The oldest man asks for my hands and pours in some grains for me to taste… It is hard as a rock and I’m tented to spit them out before I break a tooth…”
After a pleasant and refreshing brake on top of Jabal Sham, it’s time to go back down towards the ancient city of Al Hamra and then on to the fort of Balha. After that I’ll go find refuge from the valley’s heat deep inside the Al Hoota cave. As yesterday was physical, today shall be cultural.
And unbearable it already is for the first groups of tourists who stop for a quick shot of the Al Ghul ruins on their way to Jabal Sham. Confined in the air-conditioned comfort of their rented SUV, they don’t even dare rolling down their car windows for a better picture. No chance for a selfie shot either I guess. It’s never very attractive anyway when you’re sweating buckets.
As I approach the terrace fields, everybody stops to greet me. Curious to know who I am, where I am from, and where I am going. They want to share with me the fruit of their labor, show me their crops. Mostly wheat and a few other cereals, growing on small parcels irrigated by the traditional falaj. The oldest man asks for my hands and pours in some grains for me to taste. I hesitate for a few seconds not knowing what to do – I have never taken a bite in raw wheat grains before – so to clear my doubts, he puts the rest in his mouth and begins to chew. It is hard as a rock and I’m tented to spit them out before I break a tooth. But that would be so rude, I have no other choice to keep on chewing. After a while you start to feel the taste of flour. It’s not bad actually, but I guess it’s too early in my cultural learning curve to fully appreciate the delicatessen for what it is, and now I wish I had taken water with me to politely rinse it off. I think he knows how I feel. Probably played that trick before as I see that revealing spark of joy or malice pass in his eyes, as I discretely hide the remaining grains in my pocket. I smile, wish him the best and return to my car. I have to reach Al Hamra before it gets really too hot.