Thanks to Stephanie Meade for this guest post. Stephanie is the founder and editor of InCultureParent.com.
One of the things I love about the Bay Area is the wealth of opportunities to explore other cultures. With Day of the Dead just behind us and Diwali still to look forward to, there is always a fun tradition to introduce our children to in our community.
Middle Eastern Drumming for Kids
Something I always have on my radar is Arab-related events since my kids are half-Moroccan. And this weekend, there’s an event coming up that I am excited about. One of the Bay Area’s preeminent organizations related to the promotion of Arabic culture, Zawaya (and no, I am not affiliated with them in some way), is hosting what looks to be a fantastic event called “Doorway to Islamic Civilization,” with workshops on Islamic arts and culture for adults and children.
I signed my kids up for “Introduction to Middle Eastern Percussion for Kids” on Sunday morning at 10:30 in Oakland. At ages four and five, my kids love banging on drums and I love Middle Eastern music. Plus they get exposed to a slice of their heritage. It’s a win-win. Zawaya is also offering children's workshops on henna, mosaic tiling and geometric design in Islamic art. My kids were a little young for those yet though.
From experience, I know the approach of Zawaya is to foster bridges between Muslims and the non-Muslim community so all are welcome and encouraged to attend. And if you like Middle Eastern music, they put on a series of great concerts of Arabic music throughout the year, with huge music ensembles. The events are kid friendly—I took my then three and four year olds to two concerts last year!
Eating Middle Eastern
If you want to make a Middle Eastern day of it, you can grab a quick bite to eat after at Oasis Café and Market on 31st and Telegraph. The café food does the trick when your kids are getting whiny and want something fast, but what I really like about Oasis is the food shopping. Don’t miss their giant Yemeni flat bread (that actually used to be even bigger) baked fresh every day, feta cheese and harissa if you like spice.
If you want more than just a quickie lunch and to eat some really great food, head a little further north in Oakland to Temescal and hit up Tanjia, but note that it’s only open for dinner. As someone who is skeptical of all Moroccan restaurants since my mother-in-law is an amazing cook (out of her family of 11 siblings and countless cousins—and I do mean countless—her house is the preferred place for family gatherings because of her cooking), Tanjia’s bastilla and tagine even met my picky seal of approval. (And if you have never tried Moroccan bastilla before, you are totally missing out and should get yourself to Tangia pronto!)
For dessert, have you ever gotten disappointed by baklava that’s too dry or missing the appropriate balance of crunchy and gooey? Has finding the best baklava proved elusive? I have your answer: Turkish Kitchen. The heavenly baklava makes all taste buds swoon. And yes, I know Turkey is not part of the Arab world, but it’s a close enough cousin. Not including this baklava would have been unmentionable! Besides for their baklava, their kofte and lahmacun are also delish. Be sure to order a Turkish coffee to go with your baklava—if you’re lucky you can get someone to read the coffee grinds left in your cup.
To round out your Middle Eastern day, stop by Sahara on Ashby Ave in Berkeley to add a splash of flavor to your home décor. Moroccan lights, coffee tables and bean-bag style cushions make great accent pieces for any house.
And most of all, enjoy your taste of North Africa and the Middle East!