Afghan raisin houses get a facelift to boost productivity

Afghan raisin houses get a facelift to boost productivity
Afghan farmer Abdul Jalil Gulzar sits by a pile of raisins in the squat mud brick shed where generations of his family have dried their grape harvest. (AFP)
Updated 20 December 2017

Afghan raisin houses get a facelift to boost productivity

Afghan raisin houses get a facelift to boost productivity

DHI SAHZ, AFGHANISTAN: Afghan farmer Abdul Jalil Gulzar sits by a pile of raisins in the squat mud brick shed where generations of his family have dried their grape harvest.
Such traditional huts have long been used to hang and desiccate the fruit, but now the keshmesh khanas — the Dari term for raisin houses — are getting a facelift as Afghanistan looks to improve its yield.
The country once accounted for 10 percent of the global raisin market, but nearly four decades of conflict have driven its share of the world market down to just 2-3 percent.
In a bid to boost productivity and earnings, the agriculture ministry and aid groups are financing new modern khanas.
“The new raisin house has much more capacity and they have a single purpose (to dry the grapes),” Gulzar told AFP inside the rustic khana built by his father in Dhi Sabz district near Kabul.
The Afghan agricultural sector, is the main driver of the economy and biggest employer.
Hajji Malek Zabet shows off his new brick raisin house near the Afghan capital. Inside the cement-floored room are neat rows of metal hanging racks where grapes drape down like vines in a jungle.
Afghanistan boasts nearly 100 varieties of grapes which are grown across the country and celebrated in popular poetry, nursery rhymes and proverbs.
In the absence of a winemaking industry, which is prohibited in the Islamic country, many farmers turn their grapes into raisins which are easier to conserve and bring a higher price.
Fresh grapes sell for an average of 300 afghanis (about $4.50) for seven kilogrammes, while just one kilogramme of raisins fetches more than 1,000 afghanis.
Though the profits are nothing compared to the amount farmers can reap from what is now Afghanistan’s biggest export: opium, the lifeblood of the Taliban insurgency and an economic lynchpin for many Afghans.
A recent UN report showed that the area under poppy cultivation has hit a record high, underscoring the importance of providing farmers with successful alternatives.
Afghanistan produced nearly 900,000 tons of grapes last year. However it only exported a fraction — 111,000 tons of fresh grapes and 15,000 tons of raisins, according to government data.
A lack of cold storage facilities and strict import requirements in many overseas markets means the bulk of Afghanistan’s grape crop ends up being sold in local bazaars at harvest time, causing a glut and driving down prices.
“Basically these new keshmesh khanas have three effects: they remove fresh grapes from the market and improve the quality of the process and product, and support prices,” said Abdul Samad Kamawi, national horticulture coordinator at the agriculture ministry.
But even with the improvements, Afghanistan’s rudimentary growing and processing methods means accessing export markets beyond Pakistan, India, the UAE and Russia is difficult.
“Despite their know-how Afghans are still struggling to meet European criteria which are increasingly stringent,” a Western importer told AFP.
Some companies are going hi-tech to lift the quality of their raisins.
Tabasom, a major exporter, has two production lines in Kabul equipped with X-ray machines and metal detectors to ensure only the best raisins are packed and sent abroad.
The drying process in the new brick and cement khanas is quicker and cleaner, but Gulzar is stubbornly keeping his earthen raisin house where his family often seeks shelter during the hot summer months.
“They are cooler,” he said, sitting happily on the dirt floor surrounded by hay and bunches of garlic.


What We Are Buying Today: Club Cake

Photo/Supplied
Photo/Supplied
Updated 24 July 2021

What We Are Buying Today: Club Cake

Photo/Supplied
  • Fillings include dulce de leche, and raspberry compote, and all the cakes are decorated using buttercream piping

Club Cake is a Saudi brand offering creative mini vintage cakes decorated to suit a variety of occasions.
Products come in sizes ranging through four, six, eight, and 10 inches and can incorporate special messages for birthdays and other celebrations.
Customers can choose different buttercream frosting color combinations, and add decorative items such as cherries, strawberries, or chocolate in special molds and sprinkles.
Fillings include dulce de leche, and raspberry compote, and all the cakes are decorated using buttercream piping.
For more information visit @clubcakesa on Instagram.

 


Philippines launches program to promote Mindanao’s halal cuisine

A hearty halal dish being served in Tambilawan Kamayan Restaurant in General Santos City. (Supplied)
A hearty halal dish being served in Tambilawan Kamayan Restaurant in General Santos City. (Supplied)
Updated 23 July 2021

Philippines launches program to promote Mindanao’s halal cuisine

A hearty halal dish being served in Tambilawan Kamayan Restaurant in General Santos City. (Supplied)
  • “Globally, the halal industry is about $2.3 trillion”

MANILA: The Philippines has launched its Halal culinary tourism program, which aims to attract more tourists to Mindanao and experience the region’s unique culinary heritage.
The program was introduced by the Department of Tourism (DoT) on Tuesday, coinciding with the celebration of the Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha, through a video series that can be viewed by the public on the DoT’s social media platforms.
The campaign is designed to promote not only Mindanao’s cuisine but also its people and culture, and consequently tourism destinations in the southern part of the country. As such, it is expected to help spur economic development in the region.

Sinina kambing, a Maguindanaoan delicacy, is stewed goat meat cooked using local spices.

“Food is an important part of a tourism experience. It gives us a glimpse of a place’s culture and heritage. Through the development of Halal culinary tourism, we are encouraging the discovery and familiarity with the traditions of our Muslim brothers and sisters,” said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.
“Halal is not exclusive to Muslims. It is for everybody. This is what we want to introduce through this project,” she added, expressing optimism that it will attract both Muslims and non-Muslims.

FASTFACT

‘We are encouraging familiarity with the traditions of our Muslim brothers and sisters,’ says tourism secretary.

The project also aims to document Mindanao’s culinary practices, create experiences and attractions by local government units and private enterprises for tourists, and promote the region’s halal tourism industry through culinary and heritage mapping.
The DoT’s video series showcases halal-certified and Muslim-friendly establishments across Mindanao island.

Bay Tal Mal restaurant’s tiyulah itum, a stew dish with braised beef or goat, originating from the Tausug tribe.

May Salvana-Unchuan, a director at the DoT, said “the aspects of halal cuisine, the halal way of doing things, and Muslim-friendly tourism were unknown before” but are “becoming a popular concept.”
Jamal Munib, commissioner at the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, said “Muslims are not the only ones who advocate halal food” because non-Muslims “can see how clean halal cuisine is.” He added: “Globally, the halal industry is about $2.3 trillion.”
Gurlie Fronoza, a tourism officer in Cotabato City, said halal culinary products are healthy because they are basically organic.
“If you’re looking for more adventure in your food than the usual menu that’s being given to us in establishments, you have to try halal,” Fronoza added.
The Tourism Promotions Board, an agency of the DoT, has said it will ramp up its support for the establishment of a complete halal ecosystem through initiatives that will further develop and promote Muslim-friendly tourist attractions and services in the country.


Two doses of Pfizer, AstraZeneca shots effective against Delta variant, study finds

Two doses of Pfizer, AstraZeneca shots effective against Delta variant, study finds
Updated 22 July 2021

Two doses of Pfizer, AstraZeneca shots effective against Delta variant, study finds

Two doses of Pfizer, AstraZeneca shots effective against Delta variant, study finds

LONDON: Two doses of Pfizer or AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine are nearly as effective against the highly transmissible Delta coronavirus variant as they are against the previously dominant Alpha variant, a study published on Wednesday showed.
Officials say vaccines are highly effective against the Delta variant, now the dominant variant worldwide, though the study reiterated that one shot of the vaccines is not enough for high protection.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, confirms headline findings given by Public Health England in May about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca, based on real-world data.
Wednesday’s study found that two doses of Pfizer’s shot was 88 percent effective at preventing symptomatic disease from the Delta variant, compared to 93.7 percent against the Alpha variant, broadly the same as previously reported.
Two shots of AstraZeneca vaccine were 67 percent effective against the Delta variant, up from 60 percent originally reported, and 74.5 percent effective against the Alpha variant, compared to an original estimate of 66 percent effectiveness.
“Only modest differences in vaccine effectiveness were noted with the Delta variant as compared with the Alpha variant after the receipt of two vaccine doses,” Public Health England researchers wrote in the study.
Data from Israel has estimated lower effectiveness of Pfizer’s shot against symptomatic disease, although protection against severe disease remains high.
PHE had previously said that a first dose of either vaccine was around 33 percent effective against symptomatic disease from the Delta variant.
The full study published on Wednesday found that one dose of Pfizer’s shot was 36 percent effective, and one dose of AstraZeneca’s vaccine was around 30 percent effective.
“Our finding of reduced effectiveness after the first dose would support efforts to maximize vaccine uptake with two doses among vulnerable groups in the context of circulation of the Delta variant,” the authors of the study said.


Where We Are Going: Dukanoo

Where We Are Going: Dukanoo
Updated 16 July 2021

Where We Are Going: Dukanoo

Where We Are Going: Dukanoo

Dukanoo is a pie concept restaurant in Jeddah. It converts many familiar Saudi and Mediterranean mains and desserts into pies with a special twist.

It also offers signature pies that are perfect for breakfast or a midday snack, with traditional dishes such as ful medames pie and falafel.

There is the Saudi-inspired “Aish aboullaham,” a beef pie with tahini, which is highly recommended, and the traditional Saudi sweet dish known as “masoob.”

One of the most exquisite traditional orders is the liver pie, presented with a special hot sauce and crispy onions that give it an amazing taste.

When it comes to dessert, za’atar and crunchy chocolate are among the most delicious combinations.

The restaurant’s cold beverages are inspired by refreshing oriental flavors. For example, there is one that combines roselle and mint and Arabian orange with a sharp cardamom flavor. For more information visit the Instagram account @dukanooq


Where We Are Going Today: Zooba

Where We Are Going Today: Zooba
Updated 14 July 2021

Where We Are Going Today: Zooba

Where We Are Going Today: Zooba

Zooba, a newly opened Egyptian restaurant in Riyadh, delivers authentic Egyptian flavors in a contemporary setting.

The ambience reflects the vibrant magic of the Egyptian streets, ranging from music to the mouth-watering aroma of well-known dishes.

Zooba is a franchised branch of the original restaurant based in Cairo that opened in 2012.

The restaurant offers an array of classic dishes, including ful medames beans, taameya, koshari and hawawshi (Egyptian hot beef sandwich), as well as breakfast items and rice-based plates for lunch or dinner.

Popular festive vegan dishes include koshari, made of black lentil, chickpeas, pasta, rice, caramelized onion and sauces.

For dessert, Zooba offers rice pudding topped with floss halva candy and sprinkled with crushed nuts. For more information visit Instagram account @zoobasaudi