sensitive to gluten now that I’ve stopped eating it.  I get those symptoms every single time and always in that exact order whenever I ingest gluten.  It might not seem like a big deal to those who have never experienced it, but the dizziness is very unnerving.  After the hummus & pita came our meals.  I ended up with something that ended up looking like a stew but with lamb meat, lots of veggies and some sort of pastry crust that definitely was not described on the menu.  It was good.  Very flavorful, as they cook with lots of spices here.  I did my best just to eat the stew portion.  Tonight, the gluten won and it was 1/2 my own fault. 
After our dinner, we walked around the market for a bit (I, sleepily) and checked out all the goods that the locals had to offer.  Next on our list of things to do: Hookah!  Because you can’t travel here without doing it at least once!  They were in every single outdoor cafe/restaurant we passed.
I’ll be back in Chicago in just a few weeks! Unless something awesomely amazing happens to me while I’m here (like the dining facility offering special GF items) , my posts will be very scarce!

One thought on “GF Dining in the Middle East

  1. Sarah @ Celiac in the City October 16, 2011 / 2:09 pm

    Hi Maria! Sounds like it's been a struggle over there — I got your email, and I feel bad that there aren't more options. It may end up being a semi-bland food experience until you get back, but there may be a few things you can do to spice things up. (literally — do you have any spice options? or hot sauce, anything that might jazz up your rice/veggie combo?) For the gravy and beans, you would have to know the brand and/or ingredients to know if it's gf. Guessing the gravy will have flour, but they could use cornstarch, it would mean checking on it though. Of course this isn't the ideal time/place to be asking all sorts of questions, but you have to take care of yourself. (or the symptoms will be there, every time, and as time goes on with no gluten in your body, they will probably get worse, as your body will read it as a poison) I wish you had had more time with eating this way before you left, but I guess it's a learning experience…. and you'll be back home soon, safe and sound and eating your fave GF items. Hang in there, and let me know if I can do anything else to help.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s